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Nov 20 2013

Seed Saving 101

 

  • [important]Amaranth[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Amaranth is self fertile, but is occasionally wind pollinated.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Cut down and dry the seed heads when they start to drop a few seeds. When they are dry and brittle, thresh them and blow away the chaff, it’s tedious, but worth the effort. Whether you have leaf, grain or ornamental amaranth, you can eat the seeds and so can the birds if you leave some seed heads intact.
    • Seed Viability – 2 years.
    • Isolation Distance – 3km recommended, up to 30% wind pollination possible.
  • [important]Asparagus[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Perennial vegetable that produces seed in the second year, it is insect pollinated, but there are only a few varieties available, so cross-pollination is less of a worry than selecting a variety that produces female spears, as there are now hybrid crowns available that are all male.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – The female crowns produce small red berries, wait until the ferny foliage begins to droop in the fall, then collect the berries and soak them in cool water. After an hour squish the berries in your hands to separate the seeds from the pulp. Spread out the separated seeds to dry thoroughly, and store in a cool dry place. It takes 3- 4 years for a seed to sprout, grow and produce spears for harvest.
    • Special Instructions – There is little difference between wild asparagus and domesticated, so collecting wild seeds is perfectly acceptable.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – Not a concern
  • [important]Beans[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Self pollinating. Bees will occasionally cross pollinate bean varieties but the flowers are self fertile and often self pollinate.
    • Time to harvest seeds – Bean seeds are ready to harvest about six weeks after the “green” beans are harvested. The seeds will rattle in the dry pods by then, pull up the entire plant on a dry afternoon and hang upside down for a week. Thresh the beans into a clean bucket or garbage can. Leave the beans on a screen to dry some more if you can bite a bean and leave a dent.
    • Seed Viability – Seeds kept in a cool dry place in a paper bag will keep for three years.
    • Special Instructions – Beans occasionally get a pest called the bean weevil, if you see any holes drilled in the bean seed jacket, dispose of the damaged beans in the garbage, and freeze all remaining beans for up to one week in a sealed container.
    • Isolation Distance – Bush Beans and Pole beans 50m, except Scarlet Runner 800m.
  • [important]Beets[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Beet pollen travels long distances, and will readily cross with Swiss chard and other beets. Beets are biennial, and need to overwinter, in the Pacific Northwest a cloche will protect them from hard freezing, and also keep the seed pure when the seed stalk comes up in the second year.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Harvest the seed stalk when the seed balls turn brown (there are actually 5-6 seeds in each nugget). Hang the stalk upside down to dry for about a week, then strip the seed balls from the stalks and pour them from one container to another, facing away from the wind, to remove chaff.
    • Seed Viability – 4 years
    • Isolation Distance – 3-8 km
  • [important]Broccoli[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Cross pollinated by insects. Will cross with Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi also check the ingredients in Chinese greens mixes. Insects can carry pollen for miles, so it is recommended that you only allow one member of the cabbage family to go to seed each year.
    • Time to harvest seeds – Wait till most of the seed pods are dry, plump and brown, cut the plant down and hang it upside down to dry for about a week. Put the whole plant in a paper bag and roll it gently with a rolling pin, pour the seeds and chaff onto a screen, and winnow out the seeds onto newspaper. Fold the newspaper along the crease and pour seeds into a sealed container.
    • Special Instructions – Most varieties of broccoli are F1 Hybrids, look for heritage varieties like Italian overwintering.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years, and they produce thousands per plant.
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6km except arugula, 800m
  • [important]Cabbage[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Cabbage is a biennial that will crack open in the second year and send up a stalk, children find this very entertaining, and will believe you if you tell them the cabbage exploded. Cabbage will cross with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and cauliflower. Separate these by at least 200 ft. Better yet, set up a four year seed rotation. It is necessary to overwinter at least three plants to insure pollination. A cloche of remay cloth protects and isolates cabbages quite well. Time to Harvest: Collect the seed when the seed pods turn yellow. Some seeds will scatter by themselves, but a plant produces thousands. I hang the stalks in a pillowcase to dry for a week, then beat the pillowcase and pass the seeds through a screen.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6 km
