Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tips for Saving Seeds By Joyce D’Agostino

Seed saving, photo courtesy modern farmer.org
Many of us enjoy starting our plants from seed. Some of these seeds may have been shared by friends or have been handed down through family members, which give them a special legacy of their own. Now that we are in mid-summer, there are many garden favorites that are producing and those that you may want to grow again next year.

For example, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of preserving heirloom or vintage species of plants to allow them to continue to live on through the generations. Some plants may be endangered and saving and sharing the seeds help keep them active in gardens and farms. Sharing seeds is also an enjoyable way to meet new gardening friends or connect with family who love to garden. Sharing or swapping with reliable growers also enables the home gardener or small farmer to test various vegetables, fruits and herbs that might otherwise not be available through catalogues or online purchases.

When you grow a successful plant, chances are that you want to repeat it for the future. One benefit of doing “grow outs” of your seeds (growing and testing them in your own garden) is that you will can see how they perform in your own area. It is important to find species that not only do exceptionally well for your climate but just as important - those that you will enjoy eating throughout the season. 

While it is always fun to try new varieties, growing something just because it’s trendy or supposed to be the most popular is generally not a good use of your garden space and seed money if it’s not enjoyed or used by you or your family.

Before you save your seeds, first check to see if it is hybrid or open pollinated (OP)/ heirloom. Saving the seed from hybrids can result in the next generation of plant not matching to what you grew in the previous year. Check the seed packet or seed catalog to find out if you have purchased hybrid seeds. Be cautious about saving seeds from store bought produce as they often are not clearly marked if they are hybrid or OP. 

To help you know if your plant or seed is a hybrid, you will see the marking as F1 which means it is the first generation of that plant from selected breeding. If you then try to save the seed from an F1 plant, the result could be one of the parents that were bred to make the F1 plant. Sometimes the traits of one of these parents may not be as desirable as the offspring plant and won’t match to the tomato or other vegetable that you had planted from that seed.

Open pollinated seeds will grow true to seed, which means as long as that plant did not cross pollinate with another, then the next year you can grow the same type of tomato or other plant that you had the previous years. Open pollinated seeds were often handed down and enjoyed over many generations of gardeners and is an excellent way to preserve heirloom varieties. 

If you have a few plants that you have enjoyed growing this year, and their seeds are open pollinated, then you can save those seeds for the next season. Following these tips help you to know how to properly clean, save and store your seeds for next year.