Monday, September 28, 2009

Saving Seeds-The Easy Ones

To get seeds, the pollen has to be the correct kind, and it needs to get to the ovule at the right time of the plants vegetative growth to reproduce itself. Only the pollen of the related species will result in seeds. Seeds from a cabbage will not pollinate your tomato, since they are different species. Even within the same species, some plants won't get pollinated by their own pollen, even though they cross-pollinate easy within their plant family. Cabbage plants are a good example of this. To get good cabbage seeds, you need at least two of the same variety, better would be more, all flowering at the same time. But you need to keep them from being pollinated by another plant of the cabbage family, like Broccoli for example.

Some plants are easier to save seeds from then others. Some plants pollinate themselves, this means they accept their own pollen, from their own flowers either with or without insects.
This means for the gardener, you don't necessary need a whole bunch of the same plants to get viable seeds, although it's always better to save seeds from several plants of the same kind; this also means they cross pollinate rarely with each other and the seed will result in plants which look just like the parent plant because the inheritance is the same.
You do have to make sure, that you don't have a Hybrid plant, hybrids unfortunately will not result into a plant which looks like it's parent.

Plants which fall into this category of 'Self Pollinating' plants are:
Barely, Lima Beans, Snap Beans, Cow Peas, English Garden Peas, Endive, Lettuce, Corn Salad, Oats, Soy Beans, Tomatoes and Wheat.

Being self pollinating makes them the best choice for the 'Beginner Seed Saver'. These are the plants you should start with.

In fact, many of those are so easy to grow, if you don't want to bother with picking the seeds, you could just let them bolt to seed and if your climate allows, let them seed themselves. I have been doing this with my lettuce and corn salad for years, I find sometimes the seeds sprout easier this way, then if I seed them by hand. Over the years I introduced a new lettuce variety each year, I now easily get 10 different lettuce varieties, all seeded by themselves. I just dig up as many seedlings as I want and move them to the proper location. I also always have plenty seedlings to give away to my friends or neighbors. I still collect seeds of the plants anyway, to be able to start the lettuce in the off, hot season, when it won't start itself outside, but growing lettuce this way gives me a very early spring crop. The plants know when the weather is just right to sprout. It never failed for me.

When should the seeds get collected?

This all depends on which seed you want to collect. Some seeds, can be collected before they are completely mature and dry, get dried off the plant and they will grow fine this way. Other seeds won't sprout if you collect them immature.
Seeds of Lettuce, Spinach, Tomatoes, Snap Beans, Corn Salad and Radishes will grow alright, even if you collect them immature. Seeds of Peppers, Carrots, Celery, Peas don't germinate so well if you collect them before they are ripe.
That said, it still is always better to let the seeds ripen fully, you just get a better germination rate that way.

Since Lettuce is one of the easiest one to save seeds from I will share how to save it's seeds.

Save the seeds from the plant which bolts the slowest.
Leaf lettuce is supposed to be easier to save seeds from. Head lettuce, matures later then leaf lettuce and because some produce tight heads, sometimes you need to cross cut an inch or so into the top of the head, so the seed stalk can come out. I never had this problem yet, but most of my head lettuces make a more loose head.
Lettuce will get a tall stalk with lot's of little, daisy like flowers, similar to Dandelion, which lettuce is related to. The yellow flowers will turn into downy white seeds heads, just like Dandelion. They don't always turn all downy at the same time, so if you want the seeds in your bag instead them seeding themselves out, you have to frequently snip the downy seed heads off. Or you can put a paper-bag over the seed head, tie it below (so the seeds don't fall out) and then let them ripen into the bag. You also could just wait until most flowers turned into downy or are close to being downy, cut the whole stalk off and cure it in an airy place, either inside a paper bag or have a sheet underneath it. Keep in mind if it rains, the seeds can be knocked off the plants.
I usually just wait until most seeds are downy and then shake them off inside a paper bag.

Keep the seeds inside a well sealed container or bag. There lettuce sprouts better after a cold spell I keep mine in the freezer, this especially works better to grow lettuce in the summer months.


Post a Comment