Our calendars say it is still winter, but our resident birds have been courting and establishing territories for weeks. Join Chicago Audubon Society representative John Elliott on a walk to see what resident birds are up to. For adults and older children.
Architectural gardens of Italy. A series of photogravure plates from photographs made for and selected by A. Holland Forbes, editor of Architecture.
Author: Forbes, A. Holland.
Call Number: SB466.I8F7 1902
Author: New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
Seed saving is an art, not to mention fun and empowering. Plus, it’s a valuable contribution on a deeper level: agricultural biodiversity matters, and seed saving in home gardens is mainstream conservation of biodiversity!
Here’s why you, the home gardener, should start a seed collection:
Seed saving promotes self-reliance, and swapping seeds connects and builds community. It connects us to our agricultural roots. Additionally, it helps conserve our agricultural resources. Preservation matters. Once varieties are lost, they cannot be recovered. A century ago, seed houses had hundreds of varieties, and now just a few remain. Think about this vegetable fact: In 1903, 544 varieties of cabbage were listed by seed houses across the United States. By 1983, just 28 of those varieties were represented in our national seed bank at the National Seed Storage Laboratory (now the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation).
Saving seeds encourages adventurous eaters. Growing heirloom varieties holds culinary appeal because it offers the opportunity to grow interesting vegetables that aren’t readily available in grocery stores.
Thrifty seed collectors save money because there is no seed to buy each spring. They maintain a personal seed collection.
Seed savers are lifelong learners, and home gardeners play an important role in helping to preserve our diverse seed histories. Home gardens become living laboratories to learn about plants. Seed saving builds observation skills, and there is a need for more seed growers to evaluate varieties for disease resistance and variety.
Finally, saving and sharing seed just feels good.
Which seeds should be saved (and are the easiest to save)?
Deciding which seeds to save requires a working knowledge of several definitions:
Hybrid varieties (F1) produce seeds that, when grown the next year, are unlikely to resemble the original plant. Don’t save seeds from a hybrid vegetable. Seeds should be saved from open-pollinated plants (OP), those stable varieties that can reliably reproduce themselves generation after generation. As long as open-pollinated plants don’t cross pollinate with other varieties of the same species, their offspring will carry the distinguishing characteristics of the variety. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated plants that produce seeds passed down from one generation to another, often with historical connections and stories. Heirlooms carry special value and are usually old varieties.
Deciding which seeds to save requires a basic understanding of how plants reproduce:
Very simply, plants either mate with themselves or they mate with other plants. Self-pollinating plants have all the flower parts (anther and stigma) to transfer pollen within their own flowers (achieved by physical contact of male and female parts), or between separate flowers on the same plant (helped by wind or insects). In other words, they mate with themselves. Cross pollination takes place when pollen is transferred from one plant to another plant by insects, birds, or wind. Crossers can’t move pollen without help as the selfers do. Offspring of plants that cross pollinate may have different characteristics than the original variety unless they are isolated from plants of the same species.
A couple of tips on planning a garden for seed saving:
- Start small and keep it simple.
- Balance the many factors that comprise the art and practice of seed saving.
- Begin by choosing a couple of self-pollinating annuals. Peas, beans, tomatoes, and lettuce are easiest to save. Insect- and wind-pollinated annuals may require isolation distances so they don’t cross pollinate.
- Thoughtfully map out the garden to make efficient use of space. Growing plants for seed may take up more room for a longer period of time. While radish may be harvest-ready after growing 30 days, it may take much longer for your radish crop to produce its seeds.
Take our classes during the Super Seed Weekend to learn more about planning a garden for seed saving.
Seed savers contribute! Come to learn, swap seeds, and share stories at Super Seed Weekend and experience the satisfaction that comes along with being a seed saver. A broad community of seed savers (new friends) awaits!
©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
The complete writings of Kate Sessions in California garden, 1909-1939 / [Kate Sessions] ; edited by Barbara Schillreff Jones ; assisted by Marianne Truby [and others].
Author: Sessions, Kate Olivia, 1857-1940.
