seed saving for the forgetful

I’m pretty new at seed-saving, with just a couple of years’ experience. The tomatoes I grew from last year’s seeds have worked out great. But I can see where a catch might develop.

It’s my memory. I’m pretty sure that the tomato seeds I chose to save from last year were from bigger tomatoes than most that I’ve harvested this year (so far). The crop as a whole wasn’t exceptional last season, but there were some beautiful individual specimens.

Is my memory of those specimens reality or wishful imagination?

There’s a sure way to take guesswork out of the equation; facts.

I didn’t grow Amish Paste tomatoes last year, so I’ll definitely be saving seeds from that variety. My thought is that I want an accurate accounting of my parent stock, so why not take a picture? And one picture might not show the true size and shape, so I’m going with tomato mugshots…

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I printed them out on regular paper at 5% of actual size, just right for the little homemade seed pack.

Those, along with the tomato’s weight and harvest date on the seed packet should take my memory out of the equation. I usually save my tomato seeds for a few years, and I’m hoping that this will make it easier to judge when to replenish the seed stock.

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14 thoughts on “seed saving for the forgetful

  1. that is interesting to see your ‘Amish Paste’. It is nothing like mine – and not just because mine are only just turning red! Mine are long and generally plum shaped and certainly all longer than they are wide. I will post about them so we can compare. Well done on being so organised though πŸ™‚

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    • Actually, I’m with you on that. Most of the others on that plant are as you described…long and paste tomato shaped. This one is kind of a freak, so I think I’ll see what happens to it next generation. I’d love to read your observations when the time comes!

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  2. Great idea. The possibility of declining quality in our homegrown veggies from saved seed is something I’ve thought about too. We decided that we’re not going to save seed from corn after all because of the likelihood for rapid deterioration of quality (inbreeding depression). I’ll be interested to see if your tomatoes from saved seed really are getting smaller over time.

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      • OK, so here’s the short version:

        Corn has more problems with inbreeding depression than tomatoes. One way to avoid that is to plant 400 or more plants each year from a wide mix of seeds from the previous year, don’t just save seeds from a few of the best looking ears. I plant a minimum of 400 corn plants in each of my plantings. I also back-cross with previous generations using seeds from earlier years (going back 2, 3, and 4 years) to ensure that rare alleles are not lost. Some plants like beans and squash can maintain genetic diversity using small populations but it is always a good idea to back-cross with good stock from previous generations.

        Tomatoes do not exhibit much inbreeding depression compared to corn. Tomatoes can be either out-crossers or self-crossers. Out-crossers have stigmas that poke out from the stamens. These varieties could cross with other varieties and thus lose their uniqueness. Self-crossers have hidden stigmas and do not need pollen from another tomato plant or even flower from the same plant. The individual flower can pollinate itself. It seems to be a general rule that self-crossing plants have mechanisms that prevent inbreeding depression. Deliberate cross pollination between individuals of the same self-crossing or out-crossing variety is one way to ensure that genes for desired traits (yield, flavor, branching, disease resistance) are preserved in small scale operations.

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  3. Did you grow more than one variety of tomato last year? If so, you could have seeds that cross what you grew last year. This would account for the different appearance of some fruit.

    This is why I can never save seeds from my pumpkins and squash. They all can cross with each other, so I would be sure of getting the same plant next year.

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    • Deby, the seeds from the Amish Paste in the pictures were purchased from a seed company, and while it could be a cross, I doubt it. Just a freaky fruit, I suspect. From what I understand it’s uncommon for tomato varieties to cross pollinate. I guess I’ll find out eventually πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you Melissa! This is the first time I’ve grown Amish Paste in twenty years, but yes, they’re excellent for canning sauces, nice and solid and meaty.

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