On size mattering

IMG_1684Lettuces, gone to seed

Ostensibly, I understand how big things get in the garden.  Through years of trial and error, I *get it* that a blooming lettuce plant can reach 3′ tall and wide, and, should I wish to save seeds from this plant, I will need to allow that much space for the plant to do its thing.  Indeed, producing a plant for its seeds can be a lot more of a hassle than producing it for its food, mainly because of this land grab.  It becomes tough, say, to make the decision between saving the seed from one’s surprisingly frost-hardy oakleaf lettuce or yielding that same space to that tiny pepper plant growing in its shade in the new greenhouse.  Considering I didn’t expect that lettuce to survive our particularly freezing winter, that pepper must suffer!  (Is this a Sophie’s Choice kind of decision?  I am not sure.  There’s still plenty of time for peppers.)

Seed-saving can become an obsession in itself, of course.  Honestly, saving *all* the seeds from this one lettuce means I will be self-sufficient in oakleaf lettuce for 10 years and I still would never be able to use up all the seed!  YAY.  That makes me happy, frankly, in a hole-up-in-a-bunker kind of way, in a full-root-cellar kind of way.  And I like being happy,even if it means my pepper plant temporarily lacks proper real estate.

15 responses to “On size mattering

  1. Love your blog. 🙂

    Just a gentle reminder that if you have read Sophie’s Choice that the actual choice she makes is probably not a situation given to offhanded joking. I get your point, but, much like the overly-used & unfortunate “drinking kool-aid” reference of late, it’s a pretty unsettling thing to allow into casual usage.

    Just my thought. Take is for what it’s worth. I’m an English teacher, so I probably take the lives of characters in novels entirely too seriously. 😉

  2. And while you’re waiting for that lettuce plant to get big enough to make seeds, it’s occupying space that could be planted with something else. But my biggest issue is just keeping track of everything that’s happening in the garden. I’m not sure I have space in my brain to remember that I have a lettuce plant reserved for seed making. But maybe I’ll get to that point.

  3. Great photo of the Towering Lettuce. I’m getting more into seed saving myself this year. It is difficult to reserve space for the aging plants. And my attempts at isolating plants to keep them from cross pollinating have been problematic. It’s worth the effort and space though. I’m like you, it’s nice to have a big stash of seeds, especially from rare veggies. And when you’ve got enough seeds you can swap with other seed savers.

  4. I’ve been seed-saving for the past year. Last year I saved several garlic bulbs from the July harvest and replanted their cloves in the fall. That’s saving seed, isn’t it? Ha!!

    Seriously, seed-saving has always put me off a little. Seems kind of complicated in the books. But maybe I just shouldn’t read about it and just go do it! Think maybe I’ll try it a little this year and see what happens.

  5. YEAH! You always have such fun things to read about it is more than a pleasure to stop by and visit.

    Thank you!


  6. (nnrrghhh! Trying not to respond to lower-case michelle.)

    Ah. Plant husbandry! Nice.

  7. It’s like the attack of the Oakleaf. Since I just trial-sprouted some old lettuce and got ONE out of, say, 50 seeds, I’d say that saving fresh is a fine idea.

    Are you reading something like _Seed to Seed_ also? It sounds intimidating when I do.

  8. Seeds, full cellar/pantry and a nice dry wood pile.

    Nice pic of the lettuce towers.

  9. I wish I’d saved the seed from the lettuce that bolted a few weeks ago (back when it was actually warm with sunshine – now its just cold and wet)… I’ve never saved seed before and this would have been a good way to get started. Oh well. Oak leaf lettuce, yum.

  10. I admire your full root cellar attitude. I should follow your example, alas, I save only flower seeds.
    I am a grasshopper.

  11. Looks like one heck of a lettuce plant you got there, I’m still learning about how to save seeds. TFS!

  12. michelle, thank you for expressing your thoughts on the matter of an offhand literary reference. Believe me I did intend it as a joke but also believe me that I understand the full implication of what I said: I am, after all, fairly well-read. My mention of it is that I consider ALL my plants, poultry and pets to be my babies, so choosing between them always is hard. And, likewise, my mother and two of my aunts are English teaches and professors, so…I know the tendency to take the written page, especially the written page of fiction, a little too seriously!

    Well Ed a bit of laziness AND a lot of garden space kind of helps out in the matter of seed-saving. “Oh I forgot to harvest those parsnips, better let them join the intentional seed-producing parsnips, even though they get huge” is usually how it goes.

    Michelle, exactamundo. That’s what today’s post is about, as well as where all this was headed. I think it’s a fairly natural progression. Seed-saving and -trading seems a lot less effort too than running a small CSA which is something else I have been toying with for a while! But indeed it’s kind of the other side of gardening: self-sufficiency and trades is how it was done for thousands of years.

    Dennis, well yeah, that IS seed-saving!! But I do know how complicated the whole cross-pollination thing starts sounding: very daunting. I suppose it doesn’t help that the books kind of stress this over and over. Start with beans, though; they’re really flipping easy.

    Aw Linda you always say the sweetest things. 🙂

    CC, I had a hard time sitting on my hands too about michelle’s comment but I can only think it was meant in the best way. I have only had a few folks ever really flame me, unlike yourself with those wacko Bushies that used to stalk you. But yeah. Plants r kool.

    Stef I just ordered a copy of another seed-saving book and I will let you know what I think of it in a blog post. Seed to Seed is the best but it often makes it sound like seed-saving is a high art unfit for mere backyard gardeners and that just ain’t right. And untrue. If you take reasonable precautions things won’t cross. And sometimes they do (like my spotty or weird-colored lettuces) and it’s not a bad thing!

    Nada! I can’t even THINK of a woodpile right now but for you it’s the first day of winter so…keep warm and toasty and well-fed from your larder down there!

    MC, the gardening year is early yet! Plenty of time to save some beans.

    Pamela, we need grasshoppers too in this world, especially since I barely bother saving flower seeds.

    H2H: you are quite welcome. It’s just another little skill that’s good to have, like knot-tying or firestarting. Maybe the scouts could have a badge for seed-saving?

  13. do you know anything about the life of a saved seed? i’m curious about how long one can save, for instance, lettuce seed, and still have it be viable. i’ve only saved seed for one year and then tried to give my seeds away, thinking “hurry! they are going to expire!”, but i don’t even know where i came up with that magic 1-year idea… i believe seeds last longer if refrigerated, but is it even longer if they are frozen? how long? i think the giant seed banks are seriously temperature regulated. if you know any of these answers i’d love your feedback, but i totally understand if you direct me to a book or simply tell me to get my booty to the library : )

  14. Not to mention the ease with which one can ignore the plants going to seed until the weeds around them (not to mention slug habitat) are almost as tall!

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