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Saving Seeds From Year To Year?

Discussion in 'Fruits & Vegetables' started by Ben E Lou, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

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    I've read conflicting information about this. Some sources will say that germination rates and plant health both decrease dramatically if not using seeds from the current year, while others will say that it's worth saving seeds for several years. I'd love to hear the experiences of some folks with more experience than me on this front.
     
  2. Dec 14, 2018
    so lucky

    so lucky Garden Master

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    I have saved some seeds in the freezer and they are still viable after 15 years or more. Definitely save your seeds from year to year, in the original package then inside an air tight container. You don't want them to draw moisture or dry out.
    About a month before you need to plant the seeds, you can check the germination rate by testing about 10 seeds, or fewer if they are an expensive hybrid. Place the seeds in a damp paper towel, then put in a baggie and label it. Put in a fairly warm place, like on a high shelf or on top of the fridge. Check every few days and you can see if the seed is still good.
    There are a few seeds, like onion, that shouldn't be held over, but some, like cucumber, do better if the seed is not too fresh.
    There are charts available on line to show what seed you can save predictably.
     
  3. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

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    Thanks!

    Would a ziploc baggie be considered an air tight container?
     
  4. Dec 14, 2018
    aftermidnight

    aftermidnight Garden Addicted

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    Ben many of us save our own seed from year to year, long term, in the freezer, an other way, in zip locks in containers in a cool room but the seed has to be perfectly dry in both cases before packaging. If you are looking for heirloom varieties in smaller packets at a reasonable price check out the Sample Seed Shop
    http://www.sampleseeds.com/
    A lot of us also swap and share seed on this forum, cheaper still :).
    Annette
     
    Ben E Lou likes this.
  5. Dec 14, 2018
    digitS'

    digitS' Garden Master

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    You will probably want to save seed at some point, Ben E Lou.

    Varieties are like partners that you will be happy to see come back to help. You might become a little anxious about availability at some future date (with reason!). You will feel some smugness that you have something special ... You can save money.

    One problem with saving seed is that varieties cross. Of course, you may want them to cross but you weren't talking about that. Somethings as different looking as zucchini and pumpkin can cross. They are the same species and the bees are only too happy to help ;). You might be happy with your Jack o'lantern and think that it would be easy to save seeds. Your neighbor a block away has a zucchini plant. The next year, you are saying, "what the heck!?"

    Here is Fedco Seed with some advice on isolation distance and viability. I've found that some of this is pretty much what I have experienced. LINK

    You will notice that onion seed has a real short shelf-life. I will sneak 10 seeds into the soil of a house plant during the winter, with older seed.

    I mostly save seed for things that I am afraid I'll lose. A plant from the mustard family will take up quite a lot of room but I've already tried several choy sum varieties and don't know where I got the larger-type that I have and appreciate it. I mean, I gotta choice between using a garden green the size of spinach or one not much bigger than my thumb that bolts to seed before I can turn around! Oh yeah, see how easy it is to grow seed? It's part of the natural process - you just have to allow them to mature and harvest the pods before they break and scatter seed. Then, store properly.

    Mostly, I save tomato seed and with a whole bunch of varieties in the tomato patch, I can't have very many plants of a lot of them. Starting them all together, separated but in a community container, I can really see the viability of old vs new. Even if every one of my 5 seeds of Transylvania will ultimately rise above the soil, if they are one inch from Carpathian Alps that burst out within 48 hours, I may have real problems with the Transylvania. If they don't show up for 2 weeks, the other plants may almost smother them! Not only are they 10 days behind off the starting line, they will fall further and further behind until I can get them separated from their more vigorous cousins.

    I have become very reluctant to put tomato seed that is more than 4 years old in containers with other seed that is 1 year old. You know, even out in the garden, it helps if neighboring plants are about same size and stage of development.

    Steve
     
  6. Dec 14, 2018
    baymule

    baymule Garden Master

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    Squash are very easy to save seed from. To prevent or lessen the cross pollination, pay attention to the latin names. Summer squash is almost always Cucurbita pepo while winter squashes also can be pepo but also maxima, moschata, and mixta. To save seed from both zucchini and yellow squash (or two pepo squash) start one sooner than the other, mark that squash that you wish to go to seed. The next year, reverse the order.
     
  7. Dec 14, 2018
    Zeedman

    Zeedman Deeply Rooted

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    A major topic... I'll focus just on vegetables, since they are most commonly saved.

    When saving seed, the first issue is keeping the seed pure. If the variety is a hybrid, then the saved seed will not be true to what you grew... it might be fun to try, but not if you are counting on getting food, and it will be the only variety you grow. Open pollinated varieties will grow true-to-type if crossing is prevented; "heirlooms" are just open-pollinated varieties that have a documented history.

