Education

True Harvest Seeds have been inspired to reach out to young and old alike

There is at present, in schools across the country, a wonderful programme of events in schools teaching our children skills of self sustainability that we would like to add to. Our very own Katie Laurence has created a “Seed Saving Kit ” which is currently available FREE to community groups and local schools in the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area, so that people of all ages can learn and then practice the art of seed saving.

 

There are 30 kits available on a first come first served basis, to apply for your kit please send an email to debbie@trueharvestseeds.co.uk, with your name, the name of your club or school, address and tell us why you feel you would benefit from one of the seed saving kits! With training that we can provide the children can learn how to grow some of their vegetables for seed or collect wild flower seeds from the school grounds. They then save the seed over winter in the seed saving kit, then plant them the next spring so completing the cycle of life that exists within the seasons of our climate.

Seed saving is a skill our forefathers, grandfathers and grandmothers would have grown up with yet in the present upcoming generation it seems to have slipped out of general knowledge and a reliance on imported seed sprung up in its stead. Here at True Harvest Seeds we hope you can avail of the knowledge we would so much like to share. We would like to extend a heart felt thank you to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for providing funding for the Seed Saving Kit. Without your generous help we would not have had the resources to offer this opportunity for further learning and sustainability to local schools and community groups.

How to use your seed saving kit

The seed saving kits have been designed so that everyone can have a go at saving most vegetable and wild flower seeds.

In your Kit you'll find:

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An instruction manual. A guide to fruits and seed dispersal. A guide to garden bugs and beasties. A True Harvest Seeds leaflet with our contact details.

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Reusable, machine washable cloth bags and brown paper envelopes for seed collecting. A pencil to write on the envelopes and bags as you collect. A small hand lens. A small friendly pollinator.

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A 500g sealed bag of dry silica gel beads. A pot of dry (orange) indicator silica beads. Keep the dry silica dry! A pot of green (wet) indicator sachets. Silica is not to be injested.

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A selection of three sizes of tubs and tubes. Stickers for labelling.

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The plastic box is airtight. This is the seed drying unit. The larger box is packaging, but it can provide a steady dark atmosphere for the drying unit once the seeds are in.

Ultimately you’ll have all your seed that you want dried and stored, gathered in and ready at the same time to put everything into the large (air tight) plastic box all together. This allows drying of all your seeds to take place at the same time in the drying box.

Step 1

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Collect your seed on a dry day, but if that’s not possible and your seed’s damp or wet, spread it out on some newspaper in a cool airy place, away from mice and out of direct sunlight for a week or two. This allows the outside of the seed coat to dry and helps the seed aclimatise to drying out gently.

Step 2

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Clean your seed. You may have a bit, or a lot of chaff, which apart from taking up space can harbour insects (residents) can invite fungus or moulds to grow. Sometimes it’s easier to clean some of the big stuff off when the seed’s still damp, sometimes it can be easier to allow everything to dry and clean the chaff off then, it just depends on the seed and how much room you have for drying. Once they’ve sat for a while, clean the big bits off as best you can, stalks and seed cases etc., then to get the smaller chaff and dust out, winnow the seed in a gentle breeze outside by putting it all in a largeish flatish dish and gently throw everything a couple of inches into the air. What you want is the breeze to lift the lighter chaff and immature seeds off, leaving the heavy, viable seeds behind. Cleaning seeds just takes a bit of time but iIt’s a fun throw back to our ancestral roots. Best to avoid breathing in a load of dust, stand with your back to the wind and allow the breeze to carry the chaff away from your face, or wear a dust mask.

Seeds in a plastic tray, but anything shallow like it will do.

Step 3

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Seeds outside in a breeze: It’s good to practice this over a sheet, so you can pick the seeds up if you accidentally spill them. Just giggle the seeds gently into the air and you’ll see lighter bits of chaff blow away in the wind.

Step 4

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To remove dust a sieve that’s a smaller size than the seeds makes life easy, one from the kitchen does fine.

Step 5

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Check your seed. Once the seed feels dry to the touch and you’ve removed as much as the chaff as you can without throwing out too much seed it’s a good idea to look at the seed with the lens, you can check for broken seed, or little bugs that contaminate the seed, or worse eat them. What you can do is take a pair of tweezers and take them out. Once the seed is clean enough, pour it in one of the tubs, a funnel is handy for this. There are different sizes of tubes and tubs in the kit so pick a size that fits your amount of seed. Do this for all your seeds as you gather them in.

Step 6

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Label your tubs. As you go along put labels on each jar with a sticker or/and write on a small piece of paper and put it into the tube with the seed. The latter is safest, just in case your labels come off the outside during drying. Keep the lids off at this stage and continue to store them upright in a cool dry airy mouse free place, to allow the seeds to breathe and help stop mould. They may feel dry to the touch, but they are living breathing bodies and prone to sweating in enclosed spaces!

Step 7

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Prepare the tubes/tubs. So now you have your seeds collected, dried off, cleaned and put into their tubs. Keep their lids off and labels on put a sachet of the indicator silica into each seed tube/tub on top of the seed but so you can see it through the side of the tub. The silica inside the sachet should be green (wet) when it goes in, hold it to the light if it’s hard to see. This will eventually indicate when your seeds have dried, because it will have turned orange (dry) so you’ll know for sure the seeds are also dry. Have your tubs and tubes ready before you open the packets of dry silica.

Step 8

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To prepare the seed bank. Empty the large plastic box completely – this is your drying cabinet. Open the big packet of silica and pour it into the bottom of the box. Pour the tub of loose orange silica beads into the box to mix with the white beads in the bottom, these indicate that you’re starting with dry silica and they’ll go green when all the silica in the bottom of the box is wet and needs dried out.

Step 9

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Put the seeds in. Quickly place all your lids, tubs and tubes upright, lids still off, into the box, on top of the silica beads. Double check that the silica in the bottom is orange and the silica sachets in the seed tubs are green. That’s it, put the lid on tight and put in a place where temperature stays fairly even, in a cupboard is great and around eye level is best.

Step 10

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Check drying progress. With the lid still closed, look into the box and look at whether the indicator silica sachets inside the tubes have turned from green to orange yet. Once you see the green sachets have turned orange then it’s time to take off the big lid, take the silica sachets out of your seed tubes and close the lid firmly. Your seed will now remain viable for years in its sealed tube. Once you open it again, treat like any seed packet that’s been opened, either use it up right away, or re-dry it.

How long this takes depends entirely on the type of seed, how wet it was to start with and the amount of seeds. To check that the seeds are still drying, you look at the silica beads in the bottom of the box.

STILL DRYING IF the silica beads in the bottom are still orange AND the sachets inside the tubes are still green, then drying is still taking place.

DRIED IF the silica beads in the bottom are still orange AND the sachets inside the tubes are now orange, then your seeds are dry.

SILICA NEEDS REPLENISHED IF the silica beads in the bottom are now green AND the sachets inside the tubes are still green, then you must replenish your silica. All the silica, both the loose beads and the indicator packets can be reused. To dry the silica out, just place it on a metal tray and put into an oven at around 100C for a few hours, you will know the silica is dry because the indicator beads turn orange (dry) again.Then you can start using them again. Keep the silica in an air tight container until you’re ready to use them.

The kits can be reused year after year. you just have to clean out the seed storing tubes with warm soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughally before the next seed goes in.

We hope that everyone in the school can learn how to save their seed. When you plant them the next spring you see the cycle of life continuing!

Thank you to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.