Thursday, September 17, 2009

Collecting Lettuce Seed

The Seed to Seed Challenge is going pretty well this year. I've had one out and out failure. The pea seed rotted out in the wet weather. I have one possible failure - my Early Jalapenos. I don't know if they will ripen or not. There is still no sign of red. It is the middle of September. I usually don't get a frost until the end of October, but we are seeing some nights in the 40s already and the peppers are certainly slowing down.

Regardless, I have a lot of seed drying on my dining room table so I consider my seed saving to be going well. As you can see some of those containers are doing very well. My Ground Control Marigold, dill, coriander and beans runneth over. The Dear Tongue lettuce is doing quite well too.

I let two Deer Tongue and one Red Sails go to seed. The plants are separated by about 12' so they probably haven't crossed. Though I have a rebellious desire for some crossing of the Dear Tongue. It would be fun to see a spotted red one in my garden. It is unlikely however since I've seen exactly one insect visit the flowers. A bumble bee zoomed in one day; landed for a second; found the flower not to its liking; and zoomed off. I guess I have better fare in other areas of my garden.

The blooms slowly ripened over time and turned into little puff balls. The Deer Tongue is really prolific, but the Red Sails is taking its own damn time. I have very few puff balls of Red Sails yet. I've been going out for weeks now and picking the ripe ones before the seeds float away on the wind. I don't find it a particularly pleasant chore. It is slow. They don't ripen at the same time and it is easy to rip off a branch instead of just the flower. So I have to use both hands. One to grab the stem and one to gently pull. Afterward my hands are sticky from the buds. Ick!

But the chore gets done and I get a lot of little puff balls every few days. Then comes the chore of getting out the seed. I like to rip off the fluff and shake the seed into the bowl. This part is easy since I do it while watching TV (or maybe listening to TV would be a better description). Susan Ashworth says to harvest differently. Maybe I should be following her advice. She says to harvest seed like I harvest dill seed. Every day go out and shake the seed heads into a paper bag. Then of course you have to winnow out the little puffs and chaff, which is hard since lettuce seed has no weight. She suggests using different size screening to get all the chaff out. I don't have such things. So I'm stuck doing it the hard way to keep the seed fairly clean.

Even with my slow way, I get chaff that is hard to remove. I'm thinking a little chaff is really not too much of an issue. If I do any trading, I'm sure my tradees will accept my slightly chaffed up seed.

And speaking of trades, I mentioned to Dan it would be fun to have a bloggers' veggie seed trade day sometime in November maybe, but after our northern gardens are mostly put to bed, after the seed has been harvested and before we figure out what we need to order from the seed companies. We could have the host put up a blog post with a list of all their seed, the rules and at the top or bottom of the post have a Mr. Linky (or have the host put in their own linked list of people). I don't think the rules ought to be too much, but it would be nice to know where people live (not full addresses mind you but an idea for climate and how much shipping is going to be), how and if they isolated the seed (as you probably know by now, crosses don't bother me much, but I like to know if crosses were possible), and keep it updated if the seed runs out. Optional but fun things would be descriptions and photos.

Now I could host this, but I think Dan is really the master of trades, don't you? He initiated so many trades last year that he seems the perfect person. Now I don't know what Dan thinks of this. So what do you say Dan? Do you have time for this? You don't have to be involved with anyone else's trades. Just tell us the day in advance (so we can advertise it and maybe get some greater participation) and just keep the list in some way. Don't you love how I'm trying to foist the work off on someone else? Just wait until next Monday when I try to foist Harvest Day on some unsusupecting southern blogger for the winter months. OK maybe I'll ask for volunteers for that one.


  1. Wow, Daphne, I'm so impressed with your table full of saved seed!!! But please, tell me more about the marigolds. I haven't heard of those and now I'm intrigued!

  2. How do you have the patience?? I have two paper plates of seeds from one melon and one tomato, and a pile of bean vines drying on my park bench on the patio. And what a stinker for hijacking Dan ;-) But it does sound like a good idea, even though I won't be able to join in due to lack of seeds and the fact that those I do have will be up north and I'll be down south. I've already hit Dan up for the two tomato varieties that I'm wanting.

