Broccoli and Sprouts Seed Saving

Wikipedia describes “landrace” as this:

“A landrace is a domesticated, locally adapted, traditional variety of a species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species.”

Saving home grown broccoli seedsI grew my first attempt of broccoli and brussels sprouts from organic, open pollinated heirloom seeds.  Although I won’t call my first crop a success because I got only a few small heads of broccoli and no brussels sprouts at all, I did learn a very valuable lesson.  Plant sooner.  I thought that since these were cool weather crops, I needed to plant them in cooler weather!

Silly me.

But the plants did over-winter in fine shape and, since they thought it was their second year of life, they bloomed, and the blooms were absolutely gorgeous! broccoli and brussels sprouts seed saving

Our honeybees were enthralled with the blossoms, as were the bumblebees and orchard mason bees.  Serendipity!  To be honest, I couldn’t really smell any sweetness to the blossoms, even when I stuck my nose smack dab in the middle.  But then, I’m not a bee, so what do I know 😉

So, I let the blooming plants go to seed, just to see if I could grow broccoli and brussels sprouts from my own saved seed. After it looked like the seed pods were pretty plump, I pulled up the plants and hung them by their roots on our orchard/garden fence. One lesson learned from hanging the seed pods is to watch them every day, because once they are all dried the seed pods pop open and the seeds will drop and roll all over the ground.  The seeds are so small, that it’s almost impossible to find them on the ground!  What I found is that about two weeks in the sun hanging on the fence is all that is needed.  Once the seed heads were dry, I rolled them between my fingers and the seeds popped out into a clean bucket I had below.  I put the seeds into an envelope and labeled them with the variety and date harvested.saving broccoli and brussels sprouts seeds

When it was time to plant the seeds (around the middle of August, for me), I bought some more seeds at our local organic seed store – Sustainable Seed Company.  Why?Because I wasn’t REALLY sure my seeds would be viable, and I actually wanted to EAT, not just grow broccoli and sprouts! One thing I have learned from all my experimenting in the garden and in the kitchen… you should always have plan #2!

broccoli and brussels sprouts seedsI labeled the seeds either SB (store bought) or HG (home grown), with my homemade labels.  I made these out of one of the ice cream buckets that my mother gave me.  Just cut the bucket in strips and label with a permanent market and, voila!

I planted the seeds in terracotta pots because I have had better luck germinating seeds in them, though it can be hard to get the seedling out when it is time to plant. It’s also easier to keep the pots wet when put into a cookie sheet tray or old roasting pan, without the seeds/seedlings getting waterlogged.  I then watered all of the planted seeds with my homemade kelp fertilizer (which has gibirellic acid, a type plant hormone) and waited to see what would happen.seed saving - broccoli and brussels sprouts

Some of the seeds germinated and were peeking up above the soil in just seven days!  I really think that had a lot to do with the kelp fertilizer.  Eventually it was evident that both the SB and the HG seeds were germinating at about the same rate.  I was so excited! That means I can definitely save my seeds every year, and hopefully, by careful selection, I will end up with seeds that are very well adapted to my weather and soil conditions.

saving open pollinated broccoli seedsAlas, I may have gotten my plants into the ground too late again.  Here it is October 1st and my plants aren’t very big. My biggest gardening problem isn’t timing, however, but  logistics.  Most of my raised garden beds are INSIDE my fruit orchard.  That was okay last year and the year before, but the trees are growing and are now shading my vegetable beds!

We’ll see what happens.

My plan is to every year select the healthiest two or three plants of each – broccoli and brussels sprouts – and let them flower and then go to seed.  Of course, that means that for a few years while I am developing my own broccoli and sprouts landraces, we won’t be eating the cream of the crop.

That’s okay.  I can wait!  At least the bees will be happy!

One more thing I learned from this experiment…  tomatoes don’t like broccoli!seed saving - broccoli and brussels sprouts

You see, I was gifted the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte a few years ago from my sweet DIL Wendy, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the book, trying to follow the planting preferences as listed in the book.  What happened is that this past spring the broccoli seeds hadn’t yet finished developing, but I needed to get the tomatoes in the ground in the same box that the broccoli was, so I went ahead and planted the tomatoes a few inches away from the broccoli.  Big mistake!  You have to click on the picture above to see it larger, but you can see that the tomato plants in the boxes with broccoli are much smaller than the ones in boxes without the broccoli!  The picture was taken about 3 weeks after the tomatoes were planted.  Believe it or not… the tomato plants started out at about the same size!

Who knew?  Obviously not me!  You learn something new every day!

So, my advice for today:  If you are growing broccoli or brussels sprouts and live in an area that has fairly mild winters, DON’T harvest every bit of produce off the plant!  Leave some sprouts and some broccoli heads on the plants, mulch heavily to get them through the winter and allow them to bloom and set seed the next year!  You will be able to take that seed and replant your next crop, which will be stronger and healthier year after year!

And don’t plant tomatoes among your broccoli!

