Saving Vegetable Seeds

How to keep the ones you love… seeds of plants that is

Saving and storing seeds from your own vegetable and herb crops is a thrifty way to perpetuate your favorite varieties from year to year. Open-pollinated varieties, including heirlooms, are the best candidates for seed saving. Unlike hybrids, their genetic traits are more likely to remain stable from generation to generation—although, if you’re saving seeds to be used for growing microgreens or sprouts, genetic stability is less important.

Some crop species tend to pollinate themselves (selfers), while others rely on insects or wind to deliver pollen from nearby flowers (outcrossers). Peas, lettuce, and tomatoes are selfers and are unlikely to cross-pollinate, even if several different varieties are growing in the same garden. For outcrossers, such as squashes, brassicas, and onions, genetic purity can be ensured only by growing a single variety of that crop in isolation from others or by excluding stray pollen with a greenhouse or other enclosure. Isolation cages are used by commercial growers but aren’t practical for the average home gardener.

Seek out the healthiest, most productive plants for seed production, and look for traits that are worth preserving. With crops for which early bolting or flowering is not desirable, such as lettuce and basil, save seeds from the specimens that are slowest to flower.

Once you’ve gathered seeds, be sure they are thoroughly dry before packaging them in envelopes or jars. Label the packages with variety name and the date you collected the seeds, and store them in a cool, dry place to maintain their freshness.

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