GREENVILLE - The Greenville Public Library is in the infancy of a new program aimed toward helping the community become more self-reliant and self-sustaining through growing their own foods and preserving the seeds to return to the Seed Library, located on the second floor at the reference desk.
Patrons of the Seed Library sign out the seeds they wish to use for this season, and the hope is that they return at least double the seeds, following the growing season. Part of the Seed Library’s mission is to help their patrons understand how to give back, by returning seeds saved from the foods they’ve grown out of the Library’s catalogue, said Deb Cameron, Greenville Public Library. To help their patrons learn how to do this, they invited Gary and Mildred Malott to speak to a gathering of approximately 20 gardeners last Thursday.
The Malotts have been saving seeds for a long time, and they save the seeds from everything they plant, Gary shared.
The trick to preserving seeds is allowing the plant being harvested to reach full maturity, said Gary Malott, who has been growing their own fruits and vegetables, and saving the heirloom seeds, for “most of our lives,” he and his wife Mildred stated.
“It’s best to let the seeds get to full maturity, and the way to do that is to let the plant reach full maturity,” Gary stated. “If you don’t, you might not have a viable seed.”
And just because the seed came from the plant, he said, doesn’t mean it will be the same as the plant, because cross-pollination could have occurred, and often does between fruits and vegetables that are planted closely together in the garden, and even sometimes not so closely.
“I once had beans cross-pollinate from 12-feet away…” Malott shared. Another interesting fact? Gary once planted 14-year-old beans, and they grew, he said. He doesn’t generally recommend keeping beans or seeds for more than three years, and only if they’re stored properly, without any moisture that will allow them to grow fungus, he said.
Potatoes are a bit different from other plants, he added, because they clone themselves through the eyes; the best way to preserve these is to let them reach full maturity, and then store them in a cool, mostly dry place so that they do not rot or dehydrate completely, Malott stated. There are a large variety of potatoes, from russet to red, and sweet to white, but the growing and seed preservation for them is typically much the same, Malott shared.
Beans are easy to preserve, he added, because they can simply reach maturity and dry out on the vine, and can be stored with or without the pod. Many bean pods are good for eating, he added, such as the typical green bean and peas. Others are better for dry beans to put into soups, he said.
For most of his seed-preserving career, Malott shared that he’s simply spread the seeds on a paper towel, waited for everything to dry out, then he folds up the paper towel, seeds and all, and saves it for when he’s ready to plant; this is his method of wetter seeds, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and squash, he said, and has always worked well for him.
A guest during Malott’s presentation suggested using the paper towel that the seeds on during planting, as well, by simply ripping a seed section out and planting it, he said. Following Malott’s presentation, guests shared tips and asked questions.
For more information on the Seed Library, which is located at the Greenville Public Library for the general public, contact the Greenville Public Library at 937-548-3915.