As our plants begin to fade into the winter, it’s time to think about the next big step: seed saving! Here at ChocoSol we began collecting seeds in August. Each plant’s seed production is unique and requires a particular harvesting method to extract. It was a great learning experience for Sarah and I about the diversity of seeds on our rooftop. We were able to make connections between our own seed saving work and the broader fight for food security worldwide. Not only is seed saving fun, it’s also a vital component to maintaining diverse and sustainable varieties of plants that are acclimatized to our city and container garden.
Having control and access to a wide variety of local and organic seeds gives us autonomy from mass produced and genetically modified seeds from big agri companies. Saving our own seeds allows us to produce a variety of food that is healthy and sustainable. It helps preserve a diverse range of heirlooms that would be otherwise neglected or wiped out. The rise of industrial agriculture has reduced crop biodiversity which in turn has allowed for greater vulnerability to pests and diseases.
There is little genetic diversity in the seeds available to city dwellers, making it even more important for each of us to save organic seeds when given the opportunity. The diversity of our seeds strengthens their ability to adjust in adverse climate shifts and makes them less vulnerable to disease. Growing seeds that have adapted to the local climate on our rooftop will increase their local resilience for the next season.
At Chocosol we practise seed saving each year. We focus on preserving the seeds from our healthiest plants and plant them the following spring. This year we grew beans, sunflowers, beans, zinnia, calendula, tobacco, corn flower and peppers from seeds saved from last year.
As the flowers begin to brown and dry out, we collect the heads in large bowls. The process of separating the seeds from the larger bud is time consuming and different depending on the plant, but well worth it! It is a lot easier when the plant is very dry; often we laid them out to dry for a couple days before beginning collecting. Once the seeds are separated we store them in brown seed bags and label them with the date collected. They are kept indoors all winter at room temperature in dry conditions.
Making connections with fellow seed savers in your community is vital for the urban agriculture movement in Toronto! We encourage you to check out the following organizations for further education and ways to participate!
- Toronto Seed Library
- Urban Harvest
- Toronto Community Garden Network
- Be sure to check out Seedy Saturday events all across Toronto and the GTA in March!