For the home gardener your seeds are a precious resource and they can save you a lot of money. If you have access to a local seed bank then you can get access to seeds that do well in your local area. Your local permaculture group will often have a seed bank.
Seeds contain the blueprint for your next generation of fruit, vegetable or herbs. The seed contains; the embryo plant, some food for the embryo and the seed coating. The first test is to make sure you purchase an open pollinated or self pollinated seed or seedling.
What is an Open or Self Pollinted Seed or Heirloom Seed?
Both open and self pollinated seeds will produce a plant true to the parent. An Heirloom seed is always from an open or self pollinated plant but must also have been around for at least 50 years.
An open pollinated plant requires that pollen from the anther (the pollen tip) of the male flower is carried by wind, insect or even you, to the stigma (receptive tip) of the female flower.
Sometimes the male and female flowers appear on the same plant – pumpkins and squashes are a good example of this. You can identify their female flowers as they contain a swollen fruit at the base of the flower which, if pollinated, will develop into a vegetable.
Sometimes there are only male flowers on one plant and female flowers on another plant – asparagus and spinach are a good example of this.
A self pollinated plant is one where the pollen and stigma from one flower can cause pollination – lettuce, beans, peas and tomatoes are good examples of this.
The Problem with Hybrids
A hybrid is where two different species have been cross-pollinated to take advantage of a particular characteristic of both parent plants. For example one species might be hardier and another tastier. With a hybrid, you cannot guarantee that it will produce true to the parent. It may be sterile, it may have characteristics of one parent and not the other.
In a recent trip to Bunnings I noticed most of the seedlings for sale were hybrids. A few contained F1 (Filial 1st generation) on the label but most did not. On the positive side there was a good selection of The Seeds Savers Club Heirloom Seedlings for sale.
In your garden take note of a plant that is doing very well, mark it with a tie or ribbon and make sure you leave some fruit on it to use for next year’s seedlings.
To collect seeds wait until the plant is fully dried and then collect the seeds. A sieve is useful to winnow out the seed husk. Wash the seed and then lay on grease proof paper and leave to dry for 2 weeks. If the seeds are not dried before they are stored they may develop fungi and will not germinate well the following year.
To collect tomato seeds cut open the tomato and scoop out the pulp into a class jar and half fill with water. After two days mould will form on the top of the water. The seeds that float to the top are no good. After about four days the water will clear and the good seeds will sink to the bottom. Place the good seeds on a grease proof paper to dry. Dry for two weeks.
The best conditions for storing seeds are cool, dark and dry. Fluctuations in heat and humidity are to be avoided. Ziplock bags work well. Label with the seed name preferably common and botanical, the date and seed source. Seeds may last for many years but are best used within 3 years.