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#168184 - 02/28/09 05:23 AM Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Seed Saving

If you want to save seed, there are a few basics. The very first rule is that the plants have to be Open-Pollinated (designated OP in the catalogs). Hybrids are a mix of all kinds of ancestors, and won’t breed true, almost always reverting back to a less desirable parent.

If you have no intention of saving the seed of certain kinds of vegetables, it doesn’t matter how many kinds or varieties you plant, or how close you plant them. Cross-pollination only affects the next generation, not the fruit or root you’ll be eating.

Some crops cross-pollinate more easily than others. In a small garden, the easiest way to ensure purity is to grow only one variety of any species at a time, and hope a nearby neighbor isn’t, either. Next best is growing them as far apart as you can, or planting other kinds of plants between them.

A good seed catalog can provide a lot of information (Territorial Seed has a good one.) You’re mostly interested in the Genus, Species and Variety. For a cabbage, the Genus is Brassica, the Species is oleracea, and one variety is
‘Savoy Perfection’ (single quotes): Brassica oleracea ‘Savoy Perfection’. If the first two names of one kind are the same as another (Brassica oleracea), the plants may cross. If they are different, they are not likely to cross.

Corn is the only vegetable (it’s really a grass) where cross-pollination affects the first crop (the silk is the closest thing to its flower, the tassels provide the pollen, and the corn kernels are the seeds). If your sweet corn is cross-pollinated by field corn or popcorn upwind, the blandness of the corn you’re eating ten days later will be noticeable, and the saved seed would be inferior also.

Squashes, Pumpkins & Gourds consist of five different species. They will cross within the same species, but won’t usually cross between the species in nature. So, if you wanted to grow one variety of each species, you should be able to grow them all in one yard and still get pure seed.

* Cucurbita pepo: Pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, yellow crookneck summer squash, scallop/patty pan squash, delicates, vegetable gourds, and small, hardshell gourds (yellow-flowered).
* Cucurbita moschata: Butternut squash, Long Island cheese squashes, Dickinson and Kentucky field pumpkins, Seminole pumpkin, Neck pumpkin, Calabaza.
* Cucurbita maxima: Buttercup squash, Banana squash, Hubbard squash, Kabocha squash, Lakota squash, Arikara squash.
* Cucurbita mixta: Green-striped Cushaw (aka Kershaw)
* Cucurbita ficifolia: Shark-fin melon
(Note: none of the squashes will cross with the white-flowered hardshell gourds))

All of the Brassica oleracea (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) will cross with each other, but not all the others in the family will. Check the species name (the one following ‘Brassica’), if any are the same they may cross, but if they’re different, they won’t. Weeds with the same species name can cross with the domestic one.

Melons will cross with each other, but nothing else. Ditto for cucumbers.

Beans and peas drop their pollen and self-pollinate the evening before the flowers open, so the pollen is not very available to pollinating insects. Two feet between bush types is usually enough if you’re not selling the seed or keeping heirlooms pure. Pole types are a bit more promiscuous, and should be separated by more space, by different types of plants, or adjacent varieties should be very different so you will see a hybrid the following year and yank it before it flowers..

Lettuce is generally self-pollinating, but if you want to keep the strains separate, you’d best plant them 12-25 ft apart, or grow different vegetables between them. But keep its ancestor, the weed called prickly lettuce from flowering, or it could cross with your domestic lettuce.

Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers don’t cross among themselves, and are self-pollinating, but if you plant different varieties at least ten feet apart, there shouldn’t be any crossing.

Carrots will cross with each other and the wild weed called Queen Anne’s Lace, which is a carrot ancestor, if they are within 1000 feet of each other. The weed crosses are easy enough to weed out when you harvest the roots: they’re thin, white and tough.

COLLECTING SEED

1) Mark a couple fruits from several plants (12 is not too many, the more separate plant sources, the better and healthier the diversity of genes). Colored surveyor's tape is good. Warn your family not to pick any of the marked fruits.

