Story of Seed Saving
Human beings have been saving seeds since we first interacted with plants. Animals also save and assist in seed dispersal (the traveling of seeds through various methods). In fact, plants have developed skills over time to benefit their reproduction and survival. Seeds are resilient.
If you are a seed saver or seed steward you are also a plant breeder! Every time you select for a specific trait you are carrying those genetics into the future
What is a Seed? A seed is a living embryo. Seeds are dormant until they germinate (first stage of plant life cycle). They have a lifespan and will survive for a LONG time if kept cool, dark and dry.
Types of Seed
Heirlooms // an open-pollinated variety that has been grown and shared from generation to generation within a family or community
Hybrid // a plant or variety created by crossing two stable, genetically distinct parental populations; of or related to such a plant or variety; also called an F1 hybrid
Open-pollinated // a variety that, when allowed to cross-pollinate only with other members of the same population,produces offspring that display the characteristic traits of the variety
Plant Life Cycles
Annuals // a plant that completes its full life cycle—including germination, reproduction, and death—in one growing season
Examples: Corn, Watermelon, Tomatoes, Wheat
Perennials // a plant that can live for more than two years, usually producing flowers and seeds for many years
Examples: Herbs (sage, oregano, mint), Fruit Trees, Berries, Grasses
Biennials // a plant that requires vernalization (prolonged exposure to cold in order to accelerate flowering when it is planted) and usually completes its life cycle in two growing seasons, vegetative growth during the first season, undergoing vernalization, and producing flowers and seeds and dying during the second season
Examples: Onions, Leeks, Brassica oleracea crops - collards, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Turnips, Rutabaga, Chard, Beets, Celery, Carrot, Parsnip
What is Seed Selection? Selecting is when you notice something particular about a crop and then choose to save the seed from it based on that. There are two types of selection; selection characteristics and selection traits. You get to decide what you select for, and that is what makes seed saving a world of endless possibility + adventure!
Selection Characteristics // Unidentified complexes of genes. For example: regional adaptability, freeze tolerance, cold tolerance, heat tolerance, UV resistance, winter hardiness, early maturation, vigor, and flavor. Selection Traits // Specific features traceable to identifiable genes. For example: vine growth (bush or tall), seed texture (wrinkled or smooth), disease resistance (from fusarium wilt, mosaic virus, powdery mildew, etc), and color- traits can be traced to DNA.
Seed Dispersal //
Wind Examples - dandelion, milkweed, sycamore
Water Examples - water lily, coconuts, mangroves
Animal Examples - blackberry, cherry, apple
Force/Explosion Examples - peas
Fire Examples - prairie grasses
Planning for Seed Saving
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Seed Saving
What do you like to grow/what feels easy to grow?
What do you want to eat/what will your family/household eat?
What are new things you want to try?
What seeds do you want to learn how to save?
What is the lifecycle of that seed (is it an annual, perennial or biannual? How does it reproduce?)
What is the minimum population of that seed (minimum number of plants you need to grow to ensure genetic diversity)?
What is the isolation distance of that seed (how far away does it need to be from a different variety)?
Can you create isolation in your garden by other methods besides distance?
Flowers borders, corn borders, bean borders
Grow in blocks and save seed from the center
Other barriers to wind like houses, thick bushes
When the seed is ready to be harvested?
How do you process the seed?