About Grunt and Grungy ...

For those of you who don't know about us, a little history to fill you in.

Between the two of us we had over a hundred years of experience gardening. (Now that makes me feel old.) We had gardened in climates that can be described as West Coast Marine, to Sub Arctic wilderness, to flat prairie and finally settled in what we commonly refer to as our little piece of paradise, here in the Creston valley, in south eastern B.C., Canada, located about 10 km. north of the Idaho panhandle and just below Kootenay Lake.
The property lies in a small microclimate that gives us a zone 5/6 Canadian version or 6/7 US version.
We were avid gardeners for years, and about 10 years ago noticed that more and more of the old varieties of vegetables were no longer being offered. Being raised in the generation that thought "if you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem", we decided to start growing heirloom and open pollinated varieties of vegetables (especially tomatoes) and offering the seeds to other gardeners.
Well one thing lead to another and we ended up starting a private seed bank so that our and your grandchildren will be able to have the same tastes that you are having now. This past couple of years we had gone past tomatoes and started seed banking (cold and cool storage) any annual vegetable seed.
If you have questions or would like to contribute to this blog, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Also for those who wish to trade please contact me at the below e-mail address and I will get back to as soon as possible. Thank you.

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old.

Much of the final years of Dan's journey is chronicled on this blog. He was a man who made a difference to many people, and his family believe that his thoughts in the last years and months of his life, and his work in preserving heritage seeds should remain available.


What I post about ways, methods, and results is based on what I observe in my garden. Your growing conditions may achieve results that differ from mine. I am putting this blog here to offer a site to exchange gardening ideas and methods, and to exchange seeds.
I welcome questions and discussions about anything gardening. The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask. I will try to find answers for questions that I can't answer, and may post links to sites that have clearer answers than I can come up with.


I do have tomato seeds to offer. The seeds are free, but I ask you to help cover the postage and handling in one form or another.
They can be obtained through trading seeds, or paying for postage at the rate of $2.00 for the first ten varieties or seed packs, and an increase of $1.00 for every ten varieties or seed packs beyond that. Seed packs are approximately 25 seeds each (not counted, just a pinch of seeds). Germination rate usually exceeds that of commercial seed packs. If you have problems with germination, let me know, and I will replace the seeds, either with more of the same variety, or with a variety that I think will give you something similar to what the original variety would have. Please note. I am not a seed company. Iwill only offer seeds from my current trade lists and also if I have lots to spare from previous years. I don't check germination on older seeds, but my experience has been over 80% on five year old seed.

2010 FALL SEED LIST = http://tinyurl.com/4whnxy3 Some seeds from this list may be in limited supply, but I will do my best to fill your request.

Albums containing photos of most of the varieties I have, and other photos that may be of interest, can be found at:
http://www.picasaweb.google.com/tvgrunt, or

When you have made up your list, send me a copy at grungysgarden@gmail.com

Changes ...

The status here has changed substantially, as you can see above. The blog will continue, hopefully with more frequent input than recently.
Seed saving and trading/sharing will also continue. I still want to bank seeds, not just of tomatoes, but I am older than the lead photo on the blog would indicate, and have passed the seed bank on to younger hands.
In the meantime, I will continue to pay it forward, and trade/share seed to all corners of the world, as I did with Val.
This poem, which we both have known since the 1960's gave us much comfort through Val's battle with cancer.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Life comes with no guarantee of quality or quantity. It is up to you to remember to smell the flowers, watch the sunset, hear the birdsong in early morning, and the spring frogs in the evening. What ever happens in your little corner of it, it is still a beautiful world, and you do yourself a great disservice if you fail to see and celebrate what is there.

A little footnote here, that will stay at the top of the blog. I have married again, for the fourth time. Another internet marriage, as Val's and mine was, and just as good, although completely different.
I was also diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2011, and started treatment to cure it in late August 2011.
The blog will carry on, in much the same vein as it always has. I will post mostly garden related articles, but also a few comments on things and life in general.
For a while, I thought Gump had it right = sh*t happens. He's wrong = LIFE happens

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old. His family wishes his blog to remain for those who wish to read Dans' journey.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another way of Saving Brassica seeds

Todays method is brought you by Frank Van Keirsbilck who is Orflo on Homegrown Goodness.
Thank you Frank.

Growing seeds from all sorts of brassicas, especially cabbages is something that seems to be frightening lots of people. But, this is really not necessary, if you stick to some rules, it's in fact easy to grow out seeds (if you can spare the place , of course).

Most brassicas are biennal, so this means they need two years to form seeds, there are however some noticeable exceptions: broccolis or even early cauliflowers,, rocket or aragula and a few others grow seed in one year time, some others are even triennal or perennial.

The first thing to do is to find out what variety you have (this is mostly easy, as it's written on the seed packet), and what species this variety belongs to.

The most common grown species are brassica juncea(mustard and others), brassica napus (rutabaga, rapeand others), brassica oleracea (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, kales, collards, kohlrabi), brassica rapa (turnip, browwoli raap, chinese cabbage,..), crambe maritima (sea kale), eruca sativa (rocket or aragula), raphanus sativus (radish)). These species will never cross with each other, but will cross with other varieties within the species. Thus, a broccoli will not cross with a chinese cabbage or a rutabaga, for instance, but it will cross with Brussels sprouts or collards!

