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!!


Seed Saving Garden? Basics for the Beginner!

Can a backyard gardener save their own vegetable, herb and flower seed? Absolutely!

Saving your own heirloom seed is fun and rewarding. Only open pollinated, heirloom seed has the ability to reproduce itself. Who is better to trust saving seed but yourself. Think of the accomplishment!

What are your favorite vegetables, herbs and flowers? Focus on those varieties that bring back fond memories. Make a goal to start small and add more varieties when you are comfortable doing so.

  • How much space do you have available? Be realistic. Don’t try to cram a lot of plants into a small area. One option is to plant in containers. Some varieties only require limited space for proper growth and root structure (i.e. lettuce).
  • Take into consideration pollination required (wind [corn, wheat], insect [squash, watermelon], vibration [tomato], mechanical [hand pollination])
  • Isolation techniques:
    • Blossom bagging (such as individual fruit of tomato, squash, okra) using fine screening material to keep out pollinating insects.
    • Caging entire groups of plants (broccoli, cauliflower, beets, Swiss chard) using fine screening material to keep out pollinating insects.
    • Save okra seed       Tomato seed saving
    • seed saving cages 3whole    seed saving cages 5bce525c5436aa03bad5992585ea16d21

I hope this is more clearly understood. It is absolutely essential to grasp these concepts!


Seed Saving Garden? What’s That?

Have you considered saving seed from your garden? Saving seed was once an option. Not any more. It is absolutely essential!! With an uncertain economy and a shrinking heirloom seed pool, the time has come to start saving seed. Over 90% of our heirloom seed have been lost to apathy, lack of interest and the advent of hybrids.

I offered a presentation on  Planning a Seed Garden during the September Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Fall Festival. I will be sharing this information over the next few days.

seed saving cages 2bf220def13c0a7dd7fe13d3e8f860078Save okra seedGarden cages3

  • Determine your favorite open pollinated (true to type) vegetables, herbs and flowers.
  • Does your current garden have the space necessary for vegetable and seed saving production?

–Make a garden plan to fit the space available.

Start small, planting a familiar variety that you are comfortable growing.

–What seed crop or crops are worth the space?

  • Isolation requirement, pollination method and plant requirement must be considered.

Annual Crops

  • Will your seed saving choice have time to mature?

–Tomato, winter squash and grains are harvested at maturity.

–Eggplant, cucumber, snap peas and beans need additional time for seed          maturity.

–Leaf crops (Oriental greens, lettuce, spinach), stalk crops (celery, celtuce,      cardoon, Swiss Chard, asparagus, fennel) and root crops (potato, sweet potato)    need additional time for seed maturity.

Biennial Crops

  • Need cold for vernalization requirement.

–Vernalization is a period of chilling before flowering.

  • Winter chilling is critical for flower initiation.
  • Cabbage, carrots, beets, turnips, kale grow foliage the first year.

–Overwintering initiates flowering the following spring, producing seed.

Are there any questions? Please send them!


My Volunteer Butternut Squash Is not Producing! Why??

I received this question from Julie of Charlotte, North Carolina and Diane from Georgia.

I had a vigorous volunteer butternut squash grow in my garden this year. I had only one beautiful fruit grow to full size. The plant is still growing but each subsequent baby fruit (there have been many) yellows and falls off. It is so disappointing. Any ideas?”

Not  pollinated-001         Hand Pollination

There are many factors that may have caused this issue.

  • Lack of pollination or lack of pollinators.
    • The above picture provides a solution when there is a lack of pollinators. Hand pollination is a viable alternative to achieve proper fruiting.
      • Using a Q-tip or a soft paintbrush, you may take pollen from the male flower and apply the pollen to the female flower. Early to mid morning is the best time to pollinate.
      • male blossom-001      Female bloom-001
  • Too much irrigation or flooding causing the roots to be damaged
  • Too little irrigation or drought causing stress and subsequent fruit drop.
  • Disease – bacteria, fungus or virus
  • Blossom end rot – calcium deficiency –
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Too hot resulting in fruit drop

A good strategy would be to plant your squash early (right after last frost) and again about a month later. One of the two (2) crops may produce because you may avoid excessive rain, drought, disease pressure, cold/heat or insect pressure.

Seaweed emulsion or kelp meal will pick up any nutrient deficiency and aid the plants with stress issues.

Squash vine-001

It is worth the effort to produce delicious squash!!