Digging and saving seed

· gardening ·

We had a big sort-out of the garden this weekend, trying to tidy things up a bit before winter strikes. We're also making a concerted effort to save seed. A lot of the crops we grew this year were grown from seed supplied by The Real Seed Company. These are all true breeding seeds, so you know exactly what you'll be getting if you save your seed, unlike the F1 hybrid seed provided by a lot of other companies (although it's always worth saving seed and trying it, because it's free). The Real Seed Company specifically promotes seed saving, which -- when you think about it -- is pretty altruistic of them because theoretically it reduces their own income as seed providers. They even publish a seed-saving guide, under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, no less.

They make the very good point that by saving seed from your strongest, healthiest plants, you are selectively breeding plants adapted to your own growing conditions, unlike seed that you buy from big commercial growers, which often requires a lot of inputs to make it do well in anything other than 'ideal' conditions. Quite apart from that, it's fun to save your own seed, and with crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas, it's very easy to do. We'll still be ordering more from The Real Seed Company for next year, because we want to try some new things as well. [I don't have anything to do with The Real Seed Company, by the way, other than being a very happy customer.]

We also dug over our beds and added some more organic matter to get them into good condition for next year. While I was away, Mr. Bsag bought an azada to try to cope with our very heavy clay soil. It is a great tool, and slightly easier on your back than a traditional spade, as well as being very effective for opening up heavy soil. Even so, you really know that you've been getting a good workout after a few hours. It certainly beats going to the gym in my opinion, because it has useful side-effects, as well as getting you fit, but I know that I'm going to be stiff tomorrow.

Despite the stiffness, gardening and allotmenting (if that is a genuine verb) is a great way to relax at the weekend. I think that the gentle and diverse pleasures to be had from running a food-producing garden or allotment was probably best summed up by our new allotment neighbour, and older gent who has worked wonders on his plot over the past few months. We were chatting to him about the torrential rain the previous weekend. "Ah yes", he said. "I was up here then. I just sat it out in my shed, sorting my nails and screws into jam jars." He gave a happy sigh, and the Zen-like smile on his face as he remembered made it clear that sorting nails in his shed, in the rain, on his allotment was pretty much the best possible way to spend a Saturday.