Seed saving

As long-time gardeners know, the bank is not the only way to save for the future. They save seeds from their harvest and from favorite plants. By saving seeds, you can save money. Also, by saving the seeds of the tallest or most colorful of the plants, you can begin to manipulate the preferred genetic traits in your next year’s plants.

It’s important to understand which plants to harvest seeds from, according to Laura McKissack of Edible Austin magazine. She explains that pollinated plants (plants pollinated by nature-insects, wind, etc.) will produce the same plant and fruit as the parent plant from which they come. But hybrid plants are different. Many of the fruits and vegetables we buy commercially come from hybrids that are the result of a cross between two or more open-pollinated plants. When buying seeds or starter plants at the nursery, read labels carefully to be sure that the plants are naturally pollinated.

Seed saving is pretty straightforward. An easy way to begin is by saving seeds from plants that grow in pods like beans, peas or broccoli. Let the pods get brown and dry, then gently crush the plants in a burlap sack or old pillowcase to loosen the seeds. Pull out the seeds and blow away the chaff (material mixed with the seeds).

Save the seeds in a cool place but not a freezer. Keeping them dry is essential. Don’t store them in plastic bags, as they hold in moisture. As seeds dry they can be kept in labeled manila envelopes and refrigerated.

Seed saving is not only fun but easy and important. As McKissack says, “In a world of mono-cropping and profit-minded genetic engineering and herbicide-ready vegetables, we need more farmers and gardeners working to preserve biological diversity and quality for future generations.” More on seed saving next week.Joette is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at (409) 832-6222. Her e-mail is joreger [at] msn [dot] com.