The first of my saved cucumber seeds are in the ground. I’ve found a few male blooms in the last two days. Some of the lettuce seeds from last year failed to germinate in the dry heat and have now appeared in the bed.

 

The first of my saved cucumber seeds are in the ground. I’ve found a few male blooms in the last two days. Some of the lettuce seeds from last year failed to germinate in the dry heat and have now appeared in the bed.

Saving seeds is one facet of gardening that almost everyone wants to try. It’s one I encourage, but doing it right makes it more rewarding. Start planning now for success.

Grow open-pollinated seeds. My cucumber seeds came from mature ‘Boston Pickling” cucumbers. They will have the same distinct characteristics season to season so long as I don’t allow any cross-pollination to take place.

“Boston Pickling” is an annual. The plant produces its fruit the same season it’s planted and will die as soon as it seeds mature. Cucumbers will cross-pollinate with all other cucumbes except Cucumis melo (ex. Armenian). They do not mix with squash, melons, or watermelons. Biennials; carrots, onions, beets, brassicas, Swiss chard all require two years to produce flowers. Asparagus, rhubarb, garlic, onions, horseradish, and sorrel are perennials that may produce seeds every year after they are established.

Start planning right now for next year’s seed saving. Annual self-pollinating crops will bring about the greatest success. Garden peas, snap beans, lettuce, cucumbers, or tomatoes need little to no isolation if only growing one variety of each.

When I want to save seeds from any plant, I try to have more than one plant of that variety. I want the diversity to remain high, while remaining true-to-type. Over several generations, saving seed from a small number of parent plants will result in poorer quality plants. This is so important in corn, that 200 plants are usually recommended to prevent inbreeding.

Choosing the seeds you want to save now, will allow different varieties of the same species to be grown together. Green or snap beans is an excellent plant to start with since beans do little outcropping. They are easy to grow, a highly-prized food crop, and only a few plants (2) are needed for seeds. There may be as much as ten percent of climbing beans that will become a natural hybrid, but it is rare.

Know when to harvest your fruits for seeds. Beans and peas need to be completely dry to preserve the seeds. Cucumber, eaten in their green state, are considered a ‘wet’ fruit and must be allowed to ripen for mature seeds. Tomatoes germinate better if allowed to ferment before saving the seeds. If it’s necessary, some plants can be harvested early and hung upside down to finish drying. I’ve did this to save my ‘Dragon Tongue” bean when rain threaten to soak them before being fully dry.

Prepare now to store the seeds. My first attempt to save ‘Bloody Butcher” corn was a dismal failure. I had over 500 ears almost ready to harvest when a long spell of rain threatened. After a few days, I believed the seeds to be dry enough to store. Putting all the corn into mason jars, marking what was seed corn, I commandeered a quarter of the freezer for the seed. Upon opening the corn in late May, I found the moisture content too high leading to loss of all the seed.

I no longer store seeds in the freezer. Happy Gardening

 

Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.