Bega Liz
Posts: 62
Joined: 15 Nov 2021, 06:21
Location: Bega Valley, NSW
Contact: Website

Book reviews

I hate to admit this on an online site which hopes to make lots of seed saving information available for everyone, but I still love a good book which I can hold in my hands. And there are many books on seed saving out there. I've collected a few and will post about each one, including a copy of their contents page(s) so you can see what each one covers. If you've got other seed saving books I'd love to see what you think of them - what are their strong points and what they cover. Also do you agree with my summaries or what are your preferences? Which ones work best for you?
I think when people are starting out they just want to know which one to get. Hopefully between us we can answer that question.
Bega Liz
Posts: 62
Joined: 15 Nov 2021, 06:21
Location: Bega Valley, NSW
Contact: Website

Re: Book reviews

The Seed Savers Handbook
By Michel & Jude Fanton
Published by the Seed Savers Network, Byron Bay. First edition 1993.
Buy it here: https://seedsavers.net/shop/

This is the well known and loved Australian guide to seed saving.
It was first published nearly 30 years ago.
It is an excellent entry point for beginners. It doesn't overwhelm with detail but covers all the basics.
This book is particularly good for those in warmer areas as it covers a number of subtropical crops that are often missed in other books.
The Handbook also includes a number of crops not usually propagated by seed such as waterchestnuts and sweet potato, which is probably why you will find so many Australian seed saving groups include swapping and sharing divisions, tubers and bulbs as well as seeds in their activities.
It is a bit limited in depth for those looking to expand their knowledge but many of us started out with this great little handbook.
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Bega Liz
Posts: 62
Joined: 15 Nov 2021, 06:21
Location: Bega Valley, NSW
Contact: Website

Re: Book reviews

The Manual of Seed Saving
Harvesting, Storing, and Sowing Techniques for Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits
by Andrea Heistinger in association with Arche Noah and Pro Specie Rara
First published 2003. English translation 2013 by Timber Press.

This is a great little European book. It covers most of the crops we grow in Australia, including many of the more unusual ones, and provides more depth of information for seed savers looking to increase their knowledge. Some of the cultivation information does assume European conditions and isn't directly useful. And it doesn't really cover sub-tropical or tropical crops (eg. snake beans) so if you are in a warmer climate this one isn't for you.
It has a good section at the front with all the basic information you need when growing, harvesting and processing seed crops.
It is useful to understand the plant families to be able to look up a particular crop in this book, or you need to use the index at the back.
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Bega Liz
Posts: 62
Joined: 15 Nov 2021, 06:21
Location: Bega Valley, NSW
Contact: Website

Re: Book reviews

The Seed Garden
The Art and Practice of Seed Saving
Edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel
Published 2015 by the Seed Savers Exchange in the USA.

This is currently one of my favourite seed saving books. It is clear and the layout means it is fairly easy to find any particular crop - as long as you know it's latin name. There is a common name directory at the front of the section if you aren't sure of the latin name and the index at the back is also pretty good.
The first third of the book is all the basic information needed by seed savers and covers techniques for growing, harvesting and processing to make sure you get good seed crops. There is a fair bit of detail on population size requirements and other technical stuff.
I know some beginner seed savers find this book a bit intimidating but for people looking to expand their knowledge it is pretty good. I'd put this one and The Manual of Seed Saving at about the same level of useful detail.
This book covers a good range of crops but has dropped some of the more unusual crops that were covered in the earlier Seed to Seed book (I'll cover that book next).
As Australia is a fairly diverse and multi-cutlural society there are some things we grow that aren't in this book but are in the European book - The Manual of Seed Saving - and vice versa. For example, you won't find corn salad (Valerinnella locusta) in this book as it is a particularly European crop but you will find tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) which aren't in the The Manual of Seed Saving.
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Bega Liz
Posts: 62
Joined: 15 Nov 2021, 06:21
Location: Bega Valley, NSW
Contact: Website

Re: Book reviews

Seed to Seed
Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
by Suzanna Ashworth
Published in 2002 by the Seed Savers Exchange in the USA.

This book has mostly be superseded by the Seed Savers Exchange's later publication, The Seed Garden in 2015.

It is very American centric with growing information based on their locations and non-metric units etc. This book is only useful to me as a resource to check for details if I can't find them anywhere else. It was an excellent book in it's time but has become a bit out-dated.
It does cover some more unusual crop types that you don't see in other books, eg. yacon. As you can see from the contents below it covers probably the biggest range but the level of detail for each one is perhaps not as useful as I'd like, because as mentioned a lot is very oriented to US conditions.
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Bega Liz
Posts: 62
Joined: 15 Nov 2021, 06:21
Location: Bega Valley, NSW
Contact: Website

Re: Book reviews

The Organic Seed Grower
A Farmer's Guide to Vegetable Seed Production
by John Navazio
Published 2012

This book, as you can tell by the title, is written for larger scale seed growers. It covers much of the same material as the other more recent books but assumes field scale growing.
For the backyard or small scale grower there are probably better books. For those wanting to work at scale then this book would be a reasonable choice.
It doesn't cover as wide a range of crops as some of the other books, but all the main temperate vegetable crops are covered. But it's restricted range of crops makes it less useful to me. It does have a section on seed borne diseases which I've found useful.
The author, John Navazio, also contributed to The Seed Garden book so you can also get access to some of his expertise through that book.
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