Call Number: SB453.2.C3S47 1998
Author: Stinson, Kathy, author.
Call Number: SB470.O23S75 2008
Author: MacPhail, Elizabeth C.
Call Number: SB63.S47M33 1976
Half my world : the garden of Anne Spencer, a history and guide / Rebecca T. Frischkorn & Reuben M. Rainey [with the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum].
Author: Frischkorn, Rebecca T.
Call Number: SB470.S63F75 2003
Author: Williams, Florence, 1967- author.
Call Number: BF353.5.N37W55 2017
There are heirloom seeds from corn grown by Native Americans in Pennsylvania, and seeds from a marigold grown in the Andes for the spice of its leaves, along with some 4,500 other varieties in the collection of William Woys Weaver, Ph.D.
Hear William Woys Weaver in person at 1:30 p.m. on January 22. Register for his free lecture here.
Every heirloom plant seed grown for food has a story, according to Dr. Weaver. Where it came from, who it was grown by, and why it was grown all are pieces of that history. It has a past and a future. The food historian will share the story of these seeds, and of the collection his grandfather began in about 1932 that he now oversees, on Sunday, January 22, during Super Seed Weekend at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Weaver’s collection is housed in a seed room in a historic home in Pennsylvania. Built around 1805, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and sits on a two-acre kitchen garden that Weaver and his collaborators task with growing and testing seeds from the collection. They employ an artisanal process, doing everything by hand. If the seeds look successful, they are moved on to a university or qualified farm to expand the process.
“People are beginning to realize these heirlooms, organically raised, are much more nutritionally rich than seeds grown commercially,” Weaver said. “We are right at the cusp of a lot of ideas.”
The Roughwood Seed Collection is now home to the largest privately held collection of its kind in the state. The collection is part of the Roughwood Seed Archive, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with a working board. Weaver and his team are making big plans to grow and customize their endeavor to better serve the demand from local chefs and the growing list of those who are tuned in to the origins of their food. “A collection like this is very important because this is a source of food locally and farmers can get seed from us. It has a value far beyond its monetary cost,” Weaver said.
Learn more with a class at our expanded Super Seed Weekend. Receive free parking with your paid class registration.
- Organic Vegetable Gardening Basics
Saturday, January 21, 9 – 11 a.m.
- Beginning Seed Starting
Saturday, January 21, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
- Planning Your Garden for Seed Saving
Saturday, January 21, 1 – 3 p.m.
- Family Workshop: Loco for Cocoa!
Saturday, January 21, 9:30 – 11 a.m. or 1 – 2:30 p.m.
- Adult Cooking Class—Seeds: Crunch and Flavor Punch
Sunday, January 22, 2 – 3:30 p.m.
Start Your Own Kitchen Garden
Weaver encourages home kitchen gardeners to start small when growing heirloom seeds for food, and see where their talents are strongest. He suggests joining a seed exchange to gain access to a wide variety of options, but focusing on growing only what seems to do well and obtaining the rest of their produce from other growers.
Weaver hopes that people who participate in community gardens or seed exchanges enjoy the connectedness that comes with the process. “The seed exchanges and the seed networks help build a sense of community, so it’s very important from a social aspect, and also the heirlooms are good teaching tools for kids,” he said. It’s helpful to teach and learn about where our food comes from and what resources—including a grower’s time—go into each fruit or vegetable produced. When we understand those elements, Weaver said, we are more likely to appreciate each bite on our plate, and less likely to waste or toss edible food.
Weaver is eager to establish new systems and opportunities for the Roughwood Seed Collection in the very near future. The ambitious food advocate is also a professor and an author, with a new book on pickling that is due out in 2018, and a forthcoming update to his popular book, Heirloom Vegetable Gardening.
Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of Super Seed Weekend. The Seed Swap begins at 3 p.m., right after Weaver’s 1:30 p.m. lecture, “Our Kitchen Garden for Culinary and Cultural Research: The Roughwood Seed Collection,” on Sunday, January 22.
©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
Author: Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957.
Call Number: PZ7.W6461 Li 1932
Author: Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957.