28 August 2007

Seeds and Stress

The results of the weekend's planting. Doesn't look like much, does it?

Spring sowing time is always a bit stressful for me. For most vegetable varieties I save all my own seed -- with some notable exceptions -- Radishes, locally-common Turnips, Cauliflowers and Broccoli. I really love saving seed, seeing plants go through their whole lifecycle, from babyhood when they're at their most tender and succulent, through girding their strength, storing up their energies to explode into flower. Ah, the Joy of Sex! Then, into their dowdy, shabby days as they develop their seed, finally to release their offspring to start the next cycle.

But for me, the apprentice gardener, its a stress mission. Did I let the seed develop fully enough last season? Or was I too paranoid of the bugs waiting to pounce on the booty? Did some weevils get into the seed? (hello Peas and Beans!) Have I hung onto the seed too long? Has some invisible bacteria taken a toll?  Did I process the seed properly after harvesting?

There are lots of reasons for saving your own seed, and I mostly try and make it a policy to only ever buy, beg, borrow or steal a new variety once.  After that I try my best to save my own seed, despite my notoriously poor labelling habits and generally dismal level of organisation!

Generally I sow a mix of last-year's seed, plus a bit from the year before if that's proven itself as "good" seed. That's assuming I actually have any seed from last year. Some varieties, notably the Beets and Chards, make seed that is so long-lived that I keep their seed for up to five years at a stretch. Mind you, I'm constantly sowing and growing them, so I notice very quickly if a batch of seed starts to show poor germination, or if plants are not-so-vigorous.  But, as I'm filling seed-trays, popping the seeds into them and covering them carefully, there seems to always be the question in my mind, "Will they come up OK?"

Usually they do, and all my worry is for nothing.  Occasionally there are "disasters", and once in a while the disaster doesn't make itself apparent until the plant starts fruiting or flowering, and I learn that I've been careless with plant-isolation distances. Then we celebrate the Wonders of Weird Chillis.

There's still a lot of direct-sown stuff to take care of, lots of beds to dig (if the damn knee will just cooperate!) But these as-yet-barren trays represent the Precious Darlings -- the Chillis, Tomatoes, Tomatilloes, Tamarillos, Squashes and Eggplants.  Nothing I can do to help them now, beyond watering.

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