Go Organic: Save seeds and save a packetBy James Ashford
August 17, 2012
Saving your own seed is fun as well as thrifty.
As well as saving you a packet (literally) you can experiment with and develop the plants you grow in your own garden.
Some seeds are easier to save than others so start with those and work your way up to the more challenging varieties as you gain confidence and experience.
The plants which self-seed readily are the easiest to start with.
Poppies, Nigella and sweet peas are all easy to gather and to propagate, as are runner beans and tomatoes. Some plants don’t produce seeds which are true to type, most notably the F1 hybrids.
These are produced by carefully cross-pollinating two different parent plants to produce the seed which will grow into the hybrid plant.
F1 hybrids are generally vigorous and productive and often have quite specific characteristics, for example super-sweet sweetcorn.
Unfortunately the seed from these F1 hybrids doesn’t come true and the second generation generally bears little resemblance to the parent plant. The results can be quite entertaining but often quite inedible. A few vegetable plants are biennial which means that they complete their life-cycle over two years, not one.
If you want to collect the seed from these plants you need to leave a few growing on for an extra season. Onions, carrots and parsley all fall into this category. By choosing which individuals you select for their seed you are also beginning to influence the future development of the plants you grow in your garden.
You can do this randomly or if you have a curious nature you can do it in a more systematic way by selecting the individual plants which show the characteristics you want to develop. Once you have chosen the plants you want to breed from, mark them with a bit of string or coloured wool tied around the stems.
Allow the seeds to fully ripen on the plant if you can and try to harvest it when it is dry. Moisture will rot the seed in storage. Paper envelopes are ideal for storing seeds but do keep them somewhere cool and dry until you are ready to sow.