Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Seed Saving

For today's edition of Tightwad Tuesday, I'd like to talk about seed saving.

I'm not an expert seed saver. But I do have a garden, and I did have some radishes that went to seed. So this is an experiment in progress!

A couple things... if you want to be serious about saving seeds, you need to get "heirloom" plant varieties, not hybrids. Heirlooms are plants that, when you save the seeds, will produce their own offspring. Hybrids will produce something else, perhaps an alien. I'm not exactly sure. However, you will have to be aware of how the seeds are pollinated-- if some plants are too close to another similar variety of plant, they could produce a cross. Different varieties of plants need to be separated by as much as a half mile in order to ensure cross pollination does not occur. Plants that are easiest to start with include tomatoes, beans and peas, summer squashes, and cucumbers.

Now, I didn't do a lot of research before I saved these radish seeds. I'm quite compulsive at times, and just decided to save radish seeds after I forgot to pick a couple radishes. Waste not, want not, you know! Apparently, radishes are one plant you are supposed to have separated from other varieties of radishes because cross pollination is likely. I had two varieties of radishes in my garden this year. So we'll see what I get next year!

Here's what I did: I had a couple of radishes that I let go to seed. When the pods started drying up, I cut the plants and stored them in paper bags, loosely sealed with tape. Once they were all dry, I opened all the pods and rescued whatever seeds I could. It was a LOT of work. Hopefully this will produce some radishes for next year. If not... well, this is a Tightwad Tuesday failure! The effectiveness remains to be seen.

I collected about as many seeds as you get in a packet of seeds from the store. I bet only about 50% will actually produce anything, so really my savings overall was quite minimal, maybe $1 by doing this. But heck, it's a dollar I may not have to spend next spring when we start craving some radishes!

I'm storing my seeds in an air tight container with an anti-oxygen pack in them, to keep them nice and fresh and ready for the spring.

The pods dried on the plant
The pods picked off and ready to open
An open pod with some very nice seeds
Empty pods for the compost bin
And the seeds!!!

Some resources:

International Seed Saving Institute
Seed Savers Exchange
Sand Hill Preservation Center
AHS- Master Gardener's Locators

Our farmer's market has a booth from our local ag school's extension office (which just so happens to be my alma mater). They have master gardeners there during normal market hours, and they have been very helpful to me with my gardening questions. I'm sure they'll be able to answer any questions you may have about seed saving, or at least point you in the right direction!

I'll update you next spring with how these seeds do!


Tuan's Princess said...

I've read that you aren't supposed to store the seeds w/ oxygen absorbers because the seeds will "die".

Carolyn said...

Really? I read the opposite. Hmmm, more research to come! Thanks!

Blonde African Americans said...

I understand if seeds weren't so readily available how this would be beneficial, but it doesn't seem cost effective in this case 1-time consumed to pick seeds 2-cost of airtight container to pack seeds 3-space used to save seeds until next year. Now, if you had a favorite breed of veggie/fruit and the seeds were hard to come by different story of course- anyway just my thoughts-Theresa

Carolyn said...

1. I was just sitting around watching TV anyway, so it's not like I was doing anything productive to begin with. I couldn't have made money any other way since my kiddos were sleeping, and I needed a topic for Tightwad Tuesday, anyway ;)
2. The containers are free, just an old bullion container and a jam jar that I wasn't using. I didn't pay for the jam jar (got a bunch free this year).
3. Eh, that's a really good point. I don't have much space. I'll have to figure something out if I get really in to it.

But the cost of seeds really DO add up quickly. I probably spent $40 on seeds last year, and I only buy seeds that are on sale. Granted, I will be able to reuse some of them next year, but I will have to replace a lot of them. And some seeds are expensive, depending on what you need, and they can run out if the demand is high on certain seeds. I guess for me, I'd rather do things myself and depend on myself and learn these things now, even if it's not essential for me to need to know how to do these things right now, just so I gain the skills and the knowledge. This is fast becoming a lost art, and I'd like to continue it somehow.

And I don't mind if it only saves a buck-- it's a buck more that I have in my pocket! In this economy, that means a lot.