CTG 2014 Week 19: September 6th to September 11th- Seed Saving Talk with Julia Cosgrove, Final Student Presentations, and More Harvesting


  • Seed Saving with Julia Cosgrove


  • Final Student Presentations
  • Harvesting garden bounties
  • General garden upkeep
Sporting some fall colors

The brisk weather we experienced this week during our evenings at the Community Teaching Garden was certainly a hint that Autumn is fast approaching.  Although we are already reminiscing about the warm, longer evenings of mid-Summer, we are excited to see many of our root crops getting ready for harvest.  This week, we heard the last of the student presentations, yanked some lovely carrots out of the ground, and heard a wonderful, instructive lesson on seed-saving from the knowledgable Julia Cosgrove.

Garden delights

Seed-Saving with Julia Cosgrove:

Seed-Saving has been a topic of interest that many students have brought up throughout the season, and on Monday evening we were thrilled to finally hear from Julia Cosgrove, an alumnus of the UVM Farmer Training Program, as she shared her acquired knowledge on the topic.  She began her presentation by discussing the two types of seeds any gardener or farmer will encounter, open-pollinated (OP) and hybrid (F1) seeds.  Hybrid seeds are those commonly produced by commercial seed vendors and are the result of crossing two patented parent seeds in order to generate a very specified seed.  Open-pollinated seeds are the type that are desired for those who want to save seeds, especially if you’re interested in saving heirloom varieties.

Julia Cosgrove on Seed Saving

Julia then discussed the importance of controlling pollination, which is key if you don’t want to end up with a strange variety, by being conscious of timing, distance between plants, and the mechanism by which the species needs to pollinate.  Her suggestion, research the specific species that you’d like save, whether is self-pollinating (has male & female parts) or cross-pollinated (requires outside transport like wind/insects), and its life-cycle.  Occasionally people run into the issue of having two varieties flowering at the same time, which can result in undesired pollination.  Some common vegetable families/varieties that have imperfect flowers and need cross-pollination are brassicas, curcurbits, corn, beets, spinach, and grains.  Examples of species with perfect flowers that self-pollinate (the easier seeds to save) are peas, beans, tomatoes, and lettuce.

An organized harvest

After discussing these differences, Julia went on about the importance of selecting the heartiest plants throughout the season in order to end the season with some useful seeds.  While it’s helpful to narrow down your available seed bank by removing any rouging plants (plants with undesirable characteristics/fruits), keep in mind that it’s important to maintain some level of genetic diversity within your given gardening or farming environment.

Discussing self-pollinated species

Finally, Julia commented on the different methods for processing wet and dry seeds, like winnowing and threshing, in order to address germination inhibitors and remove the seeds chaf (outer coat).  Storage is also a key component to seed-saving as correct storage can be responsible for protecting seeds from possible lingering diseases.  Julia’s rule of thumb: the temperature of the container plus the humidity should never exceed 100 and keeping the seeds out of direct sunlight is key.  Thanks for an awesome lesson, Julia!

Seed to Seed by Susan Ashworth Photo sourced from Amazon.com

For those of you interested in saving your seeds, check out Seed to Seed by Susan Ashworth or this useful PDF from http://www.seedalliance.org: http://www.seedalliance.org/uploads/publications/Seed_Saving_Guide.pdf

Stay tuned for the week 20 update, its sure to be blooming with with excitement!


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