seed saving footnotes

Sometimes it’s tough to admit that there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about vegetable gardening, even after doing it for close to forty years. It’s stuff I probably should know, but either haven’t paid attention to or just didn’t care about. But not admitting it is just plain pride, and stupid in the bargain.

I’ve saved tomato seeds before, but other than those, I’ve been content to spend my winters slobbering over seed catalogs and choosing the most likely hybrid. With so much conversation in the gardening community about growing open pollinated and heirloom seeds in the last few years, it’s hard not to consider doing it on a more enlarged scale. That’s what I’m doing right in front of your eyes.

As with most good things in life, the devil is in the details. Open-pollinated tomato and bean seeds, happily, can be saved with little chance of cross-pollination. That makes my life better.

Not so with cucumbers or peppers. If I grow slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers, they’ll make whoopee. If I grow sweet peppers and hot peppers, ditto. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi will actually crossbreed amongst themselves. Cruciferus incest. There’s always a gotcha, isn’t there?

There are ways around the inbreeding problem. Row covers work to keep pollinating insects away from the blossoms that you want to isolate, as does covering individual plants or flowers with paper bags or row fabric. But those covered plants have to be self-pollinating, like peppers, because there won’t be bugs or wind to help pollinate them. Growing a single variety of open pollinated cucumbers would create that isolation too(depending on your distance from the neighbor’s plants).

More details. It’s better to save a couple of seedpods from every plant than to save all the seedpods from a single plant. That makes your seed gene pool a little more diverse. So with beans, for instance, you’d let two bean pods develop on each of your plants, picking all the others, because your yield will decrease if you don’t keep the beans picked. And you’ll end up with a healthier seed stock.

Carrots will cross with the wild varieties of carrot like Queen Anne’s Lace. They go to the bottom of my seed-saving priority list along with cole crops. At the top, as always are tomatoes. I’ll grow one or two hybrids. Hybrids aren’t evil. I always save garlic bulbs from my Chesnok Reds. Love those. And beans and peas are easy choices.

I won’t be saving seed corn. I’m extremely happy with my hybrid, and there are too many corn fields too closeby to even consider it.

Potatoes…yeah, I’ll probably try saving some seed potatoes. More information needed. Can not compute yet.

Cukes, not such an easy decision. I need to read a bit more and think a bit more, because I definitely want both pickling and slicing varieties.

Look, here’s a bunch of fine print in big letters…don’t take my word, or the word of any blogger or single website as gospel on this stuff. Even university studies can be slanted or in error. Get yourself a concensus of opinions that make you say ‘That’s true, it has to be’. And then try it yourself so you can be the expert.


4 thoughts on “seed saving footnotes

  1. I guess my preference is to purchase seed from outfits that have invested in perfecting that process themselves. Job creation, if you will. But there are many plants, especially wildflowers, that drop seed that sprouts the next year, so I gladly keep those “volunteers.”


    • That’s a great take on the matter Deby, and it’s it’s worked well for me too. I just get antsy in January and need something to occupy my idle brain!


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