Getting Started Saving Seeds

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Now that I know that the Pizza My Heart container peppers won't be available from Renee's Garden during the upcoming year due to crop failures, I have started looking in earnest for information about saving seeds from my garden.

Fortunately for me, I still have peppers coming ripe on the plants in my garden and probably will until a real cold snap hits.  That might not be for a few months yet here in Los Angeles!

While home gardeners have traditionally saved seeds from their gardens, there are some rules you need to follow to do so successfully.  The main ones are:
  1. Knowing that saving seeds from F 1 hybrid plants will probably not result in the same plant.
  2. Keeping different types of the same crop separated from each other so that there is no cross-breeding. 
Know Your Hybrid Plants

When you intentionally cross two inbred plants together you get a hybrid.  Commercial seed growers do this because the resulting seeds produce plants that are more vigorous and disease resistant with fruits that are more uniform.

The seeds these hybrids plants produce will not be the same seed you planted in the ground however.  Because of how genetics works, the seeds from hybrid plants can produce plants that look like the "mother" plant, the "father" plant or a combination of the two.  There is no way to predicted just from looking at the seeds what you will get when you plant them.

So if the plants you started from seed say F 1 hybrid on the package, chances are you'll be disappointed with the crop you will grow from these seeds you save from these plants.  To get the plants you want, you'll need to keep purchasing the seeds from the person who owns the parent plants.

Interesting Fact:  Most corn seed you buy is F 1 hybrid seed.

Make Them Keep Their Distance

There are several ways that plants get their seeds pollinated, from self-pollination (tomatoes) and insects (peppers), to air-borne pollination (corn).  Then there are the biennial plants, which do not produce seed stalks and seeds until a second growing season.  Onions are an example of a biennial plant.

The best bet for saving seeds are saving ones from plants that are self-pollinators.

My Pizza My Heart peppers are pollinated by insects, so for successful seed saving I needed to plant them 1/4 mile away from other peppers.  Needless to say, I didn't do that.

Air-borne pollinated corn, on the other hand, needs to be planted 1 mile away from other corn crops.

Even though I wasn't able to follow these pollination guidelines, I am still going to try and save the pepper seeds anyway.  Which means I might wind up with seeds crossed with the Baby Bell Mini Salad Peppers, regular green bell peppers or Tam mild jalapenos I also planted.

But at this point, if I want a chance at getting Pizza My Heart peppers in my garden next year, this is my only option.

There is more to seed saving that just these basics.  I got the information I shared with you today from the Colorado State University Extension website.  They have a complete list of all the garden vegetables that are self-pollinators, insect pollinated, air-borne pollinated and biennials.  Look at the top of their page for the handy Print This Fact Sheet link and you can save it to your computer as a paperless PDF file.



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