Seed saving is a skill that will most certainly help us survive in whatever the future may bring. Anyway, the book is the "Seed Savers' Handbook" by Michel and Jude Fanton.
I have only read the first two chapters, and is makes a lot of sense to save the seed that your own garden provides you for free. There are many reasons why you should, but I won't rant on about them in this post. The company Monsanto come to mind, but like I just said, I shall not rant on in this post. I will continue to read the rest of the book to learn more, but now I will tell you about my successes and failures of seed saving so far, which occured mainly by chance.
During my first year of vegetable gardening, I planted some purple podded peas that I purchased from the Diggers club. Every year since that first harvest, I have always left some pods on the vine to go hard and have collected the seeds. Every year, I have replanted those seeds with outstanding success, and have a massive crop of these wonderful and sweet tasting, but weird looking peas each winter. This first success made me think that there must be ways to collect the other seeds from all plants, but back then, I was not much of an experimenter in the garden, I just wanted to be able to grow stuff, because apart from watching my Dad many moons ago, and reading lots of books, I had bugger all practical gardening experience. I was making it up as I went along! Back in year one (2007), I did quite well, but have come so far since then.
Last year, in my second year of vegetable gardening in about August, I noticed that in two of the citrus tree pots, there were many tomato seedlings coming up all by themselves. These as I now know are called 'volunteers', and I had to remember back to the season before to think about what variety of tomato grew closest to these pots. I had volunteer tomatoes coming up in two separate citrus tree pots which were over 2 metres apart. Surely they were not the same variety, as I had planted many types of tomatoes in that first summer. I figured that in the Mandarin pot, the volunteers most probably would be Tommy toe, and in the Lemon pot, they could be Tigerella's. So treasuring these volunteers, I made up some potting mix, and carefully replanted as many seedlings as I could and labeled them accordingly. In the end, I had so many volunteers that I managed to plant out two entire beds with them, and I even gave a few away as gifts. I was mainly right in my assumptions, and even ended up with a few Purple Russians for my troubles! What a bonus.
I also noticed that I was getting volunteer lettuce and cucumbers from compost that I mixed into each bed, but with the cucumber being commercial hybrids I had read somewhere that they would not grow true to type, so I wisely pulled them out. The lettuce on the other hand, I let grow, and they were delicious. This got me thinking. I did let a lettuce go to flower in that first year, mainly because I was not watering them enough, that most lettuces became bitter quickly and bolted to seed soon after. The flowers were pretty enough so I pulled them after the flowers died and composted the lot.
So, at the end of the second year, I let a lettuce and a daikon radish go to seed. Both on purpose, mainly because I wanted to see what the complete cycle of the plant looked like, and to see if I could indeed collect the seed consciously and without nature helping spread it all over the place for me. I managed to collect the lettuce seed from a gold rush lettuce, planted them this year and they have grown true to type. Success. I also planted some daikon and it grew as well. Double success.
Summer came along and now I was feeling a little more adventurous, so I saved some seed from a commercially grown Kent pumpkin. I planted them out, and guess what? Only one pumpkin grew to about 3cm then turned yellow and fell off. I planted four of these seedlings, and all they had were male flowers. Not a female in sight. I had fallen victim to the hybrid seed once again. I should have remembered from the second year. I was so angry at the end of the season, that I roasted the seeds I collected and ate them all! It was the only useful thing I could have probably done with them in the first place.
So at the end of last summer, I collected Basil, Parsley, Dill, Gold rush lettuce, and purple podded peas. The lettuce seedlings are growing strong, and I planted the basil and parsley last week, and am eager to see what happens. Now that I have the seed savers' handbook, I am going to try and collect many more seeds purposely this year. Sounds like it could be very good fun, and a very cheap way to keep your garden producing for virtually no further cost.
Here's to a great season of seed saving. Live long, and prosper all my pretty plants!