Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A History of Saving Seeds By Ellen Goodnight

Saving vegetable and flower seeds is what our mothers and grandmothers did, year after year. Most often it was for economical reasons. If you grew a crop in your garden and it did well, you certainly wanted to grow it again without buying new seed. Saving seeds may have also been
a way of sharing with family, friends and neighbors, especially if they had enjoyed something grown in your garden. Often, our mothers and grandmothers shared seeds from several generations.

Today, we look at saving seeds in a new light. New gardeners may wonder why they should save seeds when there are so many seed catalogs and garden centers stocked with everything from common to exotic seeds. Novice gardeners may not know the difference between an
heirloom seed and a hybrid seed. They might not even know if their seed has been genetically modified. Some may not know for example, that the squash seeds they saved from last summer's garden might not produce the same squash! Additionally, even experienced gardeners may not realize that the genetic diversity represented by pure heirloom seeds is being lost. These challenges can be overwhelming to any gardener. On the bright side, however, "the movement to save pure heirloom seeds has become a global effort, with gardeners working to
preserve and bring back old seed varieties" (Baker Seed).

Backyard gardeners can easily become part of the pure seed movement by following these Seed Savers Exchange tips (Seed Saver Exchange):

Plan your garden and identify what seeds you want to save.
Plan for proper plant spacing and timing for plant maturity to enable
seed collection.
Keep your seed saving plan simple. Plant one variety of a species to
avoid cross-pollination.
Plant only heirloom seeds from open-pollinated varieties to ensure
pure seed production.
Know your seed's scientific name (genus and species). This will help
you prevent cross-pollination between different varieties within the
same species.
Know how your seed pollinates. Some self-pollinate (tomatoes, peas,
beans) while other are insect-pollinated (cucumbers, squashes) or
wind-pollinated (corn, spinach).
Learn bloom isolation techniques for insect and wind pollinated plants.
Consider what your neighbors are growing in their gardens. Insect and
wind pollination could affect what you are growing for seed.
Educate yourself on proper seed preservation methods to ensure your
seed will be reliable for future planting.

By starting your own seed saving bank from your garden, you will be creating your own seed history for your family, friends, and fellow gardeners as well as saving the diversity of pure seeds.