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Posts Tagged: seed saving

Seed Saving 101

I recently had the pleasure of attending two local seed saving workshops in which the lecturers gave basic information on how to do seed saving.  How seed is saved, depends on what type of seed is being saved, as certain seeds require special handling and processes.  But, in general, the concepts of saving seeds for edible plants (i.e., vegetable seeds), are consistent across the board and discussed below.

Although you may want to harvest the ripest, choicest, best-looking vegetables for your own consumption, if your goal is to save seeds, you should reserve the best of your harvest for that purpose. 

After you have selected your vegetables, depending on what type of vegetable you are handling, you will need to extract the seed, making sure that it is a good size. no deformities, and that there are no signs of disease or pest infestation.  You will need a way to clean off any debris attached to your seeds and dry your seeds thoroughly; otherwise, mold may develop, rendering your seeds unusable.  You may dry seeds by placing them on a screen in a dry, protected area.  Even setting seeds in an oven on low heat (approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit) may do. 

Frequently, some amount of debris will be attached or mixed in with the dried seeds.  A simple mesh screen attached to a wooden frame will often do the trick.  You place the seed and debris on the screen and shake it over a box or a large container or surface, much the way you would pan for gold, and depending on the size of the seed or debris, one or the other will be left on the screen.  You may have to make several passes to clean your seed sufficiently for storage. 

At one workshop I attended, I observed a unique method, where the lecturer took a handful of seeds which was mixed in with debris, tossed the seeds in the air over a box, and used a hairdryer to separate the “wheat from the chaff.” 

After the seeds have been dried and separated from the debris, they are ready to be stored.  They can be placed in small paper envelopes, labeled, and set in the freezer.  Seeds are alive and respire; the freezer will minimize the rate of respiration and will keep seeds fresher, longer (although how long seeds keep, depends on the variety of seed). 

You can find a lot more information about saving specific seeds either in books or on-line.  Also, you may consider participating in seed swaps, which occur all over the Bay Area. 

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 8:53 AM
Tags: seed saving (3), seeds (10)

Heirloom Seeds

Happy New Year 2012 to everyone! The parties are over, the leftovers are gone, and the weather is a little gray. What is a gardener to do? Well, there are some very wonderful seed catalogs available to spark your imagination and help you plan for a new year. They may even offer you the opportunity to plan for a spring or summer vacation centered on gardening events.

Two new catalogs for me both offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. An open-pollinated (OP) variety is one that breeds true from seed, meaning the seed saved from the parent plant will grow offspring with the same characteristics. OP seed is produced by allowing the natural flow of pollen between different plants of the same variety. Heirloom varieties are OP varieties with a long history of being cultivated and saved within a family or group. They have evolved by natural or human selection over time.

A hybrid variety, on the other hand, does not breed true from seed. Hybrid seed is produced by crossing two different parent varieties of the same species. Hybrids do not remain true in generations after the initial cross and cannot be saved from generation to generation unchanged. So if you like to save seeds from your favorite flowers or super sweet tomatoes, this is good to know.

As I was looking through the beautiful pictures in Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I noticed that Crane melons were in each catalog. These melons bring back memories of my childhood in Sonoma County. The melons were introduced in the 1920’s by Oliver Crane whose family farmed six generations near Santa Rosa, California. The melon is a pear-shaped Crenshaw-type fruit that grows 3-5 pounds. The yellow green skin is covered in dark freckles and is ready for picking when the freckles turn orange. The light orange flesh has a great sweet flavor and takes 75-85 days to produce. Perhaps they will ripen even faster under Solano sun.

To get copies of the Seed Savers Exchange catalog from Decorah, Iowa go to The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds can be found at Although Baker Creek is based out of Mansfield, Missouri, there is a seed store in Petaluma, called the Seed Bank, originally the first Bank of America building in town. Both catalogs have calendars of garden events for 2012 and even some free webinars that don’t require travel.


Posted on Monday, January 2, 2012 at 1:10 PM

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