Saturday, February 13, 2016

Favorite Books of 2015 #3 - The Seed Garden

The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving edited by Lee Butalla and Shanyn Siegel
(click on the link above to buy the book on Amazon)

One thing I'd like to do more in my garden is saving my own seed, but to be honest, I know just enough to know I don't know enough to do it well! I know, for example, that I need to have a large enough planting to avoid inbreeding in certain crops (although self-pollinating crops, like beans, don't have this problem) - but which ones were self-pollinating again? And for those that do cross-pollinate, which crops do they cross with, and how much spacing do I need between them? When it's harvesting time, how do I know when my seeds are fully mature, and how do I dry and store them? I remember that tomato seeds need to be soaked and fermented before they're ready, but what other seeds need this? And which ones need a cold period?

I could hunt down information online about each crop when I was planning my garden, and again when I was harvesting seeds, but in the hustle of summer harvesting, who's got time for that? And in January when I'm planning my garden, my kitchen table is already overflowing with books on companion planting, how-much-to-grow-for-how-many-people charts, lists of how much our family ate last year, and of course seed catalogs! There's no room for seed-saving research for a dozen different plants.

That's why this book is a Godsend. In one handy, indexed volume are 230 pages of crop-by-crop descriptions of everything you need to know about each crop (usually two or three pages per crop), including history of the plant and its common uses, how to grow it for seed (not necessarily the same as growing it for food), pollination requirements, variety maintenance concerns (isolation distances, inbreeding depression, specific traits to select for, etc.), how to tell when your seed is fully mature, and how to dry and store your seed.

And if you don't know why all of that matters, the first 119 pages of the book are like a Seed Saving 101 course, giving you the whys and hows of seed saving and basic plant genetics (but in a very friendly and understandable way). This book is packed with information, and would be useful for both the first-time seed saver and the expert, who would welcome having all of this information at his fingertips. Much more comprehensive than other books on the subject (but not overwhelmingly so), this handy reference would be a useful addition to every gardener's bookshelf.

*** I should note that although this book is pretty comprehensive in respect to vegetable varieties, it does not cover flowers or herbs (I'm assuming they chose not to because of the sheer size that volume would have to be!) For those, I will be keeping my old copy of Seed Sowing and Saving by Carole Turner, which lists basic information for saving both vegetable and common herb and flower seed (although it's by no means as extensive in terms of vegetable crops as The Seed Garden, or as comprehensive in the information about each plant - Seed Sowing and Saving mostly just covers how to preserve the seed, and basic planting requirements).

Note: I was not payed to review this book, I just really love it! But if you click on the link above and buy the book at, I will receive a small commission from the sale. Thank you for your support!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ruth,
    Wow, this is just what I needed!! Thank you so much for sharing this.