October 9th, 2013 in north New Jersey’s growing zone six. A frost could hit any day now and is in fact overdue. Are Zone 6 gardeners still active? You bet.
We spent some time with a West Milford gardener; we’ll call him Mac, who is a proponent of saving seeds and running a frugal and self-sufficient garden. He has decided to save seeds from one of the two cultivars of Swiss chard which he raised this year. This will mean saving plants over winter as chard is a biennial which only produces seed in its second year.
This will take a little prep work. The cultivar shown in the main picture is Fordhook giant, an organic heirloom variety which with proper handling will almost certainly breed true from saved seed. It looks tired and bedraggled now but this tiny patch of chard has produced pot after pot of one of Mother Nature’s most healthful greens.
Fordhook giant is one contender for seed saving. The other is golden chard which will be shown shortly. Both cannot be saved in a small garden at the same time, because their pollens will cross and no real prediction can be made for what will emerge when the seeds are planted. The same is true of beets. Beets are Beta Vulgaris, just like Swiss chard and will cross with uncertain result.
Only one variety of chard or beet may be allowed to go to seed next spring.
Since properly saved seeds will easily last 5 or more years, this poses no problem. Simply save one variety a year, or swap varieties that you have saved with those different cultivars which a friend has saved. It is practical, rewarding and fun to do!
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