Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gardening Tip #1 - Saving Seeds

This is one of the most cost effective things a gardener can do! Save those heirloom seeds. Heirloom? Yes! Heirloom means a plant / veggie / fruit that has not been genetically modified or cross bred. These are the seeds that will breed true for you next year so you get a good quality plant and fruit for your efforts!

But what about cross pollination? Now this can be tricky to under stand, but simply cross pollinating varieties (ex; beef steak tomatoes planted next to brandywine) will not affect the fruit you enjoy but has a high likelihood of effecting the plant you try to grow from that fruit's seed. Chances are that seed will grow a mixed plant of the two next to each other, and may produce a unsavory fruit or more likely no fruit at all on the new plant.

Well what do you do to stop cross pollination to save those all important cost saving seeds?

Either move the plants far away from each other, maybe 100-200 ft or more to ensure a better chance of untainted seed, or simply 'self' pollinate the flowers to produce fruit you know is pure. Taking an eraser or paint brush to pollinate the flowers on your plant and the covering them with some cheese cloth to protect them from further pollination helps. Then when the fruit come onto the vine, simply remove the cheese cloth, perhaps keep it hanging on the vine, so you know which fruit you will get pure seed from when its ripe.

This bring me to ripening! That's right, that fruit has to be essentially WAY ripe to get good seed. These fruits shouldn't be picked until completely ready to ensure the best seed! So a green tomato will NOT have good viable seed. A green pepper won't either! So those green peppers you like at the store... 99% of those seeds won't grow... it wasn't ripened on the vine!

Now for a quick over view on 'bolting' varieties... lettuce, radish, cabbage...ect. "BOLT" means the plant goes to flower and seed. These are usually cool season plants. We grow them in spring and fall so the don't bolt but produce yummy greens we can enjoy slowly. So what do you do to make these plants produce seed? Plant a few right next to each other where you have extra room in the summer and allow the veggies to goto seed. Then let them slump over and start to brown and dry before collecting the seed pods.

How do I save the seeds now that I have collected them?

Easy, let them dry in a cool dry place or on a counter out of direct sunlight to cure for a couple of days. When the seeds are dry enough to slide across a kitchen plate without sticking, you can then store your seeds in bags, envelopes, or whatever until you need them in the spring.

Notice, some seeds have to be 'wintered' or tricked into thinking they have gone through the winter months outside before they will germinate. Do the research on your type of seed first, and if it needs to be wintered store it in the fridge from anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks before trying to start that seed for spring planting!

That's today's tips! I will try to add tips randomly, at least monthly.... so ENJOY!

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