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23 thoughts on “Broccoli and Sprouts Seed Saving

  1. You are one smart cookie, Vickie!! I tried Broccoli and Brussel Sprouts a few times with no luck, so we didn’t bother with them this year. I actually hate brussel sprouts with a passion so I wasn’t too upset 🙂 but my sweetie likes them so I tried….oh well! How’s the house coming? I’m excited to see progress!!

    • Good morning, Debbie! I adore roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic…so yummy! That’s why I keep trying! At least I can feed bees, if nothing else 😉 The footings are being dug for the house as I am typing this. It will be a week or so before they get poured with concrete because a massive amount of rebar (about 3 tons) has to be arranged in the footings first. And then the plumber and electrician have to put their chase through where the concrete will be. I will take pictures of every step and share them soon, but when the first tractor hit the dirt I was so excited I forgot to get a picture! Haha.

  2. I was a customer of Baker Creek Seeds, too. Now I do my seed buying from Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa. The same quality as BCS, with more seeds in each pack and a wide selection.

    • Thanks, Thomas, that’s good to know! The truth is that I spread around my spending dollars. Also, sometimes I am looking for a certain seed that I can’t find elsewhere, so that will also influence my decision of where I buy my seeds. Hopefully, there will come a day when I buy very little seeds! Thanks for reading my blog and for your insight!

  3. I swear you’re reading my mind! That’s what I want to do on our homestead. Once I’m no longer building a house, of course! Speaking of which, we’re almost ready to pour our slab. We just have the rebar and a bit more form work to do. Exciting that your footers are getting dug! Progress!

    • Good afternoon, Maridy! I think my gardening days are also going to be few and far between for the next year while we build our house! I may still end up with a row of beans, a few hills of summer squash and a couple of tomatoes, only because those don’t take very much work and I have enough automatic watering lines set up for that. Otherwise, I will have to devote most of my time to the house. I am so excited to see your slab! Let’s just hope for a mild winter so we can get some housebuilding done. Good luck with your pour!

    • Dearest Kristin, I will take all the good luck, best wishes and, of course, prayers for our house that I can get 😉 Thank you so much for your kind comment!

  4. Hi Vickie, I just hopped by from Homestead Blog Hop. I love to add sprouts to my smoothies and salads so I thoroughly enjoyed your helpful post. I’m pinning and sharing this post. Feel free to hop by and visit my Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop each week where we share similar posts. All the best, Deborah

    • Good afternoon, Deborah! I already jumped over to your blog hop and entered this post. Thanks! While I was there I read the funniest post I have read in a long time about trying different diet cokes. Hilarious! Thank you for introducing yourself!

  5. If only I had an outdoor area to get my gardening on! I think it would be really fun and rewarding to grow a few veggies! We had a huge garden growing up and I always loved picking the vegetables with my parents!

    • Well, Gigi, you could certainly come up here to North Cali and garden with me! 🙂 I’m sure, after reading your blog, we could have lots of laughs! Have a great weekend.

  6. Hi Vickie, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are essentially the same plant (Brassica oleracea) and are insect-pollinated. How do you keep them from cross-pollinating if they are blooming at the same time? I’ve been wanting to save my own seeds as well but haven’t been able to overcome this challenge. Any tips are appreciated. TIA

    • Good question! The answer is…luck! My broccoli bloomed for about two weeks, then the brussels sprouts bloomed. Once the sprouts started blooming, I put some netting over the broccoli (it was still blooming, but had those two weeks to get pollinated), to prevent any cross pollination. Of course, there is always the chance that a neighbor is growing a brassica, but that isn’t very likely where I live and garden, which is pretty much in a forest! We will see what happens this next year. If they both bloom at the same time, I may have to choose between the two. Thank you so much for your question!

      • Ah, makes sense! I am envious of your luck – so far it seems my Brassica like to all bloom at once =/ – last year we built a considerable root cellar so this year I am going to pull a variety and overwinter it to see if I can’t get an early bloom for seed saving.

        • Oh yes…a root cellar! Once we finish building our new home, we plan to build a root cellar as well. Originally the plans for our house had a large basement, and we were going to section off half of it for a cellar. Well, that was not to be, so now we will be building a cellar outside near our back patio. It will take some time, but I know it will be well worth it. Again, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  7. I have learned that gardening is a learn as you go thing and you do learn what works best for you and your needs. It sounds like you definitely on the right track. I love your pictures and hope you get to enjoy those broccoli sprouts and broccoli real soon. Congratulations on being featured on Healthy, Happy Green & Natural blog hop. Pinning. Have a healthy happy & blessed week.

    • Thank you so much for the feature, Marla! And you are so right… gardening is certainly a learn as you go thing. Luckily, I am good at learning from my mistakes! 😉 Have a great day, and I will see you at the party!

    • Wow… I already pulled some of my summer squash because I thought it was done! Maybe I should have waited? But then, I am not in zone 10. I did plant spinach last week and it’s already an inch tall! Thank you for hosting the OMHG party.

  8. Pingback: Broccoli and Sprouts Seed Saving | The Survival Skills.com

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