Fall is in the air these days. It still feels summery in the afternoons, but the mornings and evenings are decidedly brisk. This morning, it occurred to us that the potential for an overnight frost is creeping ever nearer. Because there is nothing we can do to prevent or delay this, we needed to start thinking about protecting what can be protected.
That lead us to thinking about saving seeds.
From the beginning, we’ve grown our garlic from seed garlic that was given to us. We are now onto the third generation of this gifted garlic and it is truly wonderful stuff. From last year’s 80 or so plants, we saved enough seed to plant 150 this year. Today, we went through those 150 (or what remains anyway) and selected the very best heads for planting. We should have right around 200 plants in next summer’s garden.
There are a couple important things about saving seed for garlic. One is that you should choose the fattest, heartiest heads from your harvest. You are essentially doing a mini eugenics experiment every time. The best stock brings the best stock. Another is that you should keep the heads whole until you are ready to plant. If you clean the heads and break them apart into cloves, you run the risk of drying them out and compromising their integrity between selection and planting. We just cut the stalk away and put the heads into a paper bag until planting time.
In November, we will till the soil, separate the cloves, and plant them. We will cover the bed with straw and we won’t think about it again until sometime in April when the first green shoots break through the straw.
Not much is as easy as garlic.
We are onto our third planting of arugula for the season. As our first planting started to wind down (leaves turning brown, stems getting woody), we decided to leave a handful of plants for seed. These plants sat in the garden, completely ignored for the past two months. Here, you can see the seedy plants in front of the healthy arugula bed on the other side of the log.
This morning, they seemed ready to make the move from plant to seed. We pulled the plants and were immediately met with a delicious arugula perfume that carried over into the rest of the job. We sat on the deck in the sunshine (it was still so cold our fingertips were hurting) and started separating the seed pods from the stems.
This was a time-consuming bit of busy work, but the wonderful aromatics made the whole process an utter delight. When we were done, the tray was covered in seed pods. The pods are now drying out a bit to make the rest of the process even easier. We will open each up, remove the seeds inside, and dry those completely. Then, all we have to do is store them somewhere dry until spring when we can plant them again!