Become More Self-Sufficient by Saving Seeds


| 9/28/2010 1:35:47 PM


Tags: saving seeds, genetic preservation, self-sufficiency, Mary Lou Shaw,

I really like saving seeds from one year’s harvest so they can be the seeds for next year’s garden. Of course it’s important to save seeds that are difficult to come by in order to help preserve their genetics. Many types of fruits and vegetables are Calypso beansdisappearing, and we can do our part to save them for the future.

A more immediate reason for seed-saving is to have the seeds we want next spring. I’ve noticed that it’s getting more difficult to get some seeds because demand is increasing. It’s good news to know that the interest in gardening is growing, but it’s also reassuring to have our own little stash of seeds from the previous year.

It is a bit presumptive to take a complex topic like seed-saving and fit it into one column. However, I find that I’m more likely to dive in and get things done if the instructions are simple. If things sound too complex, I may falter and never begin. That happened to me when I first read Suzanne Ashworth’s beautiful book on seed-saving, called Seed to Seed. It was too much information for me to begin with, but I have since found it very helpful. I’d like this column to be the “primer” version of what she offers.

What Seeds Can Be Saved: Let’s begin with the fact that seeds from some plants will not grow offspring like their parent plant. Don’t save seeds from hybrid plants if you want to grow the same plant. Only heirloom plants will breed true.

Secondly, plants whose flowers have both the male and female parts (called “perfect flowers”) are able to pollinate themselves, so their seeds can be saved. “Imperfect flowers” (containing just the male or female parts) need cross-pollination. When a flower is cross-pollinated, it won’t breed true unless there’s nothing around it but the same plant. Their produce this year will be like the parent, but the seeds from this produce won’t breed true the following year. Peppers and all vine plants like zucchini, squash and pumpkins have imperfect flowers and so fall into this group.

If you do want to save seeds from your summer or winter squashes, then you’ll have to get as sophisticated as the Seed to Seed book. You’ll actually tape shut the female flowers and open them only when fertilizing them with an “anther” from a male flower. That’s one way to isolate them. As crazy as this procedure sounds, it’s both possible and fun to do.

johnnymax
1/2/2011 10:31:07 AM

If you save seeds and have extra seeds you can swap them for free at the Heirloom seed Swap site, which is a sire where I trade lots of seeds for free. I just got about 100 apricot seeds in the mail yesterday.I have become a seed-swap-aholic, LOL


johnnymax
1/2/2011 10:30:41 AM

If you save seeds and have extra seeds you can swap them for free at the Heirloom seed Swap site, which is a sire where I trade lots of seeds for free. I just got about 100 apricot seeds in the mail yesterday.I have become a seed-swap-aholic, LOL


johnnymax
1/2/2011 10:24:32 AM

If you save seeds and have extra seeds you can swap them for free at the Heirloom seed Swap site, which is a sire where I trade lots of seeds for free. I just got about 100 apricot seeds in the mail yesterday.I have become a seed-swap-aholic, LOL


mary lou shaw
9/29/2010 5:13:36 PM

I agree, Tammie! Even if stores continue with only Burpee's brand, it's great that we can save and share seeds with our friends--an important aspect of having local food! Also (as you know) Seed Savers Exchange is a great organization to support and get heirloom seeds from. Mary Lou


luna gardens
9/29/2010 2:12:14 PM

I loved seeing the picture of all the glass jars lined up with saved seed. I began saving seed many years ago, as soon as I became introduced to heirlooms. I believe many people who do not save seed are most likely the ones who do not understand or "see" potential issues with not being able to buy more of what they want or a food crisis issue. Rarely have I found a store that carries anything except the burpee heirloom line. I have made many requests for an heirloom line but even the mom & pop garden centers seem to not be interested in anything but the main stream hybrid lines. Such a shame. This is a great article for those who may be intimidated by the prospect of S.S. There is nothing like seeing all those seeds in containers. Each one, potential for years of summer memories and pantry filling. Tammie The Unusual Farm Chick


jason akers
9/28/2010 7:55:12 PM

Fermenting your tomato seeds will usually have no effect on germination (though it will help break down down the film over the seed in some plants). It supposedly provides a bit of protection against microbial infections in the plant though. Either way, fermenting is not that difficult and by putting them in water you also see which seeds float and are not viable. Jason Akers The Self-Sufficient Gardener Podcast





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