Save money by buying your Black Turtle bean seeds at the grocery store.
The Snarky Gardener was perusing the local health food store when a thought occurred to him, “Those organic beans and peas would work well as seed”. A little research revealed that Black Turtle beans are a bush heirloom variety that goes back into the 1700’s (and probably much earlier). I grew Jacob’s Cattle beans last year but wanted to add another dry bean to my collection. The nice part about buying them at the store is that they are $1.99 a pound versus a lot more from seed companies (including shipping, etc). And you can eat any you don’t plant. The down side is that you won’t know exactly what sub-variety of Black Turtle beans you have nor will you know how old the seed is, but I don’t think it matters if they grow well and taste good.
Learn how the Snarky Gardener created his own tomato variety – the Snarky Orange Cherry Tomato.
In 2012, before the Snarky Gardener grew his own starts, he purchased way too many SunGold cherry tomatoes (6 if memory serves) from a local garden shop. SunGold is an F1 hybrid, meaning that it’s produced by crossing two varieties to get a better, stronger plant. Conventional wisdom says not to save F1 seed because one doesn’t know what or how the next generation will produce. With this knowledge, I saved none of this seed, but biology had a different plan. Last spring, while prepping the garden for planting, I noticed a massive clump of “volunteers” (plants that just grow on their own from the year before). They were obviously SunGolds as the orange outer skin of the parent fruit could still be seen. So in a flash of inspiration, my shovel relocated them to 4 different spots along my tomato fence. Each clump had several plants, so I thinned them out over a period of weeks until just one remained in each spot. Here’s the strange part – of the 4 remaining plants, 2 produced orange tomatoes and 2 produced red tomatoes. The orange fruits were as tasty as its parents, the red not so much, so I collected only orange seed last fall, naming them Snarky Orange cherry tomatoes as they can’t really be considered SunGold anymore. In biology terms, these 2013 volunteers were F2s, AKA the second generation, and 2014’s version is considered an F3. I am currently growing a Snarky Orange F3 in my AeroGarden and it’s orange as the original F1.
The question is “Why would anyone go to the trouble of breeding out an F1 while there are so many tomato varieties in the world?” I think the answer for me is “Just to try and see what happens” as I love to experiment. Also, if you save seeds from your own garden, they are adapted to your growing conditions. Think about it – these Snarky Orange volunteered and thrived so the environment was exactly what they wanted. And when I raise and save them this season, they will be even more adapted, something you’re not going to get out of an F1 hybrid you need to buy every year.
Think saving pepper seed is difficult? Think again.
Saving pepper seed is really easy. The most important step is the first – leave the pepper on the plant until it gets very ripe. This will mean the pepper will turn color from the standard green to its final hue, either red (like the above jalapeno) or yellow or orange or whatever. The fruit will feel a little soft when squeezed.
Important note: If the pepper plant is a hybrid (aka F1), it was a cross between 2 different varieties and your saved seed may not produce the same fruit as its parent. Also, there is a small chance your pepper was cross pollinated with other nearby peppers, so again, your results may vary. Ah, plant sex.
Once it’s ready, pick your pepper Peter Piper style and cut it up. You will want to have something the seeds can be stored in for drying, like this medicine bottle cap. Be careful not to slice through the center as that’s where all the seedy goodness is. If you cut up peppers on a regular basis for cooking, it’s the same, except you keep the seeds instead of tossing them. Remove all the seeds from the pepper and membrane, and put them in your drying vessel. Then cut up the pepper for use now or bag it up and freeze for later (they freeze really well).
Warning: If you are saving hot pepper seeds, be careful with burning your skin. You will want to wear gloves if you can. And if you’re like the Snarky Gardener, you won’t and then you’ll need to use dish soap, rubbing alcohol, milk, or yogurt to wash away the hot irritating oil.
Leave the seeds out to dry for about a week or two, shaking them back and forth every couple of days. Now they will be ready for storing or planting.
Are you growing (or planning to grow) mustard, kale, or turnips?
Did you know it’s easy to save your own seed?
Seven Top Turnips going to seed spring 2013
Mustard, kale, and turnips basically all go to seed the same way. When they get stressed (hot weather, etc) or are overwintered, these plants send up stalks and put out flowers. These flowers are beautiful and functional, as they bring beneficial insects to your garden. Once the stalks are produced (also called “bolting”), the leaves themselves become bitter as the plant puts its energy into getting busy (cue the Barry White music) reproducing.
The seed is ready to collect once the stalks turn brown and dry out. Unfortunately, the pods don’t all dry out at once, with the ones closer to the base of the plant going first. If you wait until they are completely ready, some seed will escape onto the ground and you’ll have babies starting before you know it. This is a good thing if you are trying to get a perennial supply of yummy greens. Not so good if you have plans for that area in the form of other crops. But, as I always say, edible weeds are better than inedible weeds.
The best system I’ve found so far to collect this type of seed is through the use of garden cutters and trash bags. Just snip below the pods and put the top into the bag. This way you can squish and crush up the pods in the bag and have the tiny little seeds fall to one corner. Cut the corner tip as small as you can and release the seed. You will get some chaff (fancy word of the day) but only some, not all.
If all goes right, you can put the separated seed into a holding vessel (like this glass jar pictured below). Once there, you can shake it to force the lighter chaff to the top for more removal. You could also use a screen to sift out the extra material.