    Even if you start with an open-pollinated variety, you will need to prevent crossing to keep the seed pure. Different vegetables vary greatly in their susceptibility to crossing; corn (wind pollinated) and squash (bee pollinated) are perhaps the most likely. There are different methods that can be used to prevent crossing, with varying degrees of difficulty... I'll mention several of those below. In many cases, seed will most likely be pure (or reasonably so) if only one variety per species is grown.

    Seed should be saved only from healthy plants that have the traits you desire. Some seeds (such as beans, radishes, and okra) are harvested when the pods are dry; "wet" seeds (such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, etc.) should be harvested from fruits that are allowed to fully ripen on the plant. Wet seeds usually require some degree of processing, but this is fairly easy.

    Once seed has been harvested & cleaned, it needs to be dried to a low moisture level prior to storage. No process is more critical to maintaining seed longevity than proper drying, and keeping moisture & humidity away from the stored seed. In my climate, where the indoor humidity is very low in Winter, just leaving the seeds exposed to the air in December will dry them enough. In warmer, more humid areas, it may be necessary to use a drying agent (desiccant) in a sealed container, to get seeds dry enough. As a rule of thumb, you can test seed dryness by hitting with a hammer (for beans and peas) or by bending the seed. If it shatters or breaks cleanly, it is probably dry enough for storage... if it just pulps or bends, it needs further drying.

    Dry seed stored in paper envelopes at room temperature will have a seed life similar to that in the numerous charts which are online, such as the one linked by @digitS' . Seed stored in air-tight containers will last considerably longer, especially if excess air is squeezed out. I recommend zippered freezer storage bags, since they use thicker plastic & tighter seals. My beans, stored in freezer bags at room temperature, still have good germination even after 7-8 years. Refrigerated seed would last even longer, and frozen seed can last for decades.

    Proper dryness is especially important if the seed will be frozen, since excess moisture would allow ice crystals to form in the seed, which may destroy them. Frozen seed should be sealed in an air-tight container; and to prevent condensation from destroying the seed, it must be warmed up to room temperature before being exposed to air. For this reason, frozen seed is best stored in sealed plastic bags within a larger container, so that only the seed being planted needs to be thawed.

    @Ben E Lou , I & others could provide more information, if we knew what seeds you are interested in saving. I can tell you from experience that squashes in the C pepo species - which includes most summer squash, most pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and warted gourds - are very difficult to keep pure, since they are widely grown & bees will fly up to a mile or more for their pollen. Carrots can cross with wild carrot (Queen Annes Lace), and radishes can likewise cross with wild radishes. Corn is perhaps the most difficult to save seed from, even if starting with an open-pollinated variety (nearly all commercial varieties are hybrids). Isolation distances apply only if you intend to allow the plants to open pollinate; but there are many isolation techniques that can be used to reduce (or eliminate) the distance requirements. I'd be happy to provide some of those techniques for specific crops.

    Oh, and I heartily recommend the book "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth. It is a great introduction to seed saving, and to learning the species of most vegetables. Also, for great seed saving tips appropriate for Southern growers, I recommend the guides prepared by Jeff McCormick, formerly of Southern Exposure Seeds:
    http://www.savingourseeds.org/publications.html
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2018
  8. Dec 15, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

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    Sorry that I wasn't clear here. I wasn't talking about saving seeds from my own plants. I was talking about the fact that I might buy a packet containing 50 seeds for my 2019 garden, intending to grow only 4. In that scenario I might plant 8-12 of the seeds and then thin, but I've still got ~40 seeds left. I'm looking for experiences to get a feel for what it would be like to grow those seeds in 2020 and beyond. Theoretically, those 50 seeds would last me 4-5 years if they'll maintain strong germination rates...
     
  9. Dec 15, 2018
    PhilaGardener

    PhilaGardener Deeply Rooted

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    Easy-peasy, Ben E! :cool: As others suggested, put those opened commercial seed packets into baggies, and then put those in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. If you can add one of those moisture absorbing packets (from a prescription bottle) to that jar, even better. Put the closed jar in your freezer (frost free is best) and next year, when it is time to plant, take the whole jar out and let it warm slowly to room temperature and give any surface condensation a chance to dry before you open it. Your seeds should have great germination for a number of years, although some kinds (onion seed already was mentioned) simply don't last as long as others.
     
  10. Dec 15, 2018
    catjac1975

    catjac1975 Garden Master

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    It depends on the seed. I planted my onion seeds a few weeks back. In rereading the instructions they said to start with fresh seed. Sure enough my seed germination was very poor and I had to buy new. But I keep tomatoes year after year without a problem. Most do fine.
     

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