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Advices to permaculture centers

Seed saving

Summary of the lecture by Ivanna Bilous, Biolus family farm

Seed storage

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Seed saving

Summary of the lecture by Ivanna Bilous, Biolus family farm

Seed saving is very important because it guarantees your food souversity, plants are better adapted to your specific growing conditions if you select seeds from the best plants. It is economically profitable to use your own seeds. Seed production is a profitable business, which can provide either main or and additional income for your farm. For example, you can create your own collection of spices - aromatic herbs, or collect rare varieties of tomatoes or other vegetables, rare tree species or ancient cereales…

Plants grown in biodiversity can select minerals and nutrients which they need, they are trained to withstand pests attacks and produce a healthy offsprings with good genetics. An important fact is that seeds produced on a phosphate-balanced soil store better than those obtained on a nitrogen rich soils. Permaculture approach to plant cultivation guarantees healthy and genetically strong planting material. Seeds are collected from the best, most productive, healthy plants.

Seeds should be collected from the fully ripened fruits. Grasses produce seeds early - they have the shortest vegetation period. Seeds of herbs should be collected in the afternoon (when the morning dew and moisture have evaporated) on a warm sunny day. Usually, seeds are easily separated from the plant. You can simply shake plants over a container or sheet. Often you also need to sift the seeds  to separate from possible dirt, husks ... Follow this procedure for all kinds of salads, spinach, dill, parsley, parsnip, flowers, etc.

After harvesting spread seeds in a thin layer and dry for a day in a sunny place, and only then place in a paper bag, boxes, or glass jars for storage. This will give a time for different creatures (spiders, insects, beetles) to get out of seeds. Otherwise, quickly packaged seeds can become mouldy because of the moisture from insects.

After herbs legume seeds are harvested. Peas, beans, chickpeas... are collected when the pods have dried up and started to darken.

You will never lose any variety of corn if you collect seeds from the bottom third of the cob.

Cucumbers for seeds are selected in advance. Interestingly, cucumbers on the same plant might have either 3 or 4 ribs. The seeds are selected from cucumbers with 4 ribs (first and second fruit)! It is recommended to sow 3 year old cucumber seeds as the plants will have more female flowers and higher yield. Cucumber seeds remains viable for up to 6 years.

Ripped tomatoes and eggplant are cut in half and seeds are squeezed into a bowl of water. Leave it for a day or two for fermentation. Then rinse several times with clean water, soak for 20 minutes in a light manganese solution or in another available biofungicide, collect and dry on a thick paper or on a cardboard until it becomes dry. In tomatoes, the first fruit is usually irregularly shaped. Therefore take for seeds the fruits from the second truss of the best yielding plants displaying most typical features of the variety.  Tomato seeds remains viable for up to 4-5 years, occasionally up to 8 years. After 3 year of storage eggplant seeds lose their viability.

Choose a ripe pepper fruits, not owerrippen, as the seeds may start rotting. Separate seeds from the pulp by hands in a bowl. Add some water, stir and allow to settle for 20-30 minutes. Stir again: those seeds that fell to the bottom have 100% viability, and those that are floating on a surface should be removed. Dry on a paper store at a the temperature above 0 C. Pepper is warm climate culture and and it seeds do not propagate if it was frozen. Seed remains viable for 3 - 4 years.

Melons, watermelons, pumpkins, zucchini, squashes easily cross-pollinate between each other. Therefore, spatial isolation is important to guarantee purity of the cultivars. Seeds are easily hand-picked and should be dried before storage. The seeds all cucurbits crops remain viable for up to 6 years.

Carrot, root celery, beet, winter radish, turnip, cabbage - select the best plants and store in a cellar. Root can be stored in a box filled with dry sand, cabbage is hung at stem upside down or roots are placed in a sand. In early winter plant overwintered plants in the open soil and collect seeds in autumn similarly to the grass seeds.

It is very important to collect tree seeds and grow your own seedlings. Count how many trees you have grown yourself from the seeds, not just transplanted! Fall is a great time to collect tree seeds. Almost all tree seeds has to be stratified, so store them in a fridge. Some seeds are small and easily extracted from fruits (birch, linden, paulownia); collecting seeds from a stone fruits is also a delicious process! Seeds have to be dried and stored in a dark place. Apples and pears will best propagate when sown straight from the mouth to the ground!). If this is not possible, keep seeds in the fridge and protect from over drying.

Ginkgo seeds must be cleaned from it pulp which has rather nasty smell and prevents seed germination. Cones of coniferous trees self-open in warmth and easily release their seeds. Nuts (walnut, hazelnut, filbert, black walnut, Japanese walnut, etc.) should be planted in the same year after ripening. Seedlings repeat 85% the parental characteristics or might have somewhat lower or higher qualities!

When creating a forest garden as a compulsory permaculture element on your plot, it is important to inoculate fungi in the soil. You can transplant some mycelium or spread fungal spores. Collect spores from overripe mushrooms of desired species (with the large dark cap and rotting smell). Grind caps in a meat grinder, add some yeast, sugar and rain water, put in a dark place for 10 - 14 days. It imitates an aggressive medium of the animal stomach. Mix it, dilute 1 glass of suspension with 1 bucket of rain or spring water and pour the soil with this mixture at a desired mushroom cultivation sites. To reduce the number of wormy mushrooms interplant the spores of girolles. Girolles contain a substance that repel mushroom pests. It was noticed that girolle mycorrhiza repel worms from the neighboring  mushrooms.

For most seeds the storage temperature should not exceed 35 - 40 C. Reducув air supply can lead to a partial loss of seed viability. The optimal storage temperature is from + 5 to +10 C.

It is important to remember that even under optimal storage conditions seeds have limited period of viability. Don`t forget to refresh a storage pool of seeds of your favourite species and cultivars!

In autumn you can sow seeds of following cultures (for the following season): lettuce, spinach, mangold, dock, parsley, dill, cultural goosefoot, parsnip, tomatoes, watermelons, melons, pumpkins, zucchini, onion, early varieties of carrot and beetroot (late varieties of carrot can shoot out if sawn in autumn), peas, asters, marigold. Seed sown in autumn undergo natural stratification, it germinates early, plants are healthier, stronger, and easily overgrow even those plants transplanted as seedlings.

Seed storage

Rules for collecting seeds

Seed longevity

(from book: The Manual of Seed Saving: Harvesting, Storing, and Sowing Techniques for Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits


How to collect seeds (Free food & flowers)

Webinar: Seed storage

Tips for organizing courses and hosting volunteering

Tips are based on the personal experience of course organizers - use the ones that are appropriate in your situation.

We have developed a basic algorithm for composing budget, course program and advertisement campaign. It is designed for the practical part of the Permaculure Design Course organized as a series of weekend workshops, but you can modify it to meet your needs. The three pages of the document are linked together by formulas and contain many formulas in them. Therefore it is better tu but zero values rather them remove spreadsheet cells. Make a copy of the document and use it! Also, contribute with your experience to designing the algorithm by commenting (online) both of these documents (highlight the text and click on the "Add comment" or Ctrl+Alt+M).

See also Convenor's guide of George Sobol (the teacher of the first permaculture courses in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine).

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