Part 1 of 2
There is something magical about the life cycle of our plants as they grow, bloom or bear fruit and set seed. Seeds may be released in a puff of fuzz like the butterfly weed. Seeds may be tucked away inside a hard pod. Seeds may be easy to find and collect or difficult to locate and collect.
There are many benefits to saving seed. Collecting seeds from a plant that shows excellent disease resistance, increased yield, earliness or other quality may be achieved by collecting the seeds. After a few years of collecting seeds from the best plants, the seeds will become more accustomed to the environment in which they are grown.
Seeds collected by the home gardener are also the most economical form way to start a garden from year to year. In fact, gardeners that save some of their best seeds can probably provide gardens for several families in the upcoming year.
It’s thanks to seed savers that the heirloom varieties of varieties of flowers and vegetables are here today. Some heirloom varieties of seeds are only available from home gardeners that have collected seeds for many years. Today there are also companies such as Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Seeds that specialize in old-fashioned, heirloom seeds.
Although most people collect seeds near the end of the growing season, it’s best to observe plants all season long and collect seeds from the best plants. Look for good quality of fruit or blossoms and the disease resistance and size of the plant as a whole.
It’s a good rule of thumb to save seeds from open-pollinated varieties of plants. Some hybrid seeds are sterile. Check the type of plant that you planted before collecting seeds.
Some plants will cross-pollinate. Corn is a notorious cross-pollinator. Cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash—winter and summer—watermelon, pumpkins, etc., may cross-pollinate as well. These plants will not interbreed; i.e. a watermelon will not cross with a cucumber.
Sometimes the results of interbreeding will create an interesting new variety. For plants that cross-breed, it’s best to collect seed from several fruits to ensure that all the collected seed isn’t heavily inbred.
In my next column, I will discuss the actual collection and preparation of seeds as well as storage needs for winter.
Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at email@example.com.