  3. our friend Ben, I got the Ground Control Marigolds from Pinetree this year. I have LOVED them. I have nematodes in the garden and this variety is called Ground Control because it is one of the best for nematode control. I interplanted them between my tomatoes and beans. I think it is one of the reasons my tomatoes grew so well this year as opposed to other years. They have lost of pretty orange single flowers. They grow about 1 1/2' tall then when they get to a certain height they sprawl all over. Wherever they touch the ground they start to send out roots. Their goal is to take over the garden. They are the perfect plant for a cottage garden. I cut them back ruthlessly when I wanted to keep them under control and they didn't mind a bit.

    Annie's Granny, well it is kind of like knitting. You do it when you are doing something else too. I do the same thing when I shell my beans. I'd go crazy if I just had to shell beans and nothing else. BTW I give away my seed too (as you know from last year). I figure it all comes around at the end. So feel free to ask for anything I end up listing. If I have enough seed, I'll send it out.

  4. I sort of get the sitting and picking thing. I do my huckleberries while I'm talking to my sister, and that's picky work.

    I've got cilantro and kale/tat soi mixed. I was hoping for lettuce but don't have much. . . certainly not as much as your beautiful clean seed. Maybe I can throw in a jar of jam to sweeten the deal?

    Does Dan know you're volunteering him?

  5. Stefaneener, no he has no clue, but then he can turn it down if he doesn't want it. I just thought it would be cool if he did it since he really loves to trade, but if he doesn't then I can always do it. I actually think it wouldn't be a lot of work if you have a Mr. Linky, but sadly you can only have one at a time or you have to pay for the service. I might do that if I'm doing it or I might just do links by hand. That is more work though.

    Stefaneener, no fears if you don't have much as I told Annie's Granny, I always am willing to give away seed. Though the kale tatsoi blend might be fun to see what happens. Maybe I should hold out for your honey. That is even better than jam ;> Anyway if the mostly dry weather holds out, I should have a nice little lettuce seed harvest. I hope we don't go back to drizzle that would kill the seed harvest.

  6. A seed exchange would be great, Daphne! I'd love to participate.

  7. Wow, that is a whole lot of seed! I will be curious to read more about your seed saving ventures. Thanks for sharing!

  8. My ears should have been burning today :-) I can host it if you don't want to. I would just have to run a post and collect links for bloggers wanting to trade right? The links would then go to the traders seed list?

    That is an impressive mix of seeds, particularly the beans. The deer tongue have very interesting flowers. I should plants some more, I wonder if there still is time for it to grow.

  9. Jackie, fabulous.

    Hilery, your welcome.

    Dan, Yes that is basically it. Just give us some fair warning before you decide to post so we can get our act together and let our readers know. Thanks!

  10. Hi Daphne, this is really impressive!! Have you come up with a rough estimate of how much money you'll be saving next year by saving seed this year?
    I'm a novice home gardener (having never grown vegetables on any considerable scale) and suffered from major sticker shock when I purchased seeds for my fall garden. Your post is giving me the kick in the butt to think seriously about seed saving next year. Do you store them in any special way to preserve their viability over the winter?

  11. Thomas, no I haven't figured out how much money it saves me. I can tell you I spent 43.29 on seed for 2009. I ordered my seed from Pinetree. They tend to be pretty inexpensive and have a good variety. The one warning though is that they are slow to ship out in the spring. They say right on their website and catalog that it will probably take three weeks to ship, and it can. I order in December to make sure I get what I need in time.

    Once the seeds are dried, they are stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Whenever I take them out I wait for several hours at least before I open the box so they can get to room temperature and there is no condensation. Seeds can last a long long time this way. Onion seed is notoriously known for not germinating except the year it is bought. I've found the second year seed is just fine and has about the same germination rate. I haven't tried for the third year yet, but I might.

    You should try saving seed. Some is really easy to save. Some is a lot harder. The International Seed Saving Institute has some nice instructions online. Or Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth is a good reference.

  12. Daphne, thanks so much for this great information!