Urban Seed Saving
All across our suburbs and cities people are growing food in backyards and community gardens. Urban agriculture is an increasingly popular phenomenon and aside from helping with food security and environmental protection by reducing food miles and helping us feed ourselves, growing food where we live means we can have the freshest, most delicious – and most interesting varieties – of fresh produce. If we can save seeds from our backyard and community gardens, we have a wealth to swap and share with neighbours, friends and family, building community and boosting our collective food security.
For many backyard and community growers, though, saving seeds in the suburbs can seem challenging with all the frisky bees and other pollinators buzzing around, mixing genetics. The possibility of cross-pollination between plants of the same family (for e.g. some of the pumpkins with zucchinis) can deter backyard and community garden growers who would like to try saving seeds. Will the resulting seeds be a pumpkin? A zucchini? A pumpkini?
But, the best thing about urban seed saving is that it gives all of us the chance to “close the loop” in our gardens, to take advantage of nature’s abundance and to share and swap seeds with our neighbours! By saving seeds and trading them within neighbourhoods, we can grow the varieties we want to grow that are adapted and suited to our microclimates and we can preserve family and community heirloom varieties that may not be grown and saved otherwise.
The good news is, it can be done! If you’re keen to save seeds at home but not sure where to start, check out our intro articles on the basics of seeds saving: start with the “easy” plants first and then when you want to get more expert, dive into the world of exclusion strategies and hand pollination, you’ll never look back! Why not start this summer with one of the easiest of all, the backyard tomato.
For most vegetables and herbs, you don’t need to worry too much about having large numbers of plants or large tracts of plantings for the purposes of seed saving. The best way to ensure the genetic mixing and viability that comes from large scale commercial and rural seed production is for many growers to grow and share small amounts of seed regularly. So, if you’re going to grow seeds at home, it pays to connect with other people who are also doing it.
And if you’re saving seeds, chances are some of your neighbours or friends also are or would like to try. Ask in social media gardening, homesteading and food related groups about seed saving. Ask at your local growers’ society. Often seed saving groups will have regular get-togethers to share knowledge and experiences of seed saving, socially connect and swap seeds. It’s a great way to meet other people in your community who are also passionate about growing food and saving seeds.
The even better news is that seed savers groups exist in many urban areas. Check out the directory of seed savers groups (link). And if one doesn’t exist in your area, you can start one! Look at (link) for some tips on starting your own group.
And, no matter what your seeds turn out to grow (I’ve grown quite a few zumpkins!), you will have sown the seeds (sorry!) of a wonderful social and community connection.