Seed saving is a chore for autumn

A fox slinks by, the light fades, and seed is collected for next year’s garden

The bean poles and pea sticks are still up. Ghostly, empty now of summer. Strung with fading nasturtiums, defiant of winter for few days more.

I am holding on to their height and memories. Echoes of the growing season. Dialled-down reminders of what was.

The sunflowers are pulled, broken tree-trunk stems tidied away. The seeds have been mostly saved or eaten by birds. The rest are aged, darkened, mildewed.

The neighbour’s last apples are fallen. The giant cardoons have collapsed, their seed heads exploded on the ground. The loss more recent. November is a crueller month.

Mostly it’s just me now, and our near-resident robins. The curious cat. The young fox still occasionally comes by of an evening. Immune to me, it looks back slyly, playful, as it slinks into the plot. The visits make me happy. Owls call more frequently as the light fades. Melancholy reigns.

Dishes of drying seed are scattered through the house. The communal shed is cluttered, dark and damper now. Our seed needs warm and dry.

I have been focusing on tagetes. A new stream of first-generation flowers, dead heads gathered in the damp morning – stuffed into my pockets. I gently lay them on kitchen roll on my return.

I try not to make a mess; keep the shallow bowls from overflowing. I get they mean more to me than to other people in the house.

Seed-saving came to us by happy accident, at the start of our gardening here; from masters of the craft passing through on their way to the far west of Ireland.

Seeds that came with history: Trail of Tears beans and tear peas from the Basque.

I mourn that it’s harder now to get seed from friends from their trips: Andrew and Sarah at Adaptive Seeds in Oregon; Madeline and Holly at Brown Envelope Seeds in Cork. Until it eases, our saved seed will overflow.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com

Contributor

Allan Jenkins

The GuardianTramp

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