Gathering your own seeds, caring for them and replanting helps connect you to the reverent circle of life. You are saving the next generation; you are preserving an age old custom. It's a good feeling.
By all means, delve into this creative pleasure and learn how to save your own seeds from your vegetable garden.
Investigate the following tips on safely storing seeds so that they burst forth to produce new veggies for you each season... But please take heed, it is addictive!
Nature has complicated systems — but here is some basic information that is handy to know when you are saving and storing seeds.
For plants to reproduce, both male and female functions need to get together for pollination or fertilization.
Some plants are self-pollinating and have what we call, perfect flowers which have male and female parts in each flower. Ninety-five percent of the time they produce pure offspring with the same characteristics as the parent plant.
Peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, chicory, endive and okra are the best know vegetables with perfect flowers.
These plants don't cross-pollinate with other varieties of the same genus species, so you can safely grow different varieties of them all cuddled up in the same garden. You can save their seeds, knowing these seeds will breed true.
Most of the other vegetables have imperfect flowers. This means each flower only has one set of reproductive organs, either male or female. The male flower has a stamen and the female flower has the gynoecium or ovum.
The sex is now up to the randomness of visiting bees, wind, insects and other passerbys to carry pollen from a male flower and deposit on the ovary of a female flower.
Within these two main flower groups there is more diversity, such as some plants have perfect flowers, but need another plant with perfect flowers to propagate. Some plants have only male or female imperfect flowers, and some have both, and so on.
Do your research if you want to really bone up on plant reproduction, otherwise follow what works for you and your gardening friends in your area with your plant varieties.
But you can see how easily it is for cross-pollination to occur. Pollen from a male flower of one variety, say, squash, ends up pollinating the female flower of a different variety – and hey ho, a new variety or hybrid is born.
That's why gardeners have wondered why seeds saved from last year, produced something different, often some little, tasteless ne'er do well.
Even though some plants have imperfect flowers, they rarely cross-pollinate with each other, but with plants that are frequently liable to cross-pollinate, there are isolating distances needed when planting.
A general guide is to separate varieties of the same species by a minimum of 150m (500ft), although some need a few miles... as far as the local bees fly or the wind blows.
Many home gardeners take a middle of the road stance and put these plants at opposite ends of their garden, from a few feet to 200ft apart. It's a wink and a nod in the right direction and it all helps.
These promiscuous vines of the cucurbit family can run rampant behind your back and before you know it their mix and match habits have produced some weird mutant fruits.
So to stop this happening, and to save the seeds of a particular strain, it is best to grow only one type of cucurbit each season. But to make doubly sure of success, you need to pollenate the female flower with pollen from a male flower by hand and keep the bees away by tying the top of the female flower together with a soft rubber band, soft cloth or strip of panty hose.
You can also loosely tie a paper or plastic bag with pinprick holes over each flower once you have hand-pollinated it.
But in truth, most of the seed saving gardeners I know, don't concern themselves about the odd maverick vegetable and just love saving seeds.
The odds are more in our favour for pure reproduction. There's always the possibility of a super-duper hybrid appearing!
There are a good many ways for gardeners to save seeds of most vegetables. Try your hand at these...
NOTE: As soon as the fermentation process is done, that is, the water surface is covered with the gel mould, you need to do the remove, rinse and dry process.
Why? Because the gel has growth inhibitors and once that has fermented away and there are warm, moist conditions, your seeds might germinate.
Of course, you don't have to do this fermentation process; it's just that it increases the odds of successful seed saving. Likewise you can just let a rotten tomato roll into the corner of your garden or toss one in the glasshouse and chances are that lots of seedlings will emerge in the warm weather.
When it comes to saving seeds, I suspect most gardeners, like me, do a bit of everything... controlled and natural abandonment...and how exciting to find all sorts of seedlings of all sorts of vegetables appearing in all sorts of places!
It's pretty hard to over-dry seeds, unless you use an oven or microwave, which is a definite no, no.
For larger seeds, snap a seed in half. If it won't snap and just bends, dry for a few more days.
Or, put a seed on a hard surface and try and snap it with an ordinary dinner knife (not a sharp kitchen or pocket knife). In fact your fingernail will do. If the seed just dents or bends, keep drying.
Vegetable Seedlings: How and why to grow your own vegetable seeds
Seed Varieties & Products: Types of Vegetable Seeds
Starting Seedlings Indoors: How to Give your Vegetable Seeds a Head Start
Vegetable Sowing Guides: Seed Sowing Guides for different Climate Regions
Germination Guide: Times for Seeds to Sprout, Stratification, Scarification & Chitting of Seeds
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