A Garden Guide to Saving Seeds

A garden guide to saving seeds, including a bit of botany, recycling seeds, the easiest seed-saving crops, other commonly saved vegetables, and information on the seed saver's exchange.

| September/October 1987

Bring new pleasures and superior plants to your garden by saving seeds. 

A Garden Guide to Saving Seeds

Gathering garden seed gives me a feeling of kinship with our ancestors who for centuries depended utterly on home-saved seed. For thousands of years, harvesting seed was a vital, often sacred, ritual. It was not until the early nineteenth century that seeds were packaged for sale in small envelopes and, soon after, sold through mail-order catalogues.

Today, filling out the seed order is a happy duty for the wintered-in gardener. Even so, I never fail to keep and use seeds from certain crops of my own.

Why? First, for quality. There are seeds money can't buy. Good ones. One of my favorite tomatoes, for example, is an extra-meaty Italian variety obtained from a friend, for which I could never buy seed if I let the strain run out.

A home gardener can also create superior cultivars in a back-yard plot. Want bigger fruits or more productive plants? Save seeds from outstanding parents. Want to develop locally adapted strains that will perform better in your particular microclimate? Propagate the seed from your hardiest, most frost-resistant plants.

Second, for fun. Gardeners who enjoy experimenting will find a world of challenge and satisfaction in trying different seed-saving and plant-crossing techniques, in watching subtle changes in the varieties they save and in keeping an eye out for unusually good new developments. It was an observant elderly gardener out for a walk who propagated the now popular Henderson Bush Lima — after discovering a volunteer specimen growing by the road.

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