For those of you who may not remember my last article, I discussed seeds - primarily those of vegetables and flowers - in all their glory. Oh, and by the way, why are you forgetting my articles?
We discussed seed catalogs and the difference between hybrid and open-pollinated plants. Remember, if you want to save seeds, then focus on open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, not hybrids. Additionally, if you want to be a seed saver, take into account these guidelines.
There are three different pollination methods that we need to be aware of - airborne, insect and self. If you want the crop to have the same genetic makeup as the parents, then you must have a pure pollination. This means that if your crop is an airborne-pollinated crop, you need a one-mile buffer from other varieties to ensure no cross-pollination. For insect-pollinated, the distance is reduced to one-quarter mile separating varieties.
For the self-pollinating crops - beans, lettuce, peas and tomatoes - it gets a little easier. These crops have pollination that occur within the flower, with the pollen directly going from the stamen to the stigma.
But a word of warning: Even if the crop you are hoping to save seed from is a self-pollinator, there is some pollen that escapes and can be transferred to nearby varieties. So you may want to separate varieties by a couple of rows.
At this point, if you are still gung-ho about saving seed, then right on - you have more patience than me. So here are some simple directions about how to save seed from some of the most commonly grown garden vegetables:
•Beans. These are relatively easy because beans rarely cross-pollinate. Allow the seed pods to dry completely (the beans will rattle in the pod) and harvest the pods or the entire plant early in the morning to avoid shattering in the field.
•Peas. Similar to beans, allow pods to dry on the plant before harvesting.
•Squash. Somewhat tricky. Squash are insect-pollinated crops, so if you want to save seed, grow only one variety in the garden. When the outer covering of the squash becomes hardened, it is time to harvest for seeds. Scoop out the seeds and wash until there is no more pulp. Spread them out to dry.
•Tomatoes. Be patient, and do not harvest the first fruits or double fruits. These tend to have seeds that have a low-germination percentage. As we all know, tomatoes produce a lot of seeds. So grab a couple of ripe fruit from a number of plants and have fun - now you can squeeze the fruit into a strainer and wash until all the pulp is gone. Spread out to dry.
Once the seed has dried, put it in a cool, dry place. I would recommend the crisper drawer of the refrigerator in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. In order to remove any additional moisture, place a desiccant package in the container. The seed will germinate best the next year.
email@example.com or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.