Seed Saving

Saving heirloom seeds

I have been saving seeds for over 20 years, not just to save money but to save a heritage of old. It’s only in the past century that most people have stopped saving their own seeds and started buying new seed every year instead. For the most part, it is because hybrids have become so popular. Hybrids were developed by deliberately cross-pollinating varieties in order to produce a new variety with characteristics of both parents. Unfortunately, these desirable traits are rarely passed down to the next generation, so saving seeds from a hybrid is a bad idea, unless you just want to see what odd results you will get which are usually inedible. Open-pollinated and heirloom seeds are true to their origins meaning that they can replicate their parents thus ensure that good quality is maintained and can be expected every harvest. If you want seeds that will breed true to type, go for heirloom and open-pollinated varieties only.

I plant open-pollinated varieties instead of hybrids so I can save my own seeds. Given how many seeds are in a single tomato, I always share with family, friends and neighbors. I also belong to various seed-saving clubs and organizations and I find that each year I increase the types of heirloom plants that I grow. Here are some tips for seed saving that I have found useful.

• Save seeds from open-pollinated varieties. All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, meaning you can save the seed from year to year and the plant will produce fruits identical to the seed it came from. A hybrid variety does not breed true from seed; hybrid seed is produced by crossing two different parent types of the same species and will revert back to some form of the parents if the seed is saved and planted.

• Avoid cross pollination by knowing how your plants pollinate. Cross pollination is the transfer of pollen between plants; some varieties are wind-pollinated (such as corn), some insect-pollinated (such as squash), and some are self-pollinated. It is easiest to start saving seeds with self-pollinating plants such as tomatoes, beans, peas and lettuce. Even for self-pollinating plants, though, it helps to separate different varieties of the same species by at least 10ft to prevent possible cross-pollination.

• Know when your seeds are ready to harvest. Some seeds, like tomatoes, are ready to harvest when the fruit is ripe for eating. Other garden plants need to be left to grow past the point at which you would normally eat them. Lettuce, for example, needs to “bolt” and produce a flower stalk, and beans need to be left to dry on the plant.

• Always save seeds from healthy, vigorous plants. Choose the fruits that exhibit desirable traits in order to pass them along to the next generation. Also, to ensure a good genetic mix for the variety, it is best to save seeds from multiple plants rather than one plant. (This is important, I select the largest most beautiful fruit or vegetable on the plant to get my seeds from)

• Clean and store your seeds properly. Clean seeds of fruity flesh or chaff before drying to prevent mold. After properly dried, store in a clearly labeled paper envelope in a cool, dry and dark place.

The following video shows how to save tomato seeds. Savings seeds from a fleshy like fruit like the tomato is different yet still surprisingly easy. I enjoyed watching this video. I would add that after dumping the wet seeds unto a towel that you then dump them on a screen and spread them out to help thoroughly dry them for storage.

Mommom’s Place offers a variety of seeds for sale that have been gathered from my favorite plants and even trees.

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