Beginner's Guide to Home Seed Production

Beginner's guide to seed production, including pollination, collection of seeds, and planting seeds of beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelons, lettuce, onions, peas, pumpkins, squash, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, and turnips.

Seed production is a science in its own right, and a complete study of the subject would take many volumes. This article is meant to be only a very basic guide for the beginner who wants organically grown seeds-free of any chemical-and who enjoys new challenges in gardening.

Home Seed Production

Saving the seeds of garden vegetables really isn't too difficult if you observe a few basic rules:

[1] Plan your garden with seed collecting in mind which means, for one thing, that the original plants must be standard varieties, and not crosses. This is because seeds produced by hybrids give very unreliable results: The offspring may revert back to either parent or even turn out to be something quite unexpected!

[2] Many closely related plants can cross if they're grown near one another (how near depends on the method of pollination for the particular species). Thus, if seeds are to be saved from the yield of a small plot, only one variety each of most vegetables should be raised. A larger area allows more freedom to diversify provided you understand the mechanics of fertilization in whatever crops you're growing, and arrange your plantings accordingly.

Some plants, for example, are wind-pollinated, and cross readily as their fertilizing dust drifts on the breeze from flower to flower. Variants of such a species must therefore be widely separated (or screened from one another by several rows of corn or a similar tall crop).

Other garden favorites are pollinated by insects and had better be grown in single varieties on the average homestead, since you can't control the movements of the small flying "helpers". (Commercial seed producers separate different varieties of such Vegetables by at least a quarter mile and often much more. — MOTHER.)

The greatest scope for diversity in your seed-saving program is among self-pollinating plants (those that have both pollen producing anthers and pollen-receiving stigma enclosed in the same flower). Accidental crossing is rare with these species and close relations can be grown in a modest-sized plot with little risk of mixing the strains.

[3] Remember to collect seed only from individual plants that show the best characteristics of their kind. Don't just settle for the first ripe specimen in a particular row! Careful selection of the finest, most vigorous stock may result-over a period of time-in a special sub-variety that's particularly well suited to your area or soil.

Before going any further with this article, of course, it's only fair to warn you that most authorities on horticulture don't recommend the saving of seeds from the home vegetable patch and it's true that your harvest's offspring won't be as uniform and predictable as those obtained from a commercial grower (who operates under controlled conditions). Nevertheless, this is a fascinating project, a real money saver at current prices, and a good alternative for the organic gardener who wants to be sure his future plants are free of chemicals.

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