In my journey to a greater self-reliance I try to spent less money on unnecessary things. And in the case of seeds, I also try to spent less on necessary things. I do that by collecting my own seeds from seeds that I have bought earlier. You see, some seeds are very expensive. Especially if the crop is more special than its regular brother or sister. And I like special things, as you know.
I don’t collect all seeds every year. It’s pretty time-consuming in some cases and it’s not possible due to cross-polination as well. So I choose my victims wisely. I always collect tomato seeds for example. Mainly because they are easy to save. I only save them now though from tomato varieties that I don’t have. I also always collect seeds from special – store-bought – peppers and pumpkins. Next to that I collect flower seeds in autumn from public gardens. I’m not sure if that’s a proper thing to do. But I imagine that wild animals do that as well with their soft fur, so it’s a pretty natural thing. Right? And lastly I collect seeds from varieties of which I don’t have a lot of seeds left. Special kale varieties fall in this category.
Today I will show you how I successfully collected my own seeds from a special purple kale. Mind you: it took me two years to save the seeds. These things aren’t done overnight. It requires planning, patience and space. This third growing season I’m picking the fruits from my (passive) labour. I saw the first sprout pop up from my homegrown seeds. How cool! Besides the financial gain you get from growing your own seeds, it’s also very rewarding in a non-monetary way. I just love this feeling of independence.
People often say money gives you that same feeling of freedom and independence, but I believe that’s only the case up to a certain level. In the end it’s really a different feeling I’ve noticed. Money often doesn’t have a lasting effect. You spend it and it’s gone, most of the times. Harvesting your own seeds on the other hand, has this very permanent and ongoing effect. I see money now as a first push, an initial enabler. If you spent it wisely, it can move you towards greater freedom, but if you have to come back to it to buy yourself freedom, it’s actually restraining. Anyway, back to the seeds growing business.
Two growing seasons ago, I bought purple kale seeds when I visited a famous dutch gardening store. I sowed them that same season (a little too late) and I ended up with a bunch of small plants which I planted out in late spring in our garden. They looked so pretty.
The plants grew that season and I kept on harvesting leaves from the plant. Cutting them from the bottom towards the top. They were delicious. At the end of the season I left one kale plant in the garden. Moving a few months ahead, it was the only thing left in the garden along with some perennials. You can see below how the plant looked at the beginning of the second season. It’s the one behind the gate on the right.
As time passed on in that second season, slowly little buds started developing at the top of the plant. I just kept on harvesting leaves for consumption at this point, but left enough on the plant for it to be able to develop itself further. As soon as the buds formed, they started shooting up in long branches. You can see the next stage on the picture below. These buds and branches are edible, but as I wanted to harvest seeds, I left them as they were.
Again moving on a few weeks later the plant was blooming. You can see it on the picture above on the background in front of the gate, just behind the bamboo tipi. Beautiful yellow flowers set against the purple of the huge plant. A beautiful sight in an early potager garden. But not only beautiful, also functional for early bees and such. Weeks passed by, the garden around the plant got a green glow. The flowers of the kale had turned into many long seed pods.
I waited months for them to fully dry. Leaving them on the plant in the garden. At this point I also stopped harvesting from the plant. The plant got partly attacked by green aphids as well, but wasn’t hurt at all. The pods kept on growing. Somewhere in late summer the pods had finally dried out and I was able to break them off the plant. I collected many of these pods. Every pod contained about 10-15 seeds. They will keep me supplied for many years ahead as I only grow two or three of these every year. I save these seeds at a dark, air tight and dry place.
I wasn’t sure though last year if the seeds had been formed correctly. You always have to test them for the first time of course to see if your plan worked out. So last week I sowed two of them in one of my trays and they appeared yesterday as one of the first seedlings. Their germination strength is powerful apparently. You can see them in the above picture in the second row from the bottom. Two little purple green seedlings popping up. I guess we can call this a success! I wwill have to see if they grow into the same kind of kale as the parent plant. But I’m pretty sure they will. I was very cautious not to let any other plant go into seed of the cabbage family at the same time. So there is a very small chance of cross-pollination.
I’m really very happy with my first seed saving success with the cabbage family. This year I’m trying to collect seeds from the flowering brussels sprouts. I only have a handful of seeds left from them and I want to make sure I will have enough for many seasons that will follow. My advise to you would also be: never start collecting seeds with your last seed. You might fail that year and it will be your last chance. Always try to collect seeds one or two years before you run out of seeds. That way you will have more chances to reach harvestable seeds.
Which seeds do you grow and collect yourself?