  • [important]Carrots[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Carrots are a biennial that will cross with the native weed Queen Anne’s Lace if it is blooming within 1000 ft. If you have to leave the Queen Anne’s Lace because it is a host plant for beneficial insects, isolate your carrots with a cloche.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – The flat seed heads turn brown in the early fall. It is a good idea to put a paper bag over the seed heads when the top seeds begin to turn colour, since the seeds scatter readily, and you can’t harvest them early if you want them to germinate. When the paper bags rattle with loose seeds, cut the stalks and hang to dry for a week, rub the seed heads on a screen, and save the seeds in a cool dry place.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – must isolate with a cloche and hand pollinate.
  • [important]Chives[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Chives are bee pollinated perennials that will not cross with any onion or leek.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the flowers turn brown, and the shiny black seeds are visible, cut the flower stalks and leave them in a paper bag to dry for one week, just shaking the bag should remove most of the seeds. Pour from one container to another on a breezy day to remove chaff.
    • Seed Viability – 1-2 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6km
  • [important]Corn[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Corn is wind pollinated, and will cross pollinate with corn up to 3.2 km upwind.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Corn kernels are ready to harvest about a month after the tassels dry and the corn is ready to eat. Corn is susceptible to inbreeding, and also racoons. To avoid inbreeding harvest kernels from several different plants by peeling back the husks and tying the cobs together and hanging them for a few weeks. Rub the dry kernels off the cobs and store them in a paper bag. The only thing I’ve found that works on raccoons is an electric fence.
    • Seed Viability – 2 years.
    • Special Instructions – The sweeter the corn variety, the more susceptible the sown kernels are to rotting. If corn borers are a problem soak seeds in a strong tea made from butterfly weed or English ivy before planting.
    • Isolation Distance – 3.2 km, recommend Seed to Seed book for a good method of isolating corn ears with paper bags.
  • [important]Cucumber[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Easily pollinated by hand in the greenhouse or by insects outdoors. Each plant has both male and female flowers, the females are easy to recognize by the tiny green swelling at the base of the flower that will become the cucumber. Cucumbers need to be 200ft from other cucumbers, but can be safely planted with melons and squashes.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Harvest the cucumbers for seed about five weeks after they are ripe for eating. They are not damaged by light frost, and should have turned yellow. Scoop seed pulp into a jar and leave for several days to ferment, add water, pour off floating debris and spread out the seeds that sink on a paper towel to dry.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 800m, recommend bagging and hand pollinating, see CVGSS website, Demo Garden page for a how to.
  • [important]Kale[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Kale is in the cabbage family, it flowers in the second year and will cross with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cauliflower. Separate these by at least 1000 ft. Better yet, set up a four year seed rotation. It is necessary to overwinter at least three plants to ensure pollination, plants are not normally self fertile. A cloche of reemay cloth protects and isolates varieties for hand pollination. Time to Harvest: Collect the seed when the seed pods turn yellow. Dry the stalks and then crush them up with a rolling pin and a pillow case, or by feet. Separate the chaff and allow to dry well before storing.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6 km
  • [important]Leeks[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Leeks are bee pollinated biennials that don’t cross with onions or chives. Stagger leek varieties so they don’t bloom at the same time to prevent cross pollination. Leeks will also propagate asexually by bulblets around the base of the plant. Check for them in the second spring.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the seed heads turn brown and the black seeds are visible, cut the stalks and put them in a paper bag, after a week shake the bag, and winnow the chaff by pouring the seeds from one container to another on a breezy day.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6km
  • [important]Lettuce[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Lettuce is self pollinating, but it may cross if grown side by side.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Lettuce bolts in hot weather, producing a tall pagoda shape in leaf lettuce, and by cracking an X in the top of head lettuce as the seed stalk emerges. Lettuce seed ripens over time and scatters everywhere, if you don’t mind shaking out the seeds a bit at a time this is fine, one lettuce can produce 30,000 seeds after all. If you’d rather collect them all together, tie a mesh bag or old pantyhose over your lettuce stalk. Remember, you want the seeds from the plant that bolted last, we don’t want to breed lettuce for speed.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance: 3-8m
