How to Save the Seeds of your Plans in your Organic Gardens

You can also harvest for next year’s crop, and seed-saving can become a fascinating and satisfying part of your gardening. It saves money and the number of seeds you save from just one plant will probably be enough for your neighbours as well. Seeds saved from plants that have grown well in your garden are likely to grow well again as they are obviously the right ones for your conditions. It is also a way of reclaiming control of seed production. Many heirloom and heritage varieties are being lost and the increase in Hybrid seed production (seeds labelled “F1” in the seed catalogues will not produce true-to-type seed) means that growers have to keep going back to the seed breeder.

Hence, the gardener is maintaining a diversity of varieties, all with their unknown qualities and benefits. The greater this diversity the safer that crop is from long-term decline and the greater our chances of discovering pest and disease resistance in it.

Selecting the best

The best seeds will be those you decided to save rather than just the ones you found on the plant at the end of the season (though they might be better than nothing). Select the plant that you are going to save from fairly early in the season. This won’t be the first in the row to go to seed as then you might be selecting for the tendency to go to seed too early! Mark the plant, or the individual pods, to make sure that you don’t pick them.

If they are biennials—like carrot or parsnip—that set seed in their second year, then they will occupy that piece of ground for longer. When the seed heads are mature and dry they can be brought in and hung to dry completely, with a paper bag tied round the head to catch the seeds. Sieve the seeds to remove bits of dust and chaff, and store in cool, dark and, above all, dry conditions. And don’t forget to label them!

Some seeds will cross with other varieties of the same species. French beans, peas and most tomatoes do not cross, but pumpkins, for example, are very promiscuous and the resulting cross from two good varieties may not even be edible itself. To save a specific variety the female flower needs to be isolated (a perforated bag will allow the flower to breathe but keep out any insects) and then hand pollinated from a male flower of the same variety.

Tomato and squash seeds are best separated from the pulp and processed by the wet method, that is, they are put in water and left to ferment. When a scum forms on the surface they are ready to be rinsed off and dried.

There are now Seed Savers networks—from the U.K. to Australia—as people wake up to the need to preserve genetic diversity. You can play a part in that from your own patch and benefit yourself and your garden at the same time.

Saving seeds reminds you that gardening is a continuing process and this is the joy of it. Next year we will try something different, learn from this year’s mistakes, improve the soil even more and grow an even better sunflower. All gardening is forward-looking. Organic gardening takes the longest view, never seizing the quick reward at the expense of the soil, but instead building up its strength and health for the long-term vitality of us all.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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