Growing Seeds of Your Own for Vegetables

No matter what the experts say, growing seeds—your own viable, true-to-type vegetable seeds—is indeed something you can do in your own backyard if you know the right techniques.

| September/October 1978

  • 053-growing-seeds-10-winnowed-seeds.jpg
    Done properly, growing seeds for your own use may produce a lot more than you actually can use.
    PHOTO: DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-vegetable-seeds-09-stored-seeds2.jpg
    As long as the temperature and humidity are within acceptable limits, it's OK to store seeds in a pantry or basement with your other food.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-seeds-diagram-flower.jpg
    Cutaway diagram of a flow shows all the parts, male and female, involved in propagating seeds.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 053-growing-seeds-diagram-caging-methods.jpg
    Diagram shows assorted methods of caging a vegetable plant to prevent cross-pollination.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 053-growing-seeds-01-male-squash-blossom.jpg
    A male squash blossom.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-seeds-03-female-squash.jpg
    A closed female squash blossom.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-seeds-02-male-blossom-no-petals.jpg
    A male squash blossom with the petals removed to expose its anthers.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-vegetable-seeds-04-artificial-insemination.jpg
    Hand pollinating a squash.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-vegetable-seeds-06-blossom-wired-shut2.jpg
    A pollinated and closed female squash blossom.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-seeds-05-wire2.jpg
    After hand pollinating a female squash blossom, use a piece of wire to hold it closed.
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-seeds-08-separating-chaff2.jpg
    Method of winnowing chaff from seeds. 
    DOUG MILLER
  • 053-growing-seeds-07-capped-blossom2.jpg
    A female pepper blossom isolated within a gelatin capsule.
    DOUG MILLER

  • 053-growing-seeds-10-winnowed-seeds.jpg
  • 053-growing-vegetable-seeds-09-stored-seeds2.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-diagram-flower.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-diagram-caging-methods.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-01-male-squash-blossom.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-03-female-squash.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-02-male-blossom-no-petals.jpg
  • 053-growing-vegetable-seeds-04-artificial-insemination.jpg
  • 053-growing-vegetable-seeds-06-blossom-wired-shut2.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-05-wire2.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-08-separating-chaff2.jpg
  • 053-growing-seeds-07-capped-blossom2.jpg

Several years ago, when we were first building up our homestead here in northern Michigan, I suddenly realized that as we relied on outside sources for seed we would not be truly food self-sufficient no matter how much food we coaxed out of our soil each year. There we were, feeling a little smug because we seldom had to visit the local grocery store, yet at the same time we depended entirely on a large, remote seed-growing industry for our "daily bread." Clearly, our whole concept of self-sufficiency had a flaw in its very foundation.

At first, I was sure that saving seeds couldn't be too difficult. After all we reasoned, if the pioneers had done it we could too! In practice of course the whole idea of growing seeds turned out to be a little trickier than I had anticipated. Those first vegetables grown from our own garden seed were to say the least a trifle unusual, if not exactly inedible.

The peas and beans seemed normal enough, but the radishes had rather strange shapes, and I couldn't really tell which cucumbers to pickle and which to slice. As for the squash and pumpkins: Let's just say that the youngsters carved some mighty weird jack-o'-lanterns that year, while their parents canned vegetables of dubious genealogy that were arbitrarily labeled "squash".

I sought help from my neighbors—all of them old, experienced farmers—and every one I asked tried to talk me out of my new enterprise. "Ya can't do it," they said. "Yer seed'll `run out'." Meaning, of course, that my vegetables would lose their unique varietal characteristics through cross-pollination with other, closely related plants.



Now, I know that most garden books and horticultural experts will tell you exactly the same thing. But I say that you can consistently produce viable, true-to-type vegetable seeds IF you know a few tricks of the trade and IF you're willing to invest the time and labor that serious seed propagation requires.

The secret of success lies in adapting such techniques as hand pollination, caging, alternate planting, and roguing—methods used by commercial seed growers to keep their strains pure and vigorous—to the particular requirements of your garden. I know it's possible, because after years of experimentation and a good bit of advice from plant-breeding experts, I have the seeds and crops to prove it!






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}