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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.

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Gardener’s Guide to Seed Saving

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gardener s guide to seed saving

Gardener’s Guide to Seed Saving

Thomas LeRoy

Montgomery County Extension Agent – Horticulture

why save your own seed
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
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
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
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
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.
  • 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.
  • 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
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.
  • 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
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
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). 
  • 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
Common Methods for Preparing Seed
  • Allow seed to dry naturally on the plant.
  • Remove seeds and allow it to air dry.
  • Fermentation.