2) Let the marked fruits mature. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers (etc) will be past their prime and softening. Leave winter squashes on the vine either until the vines wither or a serious frost threatens.

3) Fruits with seeds trapped inside are obviously easier to collect than those that are released from small pods. Collect tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes, melons, gourds, okra and tomatillos when they are very mature. Immature seeds won’t sprout, ever. Cut them open and collect the seeds. Some will be dark (like watermelon) and some will be very light or white (cucumbers, melons). The easiest way to dry them so they don’t rot or mold is to put them in open containers or paper bags with their species and varieties written on them. Shake them and stir them up every day, so they dry evenly.

Tomatoes are a little different, as they have a coating that prevents sprouting, and you’ll have to remove it by fermentation (and it helps kill any bacteria, too). Squeeze the seeds out of the tomato or scrape them out with a spoon into a quart jar. Add just as much water as you have seed pulp and stir. Put the jar in a place where you won’t notice the unpleasant smell for three days. Don’t worry about the mold that forms, it’s part of the process. On the third day, scrape off the mold and stir the rest of the contents. Spoon or pour off all the yucky stuff on the top, including any floating seeds (they’re no good if they float), and save the seeds that are sitting on the bottom of the jar. After you’ve poured out most of the junk, add more water to the bottom seeds and stir again. Pour off anything that floats. Repeat until all you have in the jar is clear water and seeds sitting on the bottom. Pour through a strainer, and then dump the seeds onto a glass plate or cake pan and stir a couple of times a day to help them dry. Some people spread them out on paper towels instead, and let them stick to the towel as it dries out. When they are thoroughly dry, they just roll or fold the paper towel and put it in a labeled paper envelope for storage, and tear them apart when they plant them next year. Otherwise, keep stirring them around on the plate until they’re dry and mostly separated.

3) Smaller seeds like parsley, carrots and dill will need to be watched carefully, and harvested when they are fairly dry. If you think you might forget and they’ll fall to the ground, you can make simple cloth (polyester organdy or similar fabric allows air in and dries quickly after rain or watering) drawstring bags to put over the seed heads as they are maturing, pull the string snugly around the base of the flower and tie in a bow. When they’re dry and crisp, just cut the heads off the stems with the bags still on, and collect them in a large bowl. Remove the bags and tap out the loose seeds when you’re out of the wind. Be sure to mark the kind and variety of seeds that they are.

4) Let pea pods and beans dry on the vine. Then collect them on a dry day into an open container and let them dry even more out of the weather. Remove from the pods when they are dry and crisp, and store in marked paper bags.

5) Some seeds are at the base of the dried flowers, like sunflowers, artichoke and cardoon. Cut the dry heads off and rub or pull the dry center of the flowers off. The seeds are embedded in the base of the flower. Remove and dry.

6) Seeds must be carefully stored to retain their viability. Store them in marked paper bags or envelopes, which will allow them to dry out more if they need it. Plastic bags contribute to molding and rot if they aren’t dry enough. Keep cool and dry. Heat and moisture will decrease their viability considerably. Some people store their seeds in a freezer, but if the seeds are too moist, it will kill the embryo. A refrigerator is a better place, or a cool basement.

7) Carrots, cabbage, parsnips, leeks, onions, celery, beets, turnips, kohlrabi and salsify are biennials. They produce their crop one year and their seeds the next spring, and then they die. Here is some info for cold climates, as you will have to make some effort to keep them alive through the winter for them to flower the next year: http://www.cog.ca/documents/Savingseedsofbiennialvegetables.pdf
Most of these have umbel-type flowers, and cloth bags may be the easiest way to collect the largest amount of seeds. If you try to harvest them when they are green, they will not be viable and won’t sprout.

