Saturday, October 31, 2015 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Saving and Storing Seeds

Collecting, storing seeds for future planting

Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener

Saturday October 30, 2015

Q: I would like to collect seeds to plant next year. How is the best way to do this? J. A. Tulsa
A: It is a great idea to collect and store seeds for future use, but not all plant seeds will produce expected outcomes. For satisfactory results, it is important to know what type of plant grew the seeds.
Hybrid plants do not produce seeds that come back true to type. Hybrids are made from a controlled cross between two similar types of plants. The random pollination of hybrids results in plants different from the parent. The seed packet containing the original seeds will inform you if the plant is a hybrid.
Open-pollinated and heirloom plants have stable traits that transfer predictably to the following generations. There may be some slight differences from the parent plant, but these are usually acceptable. An exception to this is when varieties of the same species (such as several varieties of squash) are grown together. They may cross-pollinate, and seeds coming from these plants may produce fruit with traits from each variety of squash.
Collect seeds after they are completely mature and when the seeds or pods become dry and lose color. Let the seeds dry out on the plant as long as possible and then collect seeds only from the healthiest looking plants.
After collecting the seeds or pods separate them from the non-seed material, remove as much of the trash as possible. Then place the seeds on a flat surface, such as a large pan or screen. They should be placed in a well-ventilated area and allowed to dry completely over several days.
At that point, most seeds do well if placed in an air-tight container and stored either in the refrigerator or in the freezer. It varies from plant to plant, but most seeds are viable when stored in the freezer for a few years — some for many years.
Other seeds need a different approach. The “wet-seeded” plants such as tomatoes require a bit more processing. For tomatoes and cucumbers, collect the ripe fruit and mash them into a pulp. Add some water to the point that the mixture can be stirred. Allow to ferment in a warm place, such as the top of the refrigerator, for 2-3 days. It should develop a white matt of fungal growth on the surface. This fermentation removes the outer protective pulp from the seeds.
At that point, add some more water and stir well. Then allow to sit, and the good seeds will drop to the bottom of the container. Separate and dry them and store as above.
Much more information is available online from the Organic Seed Alliance and from the Seed Savers Exchange. Visit their websites if you have an interest in saving seeds from your plants at the end of the season.

Garden tips
§  Keep leaves off of newly seeded fescue to prevent damage to the sprouts. Also, the soil of newly seeded fescue should be kept moist until the sprouts are about 2 inches, then water less often and for longer times to encourage deep root growth of the seedlings.
§  Remove garden debris to prevent many insects and diseases from overwintering in your garden beds.
§  Plant cool-season cover crops like Austrian winter peas, wheat, clover and rye in otherwise fallow garden plots.
§  Cover water gardens with netting to keep out falling leaves.


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