Seed Saving Garden? Basics for the Beginner! Part 3

Why Use Isolation Techniques for Saving Seed?

  • Goal – produce true to type seeds
    • Prevent unwanted cross pollination by isolation
      • Seeds are collected from a number of plants of the same variety, protecting the variety’s genetic diversity (prevents the loss of a variety’s unique characteristics – i.e. form, color and taste)
      • Seeds collected from a number of plants of the same variety, is essential to the health and performance of the variety.
      • Seeds collected in your garden are unique to the changing conditions of your area.
      • These seeds are now a one of kind variety for your special use.
  • Isolation – the use of spatial distance or physical barriers to prevent pollination by wind, vibration, insects or mechanical means.
  • Isolation techniques:
    • Blossom bagging – netting material that is a physical barrier to insects that are drawn to the flowers of vegetables, herbs and flowers that you intend for seed saving.
      • Blossom bags are used around individual (okra) or clusters (tomatoes) of flowers.
      • Blossom bags (made of very fine screening) may be purchased through online horticultural supply distributors and high end garden centers.
      • Save okra seed
    • Caging – a physical barrier made of a frame and screen/row cover to prevent cross pollination of insect pollinated plants.
      • Self pollinated vegetables suitable for caging include eggplant, pepper and tomato.
      • Floating Row Cover material/very fine screening may be purchased online from horticultural suppliers or high end garden centers.
      •  seed saving cages 3wholeIsolation chamber
      • Bagging and caging are useful for those who have limited space and/or cannot meet distance requirements.
        • The netting or row cover material will prevent inadvertent cross pollination by wind or vibration.

Here are two excellent publications for more in-depth information regarding seed saving!

The Complete Guide      the-seed-garden

Please contact me for any question or observation you have regarding seed saving!


Cucumber Beetles Prefer “This” Over the Cucumber Vine!

The Spotted and Striped Cucumber Beetle wreak havoc on cucumber, melon and squash (Cucurbits). Here is another great trap crop, Amaranth.

spotted cuc beetlesstriped cuc beetle

One bite from these nefarious beetles and bacterial wilt enters the vines causing them to collapse and die. The vascular bundles (the nutrient transport system of the plant) get filled with bacteria and shut down the plant. Subsequently the plant will die. Plants with bacterial wilt must be pulled, burned or placed in a trash bag for removal. This plant material must not be composted. The first photo shows the effect of bacterial wilt. The second photo illustrates the bacteria expressed as gummy strings.

Bacterial wiltBacterial wilt1

In my experience, the best way to prevent bacterial wilt is the use of a specific trap crop. Two (2) years ago I discovered by observation cucumber beetles eating wild pigweed (amaranth). The wild pigweed was pressing against the leaves of a cucumber plant. There was no evidence of beetle infestation!! The beetles overwhelmingly preferred the wild pigweed. The same phenomenon may be seen on cultivated varieties of amaranth.


Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company has several varieties of amaranth in their inventory – Choose one or more varieties to entice the cucumber beetles away from you cucumbers, melons and squash .

Use amaranth as a trap crop and follow these guidelines:

  • Plant amaranth next to a cucurbit crop to attract cucumber beetles as either a food source (pollen/nectar) or an egg/larval site.
  • Amaranth/wild pigweed attract cucumber beetles to the border areas, where the amaranth/wild pigweed can be consumed. Pests on the cucurbit crop will be reduced. Plant cultivated varieties or wild amaranth transplants either surrounding, adjacent, at the four corners or in containers next to the crop.
  • Exploit the cucumber beetles special appetite.
  • Intercept the cucumber beetles from the edges.

Plant cultivated varieties of amaranth or encourage wild amaranth in your garden/property (as a trap crop) three (3) weeks prior to planting summer squash, winter squash, cucumber, cantaloupe and watermelon . The amaranth may be seeded in pots for transplanting or direct seeded, prior to direct seeding squash, cucumber and melons. Amaranth grows fast enough to satisfy the cucumber beetles appetite.

Disclaimer: Please use common sense and discretion regarding the use of  wild types of amaranth (pigweed). It may be invasive in your area.