Seed Saving Garden? Basics for the Beginner! Part 2

Start with an easy crop. Consider annual crops that mature in one season.

  • Annuals are plants that grow, mature, set seed and die within one year.
    • Will your seed saving choice have time to mature?
      • Some crops are seed harvested at maturity (when they are ready for the table).
        • Examples are tomato, winter squash/pumpkin and grains.
      • Some crops need additional time for seed maturity.
        • Eggplant, cucumber, snap peas and beans are examples.
        • Leaf crops (oriental greens, lettuce and spinach) and root crops (potatoes and sweet potatoes)
    • Examples of easy, annual self pollinating vegetables are:
      • Garden beans, Southern peas/cowpeas and garden peas (peas, snap peas and snow peas)
        • These varieties are open pollinated. The flowers are self pollinated.
    • As a beginning seed saver, you need to focus on one annual crop for saving seed. Make this one of your favorite vegetables you enjoy at your family table and share with your gardening friends! This should be something fun to accomplish.
    • buttercup        annual veggies
  • Biennial plants complete their life cycle over two growing seasons. Cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips and celery are biennials. These crops are usually harvested in their first season of vegetative growth; the flowers are never seen. The second growing season they form flowers and produce seeds; then, the mother plant dies.
    • These crops need a chilling period before flowering. Winter chilling is critical for flower initiation. This process is called vernalization.
    • Overwintering initiates flowering the following spring, producing seed.
  • This type of seed saving is for the advanced seed saver.
  • carrots colored        purple broccoli

These two publications have been helpful to me and I’m sure they will help you as well!

The Complete Guide        the-seed-garden

The terms isolation and population will be my next discussion. Stay tuned!


Question and Observation About Saving Seed.

Nathan writes, “Why do you need to put bags on your veggies if you want to get their seeds?”

Great question!

  • First and foremost, blossom bagging is an excellent way to prevent pollinating insects from cross pollinating varieties from which you want to save seed.
    • The netting material is a physical barrier to insects that are drawn to the flowers of vegetables that you intend for seed saving.
    • This method is preferred where one has limited space and resources.
    • Air and moisture is allowed to pass through the netting to maintain a healthy environment for the subsequent fruit to be used for saving seed.
    • Online horticultural supply distributors and high end garden centers will be your resource for the net bags.
    • Reba writes, “I’m growing 5 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in my garden this year. I was planning to save the seed but now realize I have a bit more prep to do in order to make that possible. If I saved it now there would be cross pollination between all the varieties. Thank you for making this more clear. Next year I’ll be ready!”
  • There are two (2) types of flowers for tomatoes. It is important to know the distinction between the two.
  • Inserted stigma: the female part of the flower is encased inside the anther cone in the center of the flower.
    • inserted stigma You will notice in this picture a small hole in the tapered tube (corolla tube) in the center of the flower. The stigma (the female receptive part of the flower) is inside that small hole. The stigma is protected in the corolla tube which makes it unlikely that the flower will be cross pollinated.
    • Most tomato varieties have this blossom structure.
    • Blossom bag around the blossom cluster if garden is small and isolation distances cannot be met. (10 – 20 feet is the required isolation distance between tomato varieties)
    • Normally, 10 plants are sufficient to save adequate amounts of seed. However, you may only have space for a few of each variety you choose to save.
      • Under the above circumstances you will have to blossom bag all the blossom clusters to garner adequate seed supplies.
    • Blossom Bags may be purchase online or at horticultural supplies and high end garden centers.
    • Blossom Bagging of Tomato
  • Exposed stigma: the female part (stigma) of the flower is outside the anther cone in the center of the flower.
    • exposed stigma
    • In this picture you will see the stigma is clearly protruding out of the corolla tube. This type of flower is very susceptible to cross pollination from other tomato varieties.
    • Potato leaf and black/purple varieties of tomatoes have this blossom structure.
    • Caging is the preferred method if the garden is small and isolation distances cannot  be met. The use of floating row cover (similar to dryer sheet material) will absolutely insure there will be no cross pollination from other tomato varieties. The floating row cover will allow for air and moisture to pass  freely to the caged plants. (20 – 50 feet is the required isolation distance between tomato varieties) Ten (10) plants are the requirement for saving seed from your caged tomato plants.
    • Floating Row Cover may be purchased online from horticultural suppliers or high end garden centers.
    • seed saving cages 3whole     seed saving cages 5bce525c5436aa03bad5992585ea16d21-001

And to all a good night!!