Why Save Seeds? 1. It is far cheaper than buying new ones each year.
2. Through selection you can improve the variety for your area. A multitude of factors such as which side of the canyon, elevation, soil type, etc. are all important.
3. You can protect a bit of genetic heritage.
4. You will always have a store of seeds, just in case.
5. Wise gardeners and farmers select and save seeds to help increase the diversity and security of our food supply. 6. You can (probably should) share and trade your favorites with others or even sell extras. Open Pollinated - Definition Any plant variety whose members can cross pollinate with each other and yield offspring typical to that variety. Slight individual variation is important and is the basis for selection and improvement.
Hybrid - Definition
Offspring of a cross between two different parent varieties. This is the first filial (F1) generation. These tend to have very predictable characteristics and show good vigor due to the match up of different genes from the parents. Most known hybrids are patented by the big seed companies. Note that seeds from F1 hybrid fruit will not likely yield useful offspring (they would be the F2 generation) so you need new F1 seeds each year. Because of this problem, there is usually not much reason to save seeds from F1 hybrid fruit (unless they are edible of course).
Heirloom - Definition
No actual number of years is universally accepted. 40 years, 50 years, 100 years, since 1945, since 1951 (among many others) have all been proposed. The only thing they all agree on is that heirlooms are open-pollinated varieties which either came straight from the wild or were bred and stabilized using classic breeding practices. So it seems that a stable open-pollinated variety may be considered to be an heirloom whenever you say it is.
Open Flowers will cross with other related varieties either via insect or wind spreading.
Isolation distances vary from 25 feet for lettuces to 1 mile for melons. Zucchini won't cross with cucumbers but will cross with pumpkins so you have to be careful.
Closed Flowers have both male and female parts enclosed within each flower so normally, they only self pollinate. Isolation unnecessary. They can however cross pollinate if flowers are accidentally broken open. In fact, commercial growers form hybrids by purposefully dissecting flowers from the appropriate parent stock and hand pollinating.
Annual vs. Biennial
Annuals live only one year and must produce seed that same year. Examples: corn, dill, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach.
Biennials take two years to mature and make seed that second year. Examples: beets, carrots, parsley, onion.
ViabilityFactors- 1. Seed maturity (Are the seeds fully mature before harvesting?). 2. Chilling requirement (if required) - 2 or 3 weeks in the frig is usually sufficient. 3. Age of seeds. Viability Ages- This is expected seed longevity. Be aware that some varieties can far exceed the norms, in either direction.
1 - 3 years for alliums, celery family, okra and most small seeds in general.
3 - 6 years for mustard family, basil, legumes, chenopods, curcubits, solanaceae and most large seeds.
Hybrid vs. Open-Pollinated Hybrid - Parents are genetically distinct yet cross fertile. A breeder might cross a small sweet tomato with a large bland one to get a medium sized tomato in the first generation (called the first filial or F1 generation). Open Pollinated - Parents are genetically very similar, as within one stable variety. Individual variation does exist but most exhibit traits typical of that variety. Hybrid Characteristics
Hybrid vigor is due to interaction of dissimilar forms of the same gene and often yields strong physiological effects. Few poor recessive matchups occur because different parents don't share the same bad recessive genes. Year after year they are consistent - all the same size, flavor, color, disease resistance, etc. They will not adapt to local conditions. They will not improve over time and producing seed is difficult. Open-Pollinated Characteristics Open-pollinated varieties are subject to poor recessive matchups (that's why close relatives shouldn't marry). We can use those poor recessive matchups to "select out" those traits when we choose parent seed stock. Variation between individuals is expected. No two are exactly alike. Plants with favorable traits (size, color, etc.) can be used as parent stock for the next generation and those traits will be passed down. Genetic recombination and favorable mutations can be maintained. Varieties will adapt to local conditions, improving over the generations. Seed is easy to save.
Genes are engineered into a seed line so that seeds sold to farmers will germinate and grow "normally" but will not form viable seeds for the next generation (insuring repurchase of seeds each year). This can be done to heirlooms but of course they become GMO's then and no longer considered heirlooms. Luckily, because of their very nature, these genes won't likely be passed on through natural means to either future generations or weed populations. Thus it is not likely for terminator genes to spread and cause any more harm than they already have. Terminator technology works with animals as well as plants.
Here's a great paperback book we recommend as a reference for seed saving. Saving Seeds (The gardener’s guide to growing and storing vegetable and flower seeds.) by: Marc Rogers - Story Books, Pownal, Vt - www.storey.comISBN: 0-88266-634-7