  • [important]Onions (Allium Cepa)[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Onions are bee pollinated biennials that will cross with any other blooming onions within 100 ft. Onions won’t cross with leeks or chives. Although they have few enemies, they can’t handle competition with weeds, and need a light straw mulch for water conservation.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – In the second summer onions produce seed heads, when they turn brown and the black seeds start to appear, cut the whole stalk and put it in a paper bag to dry for a week, shake the bag and collect the seeds. Winnow the chaff by pouring the seeds from one container to another on a breezy day.
    • Seed Viability – 1-2 years
    • Special Instructions – Sweet onions are not good keepers, plan to overwinter these in the ground and ensure dry soil (raised bed is ideal).
    • Isolation Distance – 1.6 km
  • [important]Parsnip[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – This biennial doesn’t cross with carrots or Queen Anne’s Lace. Insect pollination is most common, with some self fertilization between different ages of umbels on the same plant.
    • Method of Harvest-  Collect the umbels when they are mature, often only a few are brown and dry at a time.
    • Seed Viability: 2 years.
  • [important]Peas[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Peas self pollinate, bees will occasionally cross pollinate plants closer than 15 ft apart. Planting a tall barrier crop such as sunflowers can help prevent this, as does planting different varieties, like sugar peas near snap peas, instead of two types of snap peas.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – About a month after the eating peas are ready the seed peas have dried and are rattling in the pods. Pull up the whole plant on a dry afternoon and hang it for a couple weeks. Strip the peas out of the pods, or thresh them in a wool blanket, the chaff should stick to the blanket, and the peas should roll down.
    • Seed Viability – 3 years
    • Isolation Distance – 100m if possible, at least 15 recommended.
  • [important]Peppers[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Pepper flowers contain both male and female parts and pollinate themselves. If you can grow peppers outdoors, it is best to keep different varieties 50 ft apart to prevent bees from cross pollinating them. In the greenhouse gently shake the flowers to pollinate them.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Wait until the pepper is overripe and the skin starts to pucker. Cut open the pepper, and leave the seeds on paper to dry for a week or two without washing them.
    • Seed Viability – About 2 years
    • Isolation Distance – 165m
  • [important]Radishes[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Radishes are pollinated by bees and will cross with radishes from your own and neighbouring yards. Only allow one radish variety to go to seed per year.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the seed pods turn brown and the seeds inside are plump and yellow it is time to collect the seeds. Pull up the whole plant and let it dry for a few weeks. Put the seed pods in a pillowcase and roll them lightly with a rolling pin. The seeds turn brown as they dry, save them in sealed containers.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 800m
  • [important]Spinach[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Spinach is wind pollinated. To further complicate matters, most spinach bears male and female flowers on separate plants so isolating a single plant amounts to birth control. The best way around this is to grow a monoecious variety (both male and female) and bag it when the flowers appear, or to put reemay cloth over your spinach row and shake them gently when the tiny flowers appear.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – When the spinach leaves turn yellow strip of the seeds with your hands and dry them thoroughly on paper before storing them in a sealed container in a cool dry place.
    • Special instructions – Perpetual spinach is not related to spinach (spinacia oleracea) and will not cross pollinate.
    • Seed Viability – 5 years
    • Isolation Distance – 8km
  • [important]Squash (Cucurbita family)[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Squash is insect pollinated, so squash should be bagged and hand pollinated then tagged with yarn to insure pure seed. Note that squash from different families can be grown together, like Maxima pumpkins and Pepo summer squash. Compare family names to be sure your squash won’t cross pollinate.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Allow squash vines to die back before harvesting squash for seed, you can keep the squash for months before eating if you keep unmarred ones and wipe them with a damp cloth. To harvest seeds, rinse seed pulp in cold water, squishing it in your hands so that pulp and flat, non-viable seeds float up, collect the large plump seeds at the bottom and spread them out on paper to dry completely.
    • Seed Viability – 4 years
    • Isolation Distance – 800 m
  • [important]Tomatoes[/important]

    • Method of Pollination – Tomatoes have flowers with both male and female parts, so they are usually self-pollinating, bees may cross pollinate varieties less than 10 ft apart.
    • Time to Harvest Seeds – Wait until fruit is over ripe before picking, a thumb pressed into the fruit will leave a dent. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and put them in a jar to ferment. After several days add water and pour off floating debris. Sinking seeds can be spread on paper towel and dried completely.
    • Seed Viability – 4 years.
    • Isolation Distance – Self fertile

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