Sue

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#168218 - 02/28/09 06:59 PM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: Susan]
Troglodyte007
Unregistered


That's alot of useful info. Thank you. I am still wondering though about the tomato seeds sprouting from last year's crop in the greenhouse. I left a few tomatos to self-perpetuate but it sounds as if they might not.


Edited by Troglodyte007 (02/28/09 06:59 PM)

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#168300 - 03/01/09 04:44 PM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: ]
TeacherRO Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/11/05
Posts: 2192
Thanks for the tips - its almost gardening time here

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#168355 - 03/02/09 03:37 AM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: TeacherRO]
Dan_McI Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 844
Loc: NYC
Too much information for me to absorb entirely. But, I'm trying.

Do you mind me asking, what are you growing?

Also thought this was useful information: http://www.survivalistseeds.com/planting.htm

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#168366 - 03/02/09 04:53 AM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: Dan_McI]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Troglodyte007: If the tomato seeds were from an OP plant/fruit, they may well sprout when the weather gets warm enough. If they were from hybrids, consider them weeds. Here in the PNW, the problem is that the tomato seeds that sprout naturally take so long that they would never produce fruit before frost. I always have volunteer tomatoes from dropped fruit, but by mid-July, they are only about 4" tall. I usually start my tomatoes indoors on a heat mat, under lights, in Feb. or March (March this year). I TRY to put them out about a month ahead of the recommended time. I put them in the ground, put three fist-sized rocks around them to absorb heat during the day so they can release it at night to protect the plants, and cover both the plants and the rocks with 5-gallon water jugs (Sparkletts kind) that have had their bottoms cut out. If it's really going to be cool, I cover the top, but have to remember to remove it in the morning, or the plants may cook.

Dan_McI: Let's just say that I currently have seeds for
Beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Corn, Cucumbers, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Sweet bell Peppers, Radishes, Spinach, Winter Squash and Zucchini, Tomatoes, Watermelon, some herbs, and some grains. The likelihood of getting them all planted is virtually nil. I'll start with my favorites and then work my way down the list as time and energy allows.

Sue

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#168421 - 03/02/09 04:47 PM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: Susan]
benjammin Offline
Rapscallion
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4018
Loc: Anchorage AK
Out near Othello I knew a commercial farm that was growing a bunch of sweet corn, and they ended up downwind of a feed corn crop at the wrong time and lost several hundred acres of prime sweet corn.

_________________________
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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#168441 - 03/02/09 07:11 PM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: benjammin]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Yes, that will certainly happen. But the ag experts say that the pollen is relatively heavy and doesn't blow far, with wind-pollination of corn dropping to practically nothing at 660 feet of distance. If that sweet corn farmer had a square block of 500 acres of sweet corn, that would be about 4575 feet on a side. If the field corn had been planted directly alongside, the cross-pollination shouldn't have extended (theoretically) any farther than 1000 feet into the sweet corn. Had he wanted to, the sweet corn farmer could have harvested the 300 acres on the far side of his plot from the field corn and had a good crop. But in cases like that, the farmer probably just files a claim against his Federal crop insurance and saved harvest costs and just cashed the check.

For the home gardener, it's nice to have some idea what your neighbors are doing. Corn is wind-pollinated, many more are insect-pollinated.

One way to get around it is, if you have a corn farmer close upwind is to stop in and ask him if he is planting early, mid-season or late corn, and ask when he is likely to be planting. Then choose a sweet corn variety that ISN'T the same 'season' as his. There is only a 10-day or so window of pollination for corn. If your farmer neighbor is planting mid-season corn, you could plant early corn a week earlier or late corn a week later, and miss the cross-pollination from his corn.

In fact, if you plant three varieties of corn in your yard and are careful to choose an early, mid- and late variety, all you have to do is sow them in order, 7-10 days apart, and you won't have any cross-pollination at all.

Another method (I don't know how effective) is to sow plants with sticky leaves between the farmer's crop and yours. Sunflowers are one I have heard mentioned. The blowing corn pollen catches on the sticky sunflower plants (not affecting them), acting like a sort of filter.