So it's perfectly possible to grow out one variety of each species in order to save seeds from these.

Another thing that's really important is that brassicas are outbreeders, meaning, if you have only one lonely cauliflower that's flowering, it won't set any seeds (again, there are some lesser-grown exceptions). Two plants work, but are just a very small genetic base for seed production, so grow out at least 10 plants of each variety, more is better (10 is really an absolute minimum)

So, how to start? Just start sowing seeds from the brassicas as you would do normally, plant them out and watch them grow. Whenever winter arrives (I'm talking about the most common biennal brassicas here), make a selection: take the best plants only (and keep them apart) for seed production, and eat the smaller or different shaped ones. This is important, it's a way to select better and better plants (and seeds) for the future. Have a good look at the plants, for instance:is the variety you want seeds from originally round, and are there some flatter-shaped ones in it? Select the round ones, then, unless you want to create a 'new' flatter variety (then you should select the flat-shaped ones, off course). Depending on the climate you have, and on the cold-resistance of the brassica varieties, take them to a conservation room, or leave them in the garden. Don't eat anything from the selected plants, this is better. Take a second look after the winter: did they survive easily, did they get many rotten leaves or sicknesses,... Take, again, the good-looking healthy ones and keep these, plant them out in spring if you had to place these inside. And make sure this is the only variety within the species you will re-grow... or isolate them, as described further.

Most brassicas flower very easily , one noticeable exception is cauliflower, which needs to be cut with a knife in the middle of the plants, in a sort of X-shape. After flowering and, of course pollination by insects, seeds start to form, first on the low side of the plants, and slowly this formation will creep up to the top . Build a sturdy support around the plants, the stems loaded with seeds can fall over and you could lose a lot. It takes quite a long time for seeds to start really ripening off, I never noted it exactly, but it 's at least two months in my climate. Whenever the pods start changing colour, from green to mostly brown , and start to look a bit brittle, it's time for some action. Depending on the varieties and species, pods can suddenly burst open and shatter some seeds, so when you feel they are completely dry, take them and put them in some sort of bag. Be careful , at this ripening stage, birds can cause a lot of damage, so, if necessary, cover the plants with some sort of netting. Another cause of damage are all sorts of aphids, these can easily be taken off.

It's best to leave the pods to ripen completely on the plants, brassica seeds usually don't develop further when the stems have been cut away from the plants .

The seeds, if kept and a dry and dark room, can be used for a long time, some 4-5 years, so you can build in a sort of yearly seed-growing rotation if you want to keep on sowing different varieties from your own seeds.

Off course, there are also methods for growing out two or even three brassica varieties of the same species in one year: build some isolation cages over the brassicas, each variety gets one isolation cage, let's suppose you want to grow out three brassica oleracea varietes: red cabbage, a kale variety and Brussels sprouts. So, when you have placed the cages over the selected varieties (before flowering, off course), open up on day one the cage of the red cabbage, and keep the other two closed, on day two open up the kale cage, and keept the other ones closed, and so on... This will reduce the amount of seeds somewhat, but brassicas are mostly very prolific seed producers, a harvest of one pound of seeds from 10 plants isn't exceptional, although this depends a bit on the variety.

Another method for growing out two or more seed-brassicas is having a minimum distance between the varieties. There's lots of discussion about this one, some yell out it has to be 2 miles, at least, others speak of less than half a mile. I'm pretty sure all these persons are right... So, where do all these differences come from? First of all, insect varieties, some have a wider range than others, European honey bees for example go as far as 5 miles to pollinate (this is just an indication, because these bees aren't the main pollinators for brassicas), other hover flies or mason bees or... fly only a few hundred yards away from their homes. So, that's the first difficulty, second is a sort of physical barrier: if two brassica varieties are separated from each other with a large field of wild flowers, a big hedge, a house, ... they could perfectly well produce 'true ' seeds , even if they are only 100 foot from each other! You have to search and experiment a bit...every place has its own specific circumstances, what works in one place, could fail in another...

Some brassica varieties (I'm thinking especially about mustards and Chinese cabbages here, but there are some others) have a tendency to bolt too early, without having formed a true crop. Don't use these for seed-saving, you will only select on this early-bolting characteristic, and that's really not a good thing to do, again, follow the rule: take the best varieties....

If you want to go a bit further, you could try and start creating your own brassica variety. This is infact also easily done, but it takes time. I'll illustrate this with an example:

two brassica oleracea varieties: you have a red cabbage and a savoy cabbage, and you want to create a red cabbage with the familiar curly leaves of the savoy cabbage... grow out a line of each of these two varieties, right next to each other , and select only one plant (the best looking and healthiest, off course) from each of these two varieties. So now you have two plants that are quite close to each other, so they surely will cross-pollinate. That's the first step, the second step is sowing out the produced seeds the next year, and select again on the plants you have grown out, do this for some years, and you might end up with the curly red cabbage...But this could take some patience....

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