Breeding strategy : from really weak/small plants to vigorous landraces?

Hi, just to document it, prior to forgetting it^^

I would not say this was a “strategy” at first, but it could become, for parts of it.

Here are my leeks

From an other angle:

Enough to make two dishes and that’s it!

First thing: In my place leeks overwinter.

Then: last year I must have sown my, let’s say about 15 varieties of leeks,… too late!!! This was thought for consumption and making my first leeks grex out of the strongest of each strain… but they were very slow growing, and obvioulsy too late… So I bought a few hundreds of others, planted for my personal consumption, and then said to me… “what will I do with these small ones”? So I decided to put them all (about a hundred or so) all in the same box… and let them overwinter…
About a month or two ago, I realised this could be still perfect for making the grex: all jumbled up, on a small space… Since I have given them some nutrients (needles tea and other things) to boost them a bit as the ground in which they are in is a bit small and poor…

Then I will water them regularly and let them flower, i.e. cross.

I will sow those seeds by february next year, so then we will know if it worked well: going from poor crops to great vigor due to crosses… As my original strains were not supposed to be week, I suppose it will do…

So this “rescue strategy” is prioritizing cross over anything else, namely having interesting plants to cross… And then hope for the best :slight_smile:

Anyone else has similar experience: starting from very very poor crops and going to vigorous landraces…

(Rereading this post, and thinking of how Joseph started with his moschata, barely edible, and going to crazily vigorous vines, it sounds a bit the same…^^)


Not yet but hoping.
We decided to start a red cabbage landrace because we are fed up with the usually poor germination of commercial seeds. We planted out around 35 seedlings of five different cultivars. Less than half survived a heavy caterpillar infestation and the survivors are sad looking specimens. We are hoping that least some of them will produce seeds.
It’s a start, albeit a poor one.
Like you, we hope to repeat Joseph’s success.


Yep. Familiar story/problem. I seed quite close in balcony trays. Then plant out the bigger winners. Then they get eaten by snails or whatever and i’m stuck with the smaller ones, which i give a place in the greenhouse and then they survive and thrive.
Still i’d rather not safe seeds from them, although Joseph says not to be too rigid at first… What’s at first eh?
I’ve seen some plants change behavior over the years. Like the wintercress, which started as a knee high plant. I’ve just let it self seed and as a self seeder it has become smallish, half that knee high. It could just be that i haven’t fed my soils enough compost as well. Always difficult to know these things, unless you keep old seeds… Which i have all thrown out into the wilder bits this season.


I think a major step is to accomplish seed increase. If you have enough seed, it won’t matter much about germination rates. For example when I saved kale seed i ended up with about a gallon of seed. Subsequently I just mass sow. I have noticed that some of last year’s mass sowed seeds that didn’t seem to germinate have now germinated this spring. This is actually not unusual with wild plants: often a certain proportion will lay dormant for an extended time as a natural seed bank. Mass sowing allows me to relax about individual plant mortality.

In order to accomplish seed increase, you might initially consider coddling your first generation a bit. Hooped row cover in particular is very useful as winter protection and also to conserve moisture and protect from insects in the summer. Also, consider for biennial crops the feasibility of a fall planting, overwintering and then going to seed in the spring. Then you can skip the summer drought and insect stress. Once you have a lot of seed you can go to mass sowing with no coddling.


That is totally my method. My first year is purely seed expansion. I need as many genetics expressed in year two and three. Unless it is a crop that produces abundantly like melons or cucumbers I will mostly give up any consumption in the first season of growing.

And when I collect seeds I mass plant it all the next grow. Seeds sitting on my shelf in a jar aren’t doing me any good.


I think you’re right, but it’s also a strategic problem because if I explain this to a beginner, the following answer comes:
“I grow to eat not to produce seeds, so your landrace technique doesn’t interest me”
so often I say you can eat while letting some fruit going to seed… we have less seeds but more adherence to the idea

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I am doing all this on 1/10th of an acre. So to replicate what I do would require a small set aside from a larger land holder. But again not required as you can eat and set aside for seed, just tag the plants that you want the seed collected from at the end of the season and cull and harvest the rest.

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That is something we could document, with pictures, diagrams or drawings, because we don’t have much content related to how to launch the seed production itself, as far as how it fits in our gardens. Space and time. And particularly for biannuals.
The choice of concentrating plants carrying seeds at first stage in special plots - and why not even in special containers- would clarify the process and ease the way for all all beginners, I believe. And evene more for small space gardeners.
It seems like this hasn’t been a focal point to discuss and illustrate. Maybe could become…

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Is it only my feeling or others share it?