Sue

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#168453 - 03/02/09 09:01 PM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: Susan]
benjammin Offline
Rapscallion
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4018
Loc: Anchorage AK
Yep, the wind blows hard out in eastern Washington most of the time. I suspect it was enough for the pollination to span his crop, as he (the manager) was just going to scrap the whole field out. Not the usual expectation, but east of the mountains they have unusual environmental conditions anyways.
_________________________
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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#168485 - 03/03/09 01:16 AM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: benjammin]
Dan_McI Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 844
Loc: NYC
So, if I have this right, I should be able to grow broccoli rabe and arugula to seed together, without issue. One is "brassica rapa" and the other is "eruca vesicaria." Spinach is a member of the goosefoot family, and unrelated to both. So all three should be ok together.

Squashes on the other hand, they simply should not be mixd, as all have basically the same name in latin.

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#168582 - 03/04/09 03:30 AM Re: Collecting your home-grown vegetable and herb seed [Re: Dan_McI]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Right on the broccoli rabe and arugula, and the spinach.

On the squashes, you could grow zucchini, butternut squash, and Hubbard squash without them crossing, since they are of different species.

BUT... you can have several squash of the same species (like zucchini, delicata and spaghetti squash) and keep the seed of each pure by pollinating by hand.

Check your squash plants late in the afternoon and mark (with surveyor's tape) the flowers that look like they will be opening the next morning. The female flowers have a small bulb at the base of the flower, which will be the fruit; the male has a long slender stem with no bulb at the base. On some (maybe all) of the cucurbits, the main stem from the root tends to produce male flowers, and the side branches off the main stem tend to produce female flowers, if that makes your search any easier. Tape all the flowers closed, male and female. You will need 'virgin' flowers that haven't been contaminated by pollen-carrying insects tomorrow morning.

Very early the next morning, run outside with a roll of masking tape, and find your marked flowers. If an insect has already found the flower, remove the marker and don't pollinate that flower. That insect-pollinated fruit will be an eating fruit, not a seed-saving fruit. Otherwise, rip off a male flower, remove its petals and touch the moist yellow pollen to the stigma in the center of the female flower. Then immediately close the female flower and tape it closed SECURELY. If an insect can crawl inside, all your work is for nothing, so do one flower at a time. Make sure that flower is securely marked on the STEM, as the flower will fall off soon, leaving just the little growing bulb. Tell your family NOT to harvest any fruit marked with surveyor's tape.

Here is a website with some good photos of the male and female flowers, how the flowers are taped, pollinated and retaped: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/gourds/msg0611545713356.html

Be sure to do your pollinating early in the season so your fruits will be mature enough to produce viable seed.

One thing you need to realize is that you can't just save a couple fruits from one plant and call it good for that variety. If you do that, the quality of the crop starts to dwindle, no matter what else you do. Every plant of the same kind is going have minute differences from each other. With just a tiny stock of genes, the same thing happens if immediate family keeps interbreeding over several generations. So, try to collect a fruit or two from each plant. If you are growing zucchini and a couple of your neighbors are, also, explain what you're doing and ask if you could come into their yard early on one or two mornings and mark and pollinate a few flowers. They can save the seeds or you could save the seeds. You could co-mingle your seeds and each take half. You could both trade with other people.

Genetic diversity is incredibly important. It gives species the ability to adapt to changing environments, new pests, new diseases and new climatic conditions. The different genes provide the components for breeding new varieties. New varieties can be bred to produce earlier or later, store longer, resist pests, withstand more cold or heat, etc. One well-known lesson of what happens when a population gets to depend upon one variety of one plant was the Great Potato Famine of Ireland in the 1800s, when a potato blight fungus spread through the country and 20% of the people died of starvation.

Besides, you might find it fun!

Sue

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