Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Full-circle gardening is when you save seeds from each harvest to plant at a later time. This creates a never-ending cycle of gardening in which you can sow, grow, and harvest plants for generations to come. It’s also really easy to do!
Read on to learn more about full-circle gardening, and how to do it at home.
BENEFITS OF FULL-CIRCLE GARDENING
Full-circle gardening makes for a greener, healthier, and more sustainable lifestyle. Sowing seeds from your garden instead of buying them from a store helps both our bodies and ecosystems thrive. Benefits of full-circle gardening include:
Reduced Cost of Gardening: By saving your seeds, there is no need to buy new seed packets each year. And, growing food at home means spending less money at the supermarket!
More Connected Communities: Sharing extra seeds with friends, family and neighbors is also a great way to bring communities together, and spread the joys of growing food and flowers at home.
A Greener Environment: Carbon gasses are released into the atmosphere from packaging and transporting seeds sold by companies. But no carbon emissions are released when plants are grown at home, making for a healthier environment.
Healthier Food: Many foods you buy in grocery stores were grown using chemicals and pesticides to make them grow bigger and faster than they would on their own, and to keep pests away. Choose to grow your plants organically without chemicals for healthier food, and less harm done to surrounding animals and plants.
HOW TO FULL-CIRCLE GARDEN IN 4 STEPS
Follow these four steps to continuously collect seeds from your harvest, store them, and plant them in future growing seasons with full-circle gardening:
Start by growing self-pollinating food crops. Crops like peas, beans, tomatoes, and peppers are the best types of plants for beginners to start practicing full-circle gardening. These plants are annual, meaning they grow, flower, produce fruit, and die in a single growing season. They also produce seeds more reliably than perennials and biennials as they do not require many plants to cross-pollinate. It’s perfectly fine if you need to buy seeds from your local gardening center before starting full-circle gardening. Soon enough, you’ll have all the seeds you’ll ever need to stop buying packets, and start planting your own! If you already have plants in your garden that you’d like to harvest seeds from, continue to step two to learn how and when to collect and store them.
Collect your seeds when they are mature enough to harvest. Seeds will generally be ready to harvest when the fruits, vegetables or flowers are fully matured, and not necessarily when they’re ripe enough to consume. “Wet” fruits like eggplants and cucumbers should be left to fully mature in the garden before collecting their seeds, so make sure they’re fully-to-just-beyond ripened before harvesting. Seeds from “dry” crops, on the other hand, like beans and sunflowers, should be collected when they are dry and hard. Another tip: harvest seeds from your highest-quality crops to produce plants with similar characteristics. The plants that produced the best tasting fruits or veggies, grew the healthiest, bloomed the earliest, etc. will likely produce seeds that will grow to match the plants they came from!
Store your seeds to dry. Seeds need to be stored in a cool, dark place where they can dry. Examples of good storage areas include basements, closets, or even in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. Some seeds can be stored for many years before they expire, like tomato and bean seeds, while others can only survive for a few months to a year, like carrots. Ask your local garden center or research how long your specific type of seeds can last in storage before planting them.
Plant your seeds during their proper growing seasons. This will depend on the weather and seasonal conditions in your region. Every type of seed has its own specific needs, like how much water and sunlight they require, and the best temperatures for growth. For spring planting, a general rule of thumb is to wait a week or two after snow melts in your area, and the climate becomes consistently warm enough to grow your seeds. Pro tip: once you get the hang of full-circle gardening with self-pollinating crops, try doing the same with perennials and biennials! The same seed harvesting steps apply, but be sure to grow many of the same perennials and biennials, as they need to cross-pollinate in order to grow and reproduce. This will ensure you have plenty of seeds to save when they mature into healthy, full-grown plants.
MORE IDEAS FOR GREENER, MORE SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLES
We at IDEA believe that real change starts at the local level! If enough individuals put effort into helping their community support greener lifestyles, we will all benefit from a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem.
Check out our IDEA Corner blog for more tips on living sustainably, and learn more ways to help your local ecosystems thrive.