Choosing Seed Crops

Last Saturday I attended Eco-Farm Day in Cornwall, Ontario put on by the Ottawa Chapter of Canadian Organic Growers. The day always goes by a little too quickly – †too many friends to catch up with and big decisions at to what workshops I want to attend. This year, I took in a talk on crop rotations for weed control and another on the beneficial presence of fungi in high organic matter systems; then I gave a talk on integrating seed production into market gardens.

During my talk, I evaluated the crops and crop families you might consider in Eastern Canada. This summer, Iíll post about those crops. Today, I want to go over how to choose the crops that might fit well in your gardens.

First, consider what seed crops would make a difference to your garden.

  • What seed costs the most on your seed order?
  • What seed is hard to find or has been discontinued?
  • What seed is not available from certified organic source?

Second, consider your seed growing motives and how they affect recommended isolation distance, population size and germination rates.

  • If this seed is only for your farm use, you can play a little looser with recommendations.
  • If †this seed is for sale, or if †you hope to preserve and improve a variety, pay attention to the recommendations.

Third, consider where to place seed crops in your field layout.

  • They need to be far from sprinklers when they are drying down.
  • They often take longer to mature than annual crops. Make sure they arenít in the way.
  • They might cross-pollinate with flowering weeds and bolted market crops.
Keep seed crops away from sprinklers

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Keep seed crops away from sprinklers

Last, consider how the seed crop will impact workflow. In addition to seed harvest and cleaning, seed crops often need more attentive weeding and maintenance than market vegetables.

  • When do you have time to spare during the growing season?
  • What times are busiest?
  • Can you harvest part of a seed crop as a †vegetable to offset the extra work?

Over the next couple of weeks I will continue my posts on seed growing basics but occasionally toss in a few on seed crop planning.

5 thoughts on “Choosing Seed Crops

  1. Hey Dan,
    I’ve got a new subject for your awesome new blog. What happens if you want to produce seed from a variety of brocoli when it seems to be male sterile. Just got a notice from High Mowing letting me know that they believe the Green Goliath brocoli is male sterile and they have had very little success producing seeds. Found some at Irish Eyes Garden Seeds but i’m questioning my breeding project. Have you heard of this masculinity problem before? Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Eric, thanks for the subject idea. I tried growing Green Goliath a couple of years ago. When the pods started forming there was absolutely no seed in the pods. I’d always assumed it was because the summer had been a real scorcher and dried up the pollen. Looks like I might have been wrong. I’ll try to get a post up on the reasons behind this masculinity problem. I’ll see what I can do to find out how you should proceed with your project.

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