Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saving seed

I try to save seed from as many plants as I can.
And certainly right now as the cooler weather settles in that is a huge priority.
Some plants I grow are extremely difficult to find the seed for. For example, the little husk fruit pictured here, is not a typical tomatillo, a ground cherry or a cape gooseberry. It is in fact physalis philadelphica or wild tomatillo sourced from France.
I'll likely never be able to find the seed again....and then of course, why would I need to.?
I can easily save my own.
By husking any of the above mentioned fruit, adding them to a blender with sufficient water to cover them, I blend them gently , then dump the blender contents into a bowl. Adding more water, I watch as the good seed sinks to the bottom, then pour off the debris, until all that remains is good seed and water.
Using a strainer, I strain off the water, and am left with good seed.
I usually dry my seed in a protected area, on paper. And package it and pop it in my freezer when I am certain it is dry.

Tomatoes, tomatoes.
There is much discussion and disagreement about how much distance if any, is required between tomato varieties if you are saving seed.
Essentially tomatoes are inbreeding plants with a retracted style, making cross pollination unlikely.
Of course there are exceptions. Potato leaf types, currant tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes with double blossoms DO cross with other tomatoes.
It happens!
This year I purchased some seed from a "reliable" source, only to find that all the seed was potato leaf....and none of it should have been for the particular tomato I was growing. I won't be saving that seed!
Pick good fruit with the characteristics you want to preserve. Early fruit is usually best for saving...but I still find myself out there picking fruit for seed.
Pick fruit from as many of the same type of plants as you can, and choose fruit that is quite ripe.
I cut my fruit open and empty the seed into a plastic tub or container, guts and all.
Add a bit of water and let it ferment for a few days-2 or 3 depending on the weather. This is a stinky process...do it outside under shelter unless you want your house full of flies.
What you want to see is a fungus develop and cover your seeds. This fungus is valuable in that it helps destroy any seed borne bacteria.
Rinse the seed out under running water in a strainer, and dry in a spot out of the sun. When completely dry, store in a dry cool place, or even the freezer.
I've had saved tomato seed last up to 10 years.
Bean seeds are super easy to save. Let your beans dry on the plants, and when dry enough that they rattle.... collect!
Beets, carrots and cabbage are another story. Mine are still in the garden and will be for some time yet.
When I'm afraid they are going to freeze, I get them up and store them in barrels in the garage, layered with dry straw. The cabbage needs to be yanked up by the roots, and the carrots and beets need their leaves removed.
In the spring, when the ground can be worked, replant them and watch the magic begin.
The cabbage needs help...cut an "X" in it's centre...and from there sprouts up a seed stalk. The carrots and beets do it all on it's own.
Watch for cross pollination with these..if you have a small garden it is best to try only one variety. And remember carrots will cross with Queen Annes Lace, and beets with chard.
I sure don't know it all... and often find myself referring to "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth. It is all in there!
Any questions? I'm glad to try to answer them!


lvangool said...

You say you don't know it all but you've certainly taught a great deal of things to many gardeners and beginners such as myself. You are a great inspiration to many of us and I enjoyed watching and learning from what you do best out in your fields. I had a wonderful time this season. Lisa.

Linda said...

Gee thanks Lisa. I think you must feel pleased with yourself and your garden this year. Sure helps to have a good season!