5 Rules to Saving Seeds

Saving your own seeds does not have to be as complicated and impossible as people believe at first.  With just a few supplies and a little preparation, anyone can do it!

There is certainly a world of information out there on this popular subject among gardeners and survivalists alike.  We will tell you about some books we recommend which offer great, in-depth information in just a bit, but first we'd like to go over the basics of seed saving.


1.  First, you need to know the difference between Hybrids and Open-Pollinated varieties.

Open-Pollinated — These varieties, so long as they are properly isolated from other plants of their species, will produce “true to type” seed with the same traits as that of their parent plant. That is why gardeners everywhere consider OP seed to be irreplaceably important, for it allows them to produce their own seed supply.

Hybrid — The result of deliberate crossing of two distinct parent varieties from the same species, for the purpose of combining the ideal characteristics of separate varieties into one. While at first this may sound appealing, any seed saved from an F1 hybrid will not grow the same “true to type” traits a second time. Plant breeders must deliberately cross the parent varieties every time to obtain new hybrid seed.


2.  Familiarize yourself with the different botanical families and vegetable groups.

Varieties of the same botanical family can cross-pollinate each other and produce altered seed as a result.  However, different varieties of vegetables can be grown together unprotected and will not cross.  It's essential to securing a pure seed supply that you are familiar with each botanical family member you're growing and prevent unwanted pollination.

For example, a tomato will not cross with a bean, but it will cross with a different tomato. That is because tomatoes and beans come from different botanical families.  They can be grown side by side without any worries.  Just learn your vegetable groups.

Certain vegetables are grouped together in one family.  The Brassica family, for example, includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. So in this case, a cabbage plant could cross with a broccoli plant.  Again, learn your vegetable groups.

One odd exception to the family rule is the matter of squash.  Take a deep breath!  You can get this!  Squash are divided into four different family groups and must be protected from their members within those individual groups only.

CUCURBITA PEPO
(Includes Crooknecks, Zucchini, Scallops, Straightnecks, Spaghetti, and some pumpkins)

CUCURBITA MOSCHATA
(Includes Butternuts)

CUCURBITA MAXIMA
(Includes Bananas, Hubbards, & Marrows)

CUCURBITA MIXTA
(Includes Cushaws)

This means, i.e. that “Moschatas” only need to be protected from other “Moschata” siblings.  They'll be fine next to the “Maxima family”.


3. Control pollination to maintain pure seed.

The process of cross-pollination consists of pollen being transferred from one plant to another and where fertilization occurs as a result.  Now that you see the influence of the families on each other, another question arises.  How do I prevent unwanted cross-pollination then?

There are various ways to prevent this and protect your plants.  Here's a few:

-Plant only single varieties in your garden. One variety of watermelon, one variety of beans, etc.

-Organize successive or alternating plantings, where one variety finishes blooming before another one begins.

-Isolate plant blooms, either by “bagging” or distance.

(We will talk more about this in-depth in our next blog post, so stay tuned!)


4.  Allow fruit to fully mature before harvesting for seed.

Each vegetable has its own maturity date.  It's important you let it finish growing or the seeds you save may be underdeveloped.  Tomatoes are one that you must pick ripe from the vine and scoop the seed out.  Beans, on the other hand, should be allowed to dry completely on the vine right up to the first frost and then shelled.


5.  Seed must be stored properly to preserve a high germination rate in following years.

Again, we will be touching on this more in a couple weeks on our blog, but as a general rule keep all seeds in a cool, dark, and dry environment.  We recommend in a refrigerator or in the basement.

So there you have it.  5 rules to save seeds by.  For more information and instructions, check out any – or all – of these great resources:


Seed to Seed
by Suzanne Ashworth

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds
by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving
by Carol Deppe


What seeds have you saved?  If you haven't ever tried it, what's holding you back?  We're all still learning here, so feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions.

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