Community Seed Exchange – the Basics of How to Start
There are a few factors to consider when saving seeds. First, is the plant an annual, perennial, or biennial?
Annuals – Annuals are the easiest to save and a great place to start. An annual produces seed the same season they are planted.
Perennials – Perennials are often easy to save as well, since the seeds appear when the plant matures. Not all perennial vegetables set seed however. Asparagus, chives and rhubarb are examples of perennial vegetables that do set seed. Others, like horseradish, must be propagated by root division or cuttings.
Biennials – These vegetables produce an edible crop the year they are planted but do not develop flowers and set seeds until the second year. If you want to save seeds for biennial vegetables, the selected crop must be protected over the winter. Many wonderful vegetables are biennials including beets, carrots and cauliflower. They need a month or two of cold weather to promote the formation of a seed stalk, but need protection from extremely cold and persistent winter weather.
What is the difference between heirloom, self-pollinated, open-pollinated and hybrid?
Heirloom – Heirloom seeds are either open-pollinated or self-pollinated varieties that have been handed down for generations (at least 50 years) in a particular region. They were usually selected by gardeners for a specific trait, which might be flavor, productivity, hardiness or adaptability. These are the varieties that are most threatened by the movement towards large agriculture.
Self-Pollinated – Self-pollinated plants have both the pollen & stigma present in the flower and often only require the opening of the flower for pollination. Cross pollination is much rarer than with open-pollinated varieties, but it can occur. Examples of self-pollinated plants are tomatoes and peppers. Self-pollinated are usually combined with open-pollinated in gardening information.
Open-Pollinated – Open-pollinated is often used interchangeably with heirloom, but does not mean the same thing. All heirloom plants are open-pollinated, but there are new varieties of open-pollinated varieties that are being developed and produced. Open-pollinated plants require external pollination by wind, insects or humans.
Hybrid – A hybrid plant has been bred from two different types of a plant. When you purchase a hybrid (F1 0) seed packet, you are getting seeds that were produced by crossing two pure lines of other plants to have the attributes the breeder felt were the best qualities of each plant. There is nothing wrong with planting hybrids. Don’t we all long for that early tomato?! But don’t plan to save the seeds of those plants unless you are in the mood for experimentation.