Gardener’s Guide to Seed Saving Thomas LeRoy Montgomery County Extension Agent – Horticulture
Why Save Your Own Seed? • To preserve our heritage and biodiversity. • To control your food supply. • To preserve the varietal characteristics you want. • To develop and preserve strains adapted to your growing conditions. • Because it’s a fun and enjoyable addition to our gardening experience.
What is an F1 Hybrid? • The first generation of a cross between two different parent varieties (inbred lines). • Offspring produced are a new uniform seed variety with characteristics from both parents. • One unique characteristic of F1 hybrids is their uniformity. • Seed saved from F1 hybrid plants will not come true if replanted and may exhibit distinct differences in the second generation. • Hybrid varieties are not good choices for seed savers.
What Are Open Pollinated Varieties? • Natural or human selection for specific traits which are then reselected every crop. • Seed is kept true to type through selection and isolation. • Flowers of open pollinated varieties are pollinated by bees or other insects. • Genetic traits of open pollinated varieties are relatively fixed within a range of variability.
Vegetables That Naturally Self-pollinate • Beans, Peas, Lettuce & Tomatoes What is a Biennial ? • A plant with a life cycle that is completed in two years or seasons, with the second season usually devoted to flowering and fruiting.
Maintaining Genetic Integrity • Self pollinated plants are easier for the novice seed saver. • Cross pollinated plants must be protected from foreign pollen. • Isolate varieties to ensure quality seed production. • Hand pollination may be required for some varieties.
Corn • Varieties must be isolated. • Choose your earliest and best developed ears. • Cover ears with paper sacks to keep insects out. • Allow cob to develop and dry out on stalks as long as possible. • Remove seeds from cobs when fully dry.
Tomatoes • Collect ripe fruit from plants exhibiting the most desirable traits. • Eliminate any plants showing abnormal characteristics or poor health. • Remove the pulp and seed from ripe fruit and ferments for two to five days in water. Seed will settle to the bottom and can be separated using a fine mesh strainer.
Squash, Cucumbers & Melons • Great care must be taken to prevent cross-pollination with other related varieties. • Allow fruit to become overripe but not rotten. • Cut fruit open and remove seed. • Rinse in a strainer and let dry.
Okra • Isolate plants up to one mile. • Consider caging a group of plants, or bagging the flowers to maintain purity. • The pods are simply left on the plants until fully mature. • Pods are then dried and broken open to remove seeds.
Beans & Peas • Isolation of beans and peas is not generally required in order to maintain purity. • Allow pods to remain on the plants as long as possible. • In humid climates, leave plants in the field as long as possible. • Then pull up plants and hang upside down in a dry place.
Cabbage and Their Relatives • Pollination is accomplished by insects. All of the species will cross with each other. If you wish to grow more than one variety in a species to seed in a season, you must either isolate at least one half mile or cage the varieties (and introduce bees or pollinating insects into the cages).
Lettuce • Separate varieties flowering at the same time by at least 20 feet to ensure purity. • Wait until half the flowers on each plant has gone to seed. Cut entire top of plant and allow to dry upside down in an open paper bag. • Small amounts of seed can be shaken daily from individual flowering heads.
Common Methods for Preparing Seed • Allow seed to dry naturally on the plant. • Remove seeds and allow it to air dry. • Fermentation.