A More Focused Approach To Seed Saving

heirloom lima bean, Flossie Powell Lima

Seed saving is a natural extension of gardening. There are lots of reasons to become a seed saver. For one thing, the seed saver gains access to WAY MORE variety, both in garden seeds and unique harvests. Starting out, like many new seed savers, I was enamoured with the huge selection of interesting varieties available. Soon I maxed out my ability to maintain what I had and became frustrated. Over time I adopted a more focused approach to seed saving, which I call “drilling down.”

“Drilling down” means I focus on fewer varieties.

I do limit myself on how many varieties I grow. Humanly speaking, I can’t grow them all, and I’ve also discovered that with too many varieties to maintain, there is a “law of diminishing returns” in regards to the pleasure obtained. After a point I can’t really enjoy what I’m growing if I’m stretched too thinly. When I’m too stretched I also struggle to be organized and do a good job of maintaining seed purity, etc.

“Drilling down” means I really focus on those varieties.

I put in larger plantings of the varieties I do grow and I get to eat a higher percentage of the harvest.  I keep track of things like size of leaf, flower color, days to flower and to seed, flavor and texture as well as quirks in growth habit. One thing I really enjoy is to go out to a planting and write down all the observations I can, as I slowly inspect the plants. Also, I take lots of photos. By doing this I often observe details I would normally miss due to lack of time. Then, I take time to compile my observations.

It took me more than 35 Years to Recognize some Key Characteristics of an Heirloom Bean.

Here’s a Summary of Why I Prefer a More Focused Approach to Seed Saving

  • There is an overwhelmingly large selection of varieties, too many for me to master.

  • Native pollinators appear to be on the increase in our garden and cross pollination is more of a problem.

  • Life’s pace isn’t slowing down, and I don’t need the garden to add to the stress.

  • I’ve come to realize that relatively few will treasure those varieties I’ve come to love, so I better do it.

  • Heirlooms get better with age. It’s true. They may come to me with a history, but if I keep them long enough I add to their history.

Tomato Rocky, Heirloom plum tomato
Tomato Rocky came to my family when I was a kid. It already had a history, but I’ve added to it.

The Story of Tomato Rocky

  • I enjoy “the quiet life.” Why not learn contentment and the appreciation of what I already have, instead of constantly pursuing more?

  • I like being “the world’s expert” on a given variety! It’s not hard to become that, if one “drills down” on a lesser known variety. Remember, “lesser known” isn’t necessarily “inferior,” it’s just not as well known.

Ron Cook
Ron Cook “drilled down” on okra seed, inherited from his grandmother. The result was Heavy Hitter, perhaps the best okra variety ever grown.

Lengthy thread with the whole story of Heavy Hitter Okra


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