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Saving Seed For Future Harvests

Maybe you are too young to remember, but there was once a time when packaged seed was rare. In those days, next year’s harvest depended on successfully harvesting seed from this year’s vegetables. Saving seed may not be as necessary today, but it does allow you to continue growing heirloom vegetables that seed companies no longer carry.

While the process for saving seed is easy, you do need to start earlier than you think. So let’s start with the basics:

  1. Gather seed only from open-pollinated plants, not hybrids. Hybrids are genetically engineered, not the way God created them. Most of the time these plants are sterile. When they do produce seed, they will not be like the parents they came from, but will revert to the separate qualities of the grandparents. Open-pollinated varieties will normally carry on their parents’ qualities, or “breed true.”
  2. Make sure that the plants you gather from are healthy. Plants weakened by insects, disease, or poor nutrition will not produce the best seed.
  3. Be sure the plant you are trying to replicate has not been cross-pollinated with another variety of its species.  Squash are very good at cross breeding. The safest way to ensure this is not to plant more than one of variety of that particular vegetable. This precaution still may not work if you live near enough to your neighbors to share bees. Another way to protect plant integrity is to tent them with plastic – in late summer, cheesecloth. When it is time, pollinate them by hand. If you do this twice, you will pollinate just about everything, even if you don’t know male from female flowers. Pollinate using an artist’s soft paintbrush. Gently rub it over every blossom on the same variety of plants, without cleaning brush between flowers.
  4. To avoid hand pollination, use only those plants that “self-pollinate.” This type of plant has both male (stamen) and female (pistil) parts in one flower. The pollen will be moved from the stamen to the pistil with out any outside assistance. Lettuce, beans, and peas are self-pollinators. Tomatoes also have complete flowers, but there is still a risk of cross-pollination if there is more than one variety of tomatoes in close proximity.

Saving seed from peas, beans, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes is rather easy. It is a good place for beginning seed savers to start. We will look at each of these individually.

Happy seed harvesting!

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