Just a few thoughts on this, please redirect me/us to posts to strategy for biannuals seed production if they exist. I don’t think so.

I believe that as a collective our mindset is clear regarding the overall selection process, from bringing in diversity, let it cross (or help it to cross), then reselect for local adaptation and specific purposes. That is thanks to Joseph work + Julia/Gts educationnal contents:

  • course,
    YT channel,
    new educational contents)

  • So the overall idea is clear.
    But I believe what is rather unclear is the first steps with biannuals, notably when you want to eat part or most of your crops. How do we do that?

For example if I knew I could transplant mature cabbage plants from their original field to a denser patch…
…I would not have lost 10 square meters of cultivation, with one cabbage every square meter…
… so I would have had a much better crossing rate, which is what I am looking for at this hybrid swarm/grex stage…
… So I may eventually “lose” one year of crossings + 10 square meters of cultivation for 8 cabbage plants that I could have eaten otherwise… if I knew this strategy was not that great.

… Just an example of the result of my lack of experience + the absence of document where I could find others experiences relating to producing biannual crop seeds.

Anyhow I am learning, so the process will be more efficient next year, but I think we could ease the way for all beginners sharing knowledge on transplanting (until when and how?)

Probably an open table would do, with just basic examples from each of us. For visual people like me it is great having drawings or pictures on top of that. I think it is the case for many gardeners, and in particular: beginners.

An idea: we could gather pictures or ideas by species just by asking people to fill a form.

  • species
  • strategy (space, time, consumption)
  • post related (link)
  • image related (link)

Then whenever we want we could do a common synthesis.

I think one great strategy for gardeners is to transplant biannuals in the ornamental garden: like a small patch of a few onions is lovely with a few other flowers around… Same with leeks, parsnips, carrots… it does not have to sit in the original place of cultivation, where you eventually lose a lot of cultivation ground + could lose some chances of cross pollination

Thomas, I had the same ideas as you at the beginning, that is to say design a protocol try to stick to it and draw conclusions.
But I have completely changed since I lead an association of ecological transitions, I realized that what works best to succeed membership and collective work is to show people that we should not be afraid to do, start, experiment in all directions. If you start to complicate the thing too much people don’t like this. So well that now I tell people to eat everything or let everything rise in seed if it makes you happy. Once they understand that it is necessary to make its seeds they begin to do themselves as they prefer: dedicated corner, a few feet in the middle of the culture …

If, for example, everyone started making multiplication squares with everything in promiscuity, would not inadvertently select the genetics that can only do so in this condition? it would be counterproductive to push plants to have pollen that no longer likes to travel far.

Yes I get your point: we should not do some kind of bottleneck by advising for a specific practise. But my overall idea is to document different ways of doing, let’s say, onion seed production:
So then Stéphane does it like this, Thomas does it like this, Marcela does it like this… A source of inspiration + a way to facilitate the creation of educational contents: things like synthesis: you just have to show things different people already do.
It is not like setting rules, which yes would create some kind of bottleneck. And this idea was ment in the biannuals context only, which is a bit tricky

Who: Thomas
When: 2024
Species : onion (allium cepa)
Stage: first crosses (also called “grex” or “hybrid swarm”)
Context: I have lost my onions in 2023 and it is springtime
Strategy: collecting 20 different onions from market gardeners friends (ensuring they are CMS free: not so-called “f1s”, or “hybrids” in that case). Putting them in my ornamental garden with different flowers
Space: about 1 square meter for about 20 onions
Time: estimated from mid april to 1st of august
Interest: it does not occupy my cultivation plots, crossing rate (promiscuity)
Post related : none (to come…)
Images: none yet…

if I answer for myself, I can’t find my logic… a lot of random space!
Last year I ate the salad and I was caught by the flowering…my genetics selected the salads that managed to make this forget by my stomach and that of the slugs.
This year I will collect seeds of salads that have resected themselves on the compost and other off-type seedlings that I transplanted in a corner.
Next year certainly differently…
The only common point is to do it on my land with seeds that come from everywhere.

Yes it is very important to show by photos, some texts also to document. Beginners are inspired by all this energy. And especially do not forget to show when it does not work, then that in some time to someone has done the same elsewhere and it worked.

I think the biggest help we can do for beginners is to try to put fun, love…people should no longer associate the garden with a tiring place, which costs in time, suffering in failure…