“The beauty of seed is rivaled only by their purpose.”
This simple sentence found in the opening pages of The Seed Garden neatly sums up the perspective and scope of this visually sumptuous, go-to resource for seasoned horticulturists and home gardeners alike. In this comprehensive book, Seed Savers Exchange and the Organic Seed Alliance bring together decades of knowledge to demystify what was once common gardening practice and inspire gardeners today to participate in that rich tradition.
The book is divided into two parts that complement one another but can also be read independently. Section 1, “The Art and Practice of Seed Saving,” opens with a survey of basic botany and plant reproduction that many of us first learned in fourth grade science. Subsequent chapters explore pollination, genetic diversity and plant life cycles, as well as best practices for cultivating seed, proper harvesting techniques, and post-harvest handling.
Readers whose interest is piqued and those with more growing experience will appreciate brief segments, or “Master Classes,” on topics like gene expression, vernalization, isolation techniques, record keeping, and other more in-depth subjects. Where generally you’d find clinical diagrams employed to illustrate botanical features, crisp, detailed macro shots in The Seed Garden offer stunning close ups of natural systems in play—a pollinator’s eye view if you will—and beautiful portraits of plants and their progeny.
The second half of the book, “The Seed Garden,” provides detailed species-by-species information on 75 crops, including comprehensive instructions on how to cultivate, harvest, and clean seeds, and recommendations for producing healthy, true-to-type seeds.
For as long as food has been cultivated, farmers and home gardeners have been saving seed. Heirloom seed listings are filled with legions of varieties whose quirky names hint at stories of folklore, nostalgia, and sentiment alongside factors like productivity, reliability, and flavor. Tiny though seeds may be, they carry our history in their DNA and connect the past with our future.
Lorene Edwards Forkner, editor of Pacific Horticulture