How to collect seeds from the garden
Storing and collecting seeds from our own vegetable and herb crops is a great way to save and perpetuate your favorite varieties year after year.
Open-pollinated varieties are the best candidates for collecting and preserving seeds. Unlike hybrids, these varieties are more likely to maintain their genetic traits from generation to generation.
Some species of crops tend to pollinate themselves (self-pollination), while others require the intervention of insects or wind to obtain pollen from nearby flowers (cross-pollination). Peas, lettuce, and tomatoes, for example, pollinate themselves and cross-pollination is unlikely to occur, even when several varieties are growing very close.
In those that are cross-pollinated, such as pumpkins and onions, genetic purity can only be ensured by cultivating only one variety completely isolated or in greenhouses, so that we avoid contamination. Likewise, this type of isolated crop is usually more viable in a professional manner than for home gardeners since we need a lot of space.
When it comes to collecting the seeds of the garden it is important to choose those plants that are healthier and more resistant and look for those with the features that we would like to preserve. In those crops where early eared or flowering is not something we want, as, in lettuce or basil, we will collect seeds only from those that are slower to flower.
A little later in the article, we will talk about the techniques to collect seeds of some common vegetables and herbs, but before they are important some tips take into account once you have done your collection:
- Make sure that the seeds collected are completely dry before storing or packing them in jars or paper envelopes.
- Do not forget to label the containers with the variety and the date on which you have collected the seeds.
- Always store them in a cool, dry place to maintain their viability until the next planting.
Seeds of beans Usually the peas self-pollinate properly unless they grow immediately next to another variety of peas; the idea is to isolate the different varieties by at least a distance of between 3 to 6 meters.
To collect pea seeds we must let the pods dry completely in the same plant.
Although it is worth mentioning that, in extremely humid climates, it is often necessary to harvest the mature pods and let them dry inside; once they have dried completely, then we open the pods by hand and remove the seeds.
To obtain seeds from beans, the same technique can be used.
Collect seeds of Basil
The seeds of basil are obtained through cross-pollination produced by bees, if we want to keep the variety purer, we must isolate them by 45 meters or more.
We will let the seed heads dry on the plant. Once dry, we will simply “shake” or “crumble” the seed heads inside an envelope, in this way, we can drop the seeds, we can blow carefully to eliminate the fluff.
Collect seeds of Lettuce
It is usually self-pollinated, although occasionally it can be the victim of cross-pollination by several insects, if we want to preserve it, we must isolate the different varieties by at least 3 to 6 meters.
The flowering and ripening of a single seed head lasts for up to four weeks, which means that we can not collect lettuce seeds at one time.
The way to collect them is to “shake” the heads of seeds, without removing them from the plant, in a paper bag or on several papers arranged on the ground, this procedure should be repeated every 3 or 4 days.
Another technique is to cut a seed head halfway through its ripening process and let it dry inside for a week, then simply rub between your hands to “release” the seeds. Remove the lint by blowing gently.
Leek and Onion Seeds
Both leeks or green onions and common onions are cross-pollinated by insects, therefore, if we want to preserve the varieties we must isolate them for at least 1500 meters, (although they do not cross between leeks and onions, that is, we isolate the different varieties of common onion, but we can plant them next to the leeks).
Both the onions and the leeks are biennial, therefore the flowers, and therefore the seeds, will appear only in the second growing season.
Leeks, which in most areas are resistant to cold, except in the very extreme, can be left in the garden with mulching mulch to bloom next spring.
The onions are less resistant so we should choose the best bulbs to spend the winter stored and be able to re-plant them in the spring.
Once they have blossomed and the seed heads have formed, we will let them ripen and dry on the plant. In a moment, we will see that the black seeds begin to appear, that will be the moment to harvest them and take them inside so that they finish drying. Most seeds will fall when we shake them, for the most resistant, we can rub the head of dried seeds between our hands.
Extract seeds of squashes and pumpkins
Seeds of pumpkin are also cross-pollinated by bees and other insects, so to maintain purity we must isolate the varieties by at least 400 meters.
For summer squashes, we must leave some fruits unharvested (those we have chosen to obtain seeds). The idea is to let them mature more until the bark becomes yellowish and slightly harder.
For the zucchini and winter squashes, we will harvest the ripe fruits and store them for at least a month to give the seeds time and finish ripening completely before picking them up. To remove the seeds, cut the fruit in half and scrape with a chuchvara, separate the seeds from the pulp as much as possible and let them dry well on paper napkins or rag for at least 2 or 3 weeks.
Collect the seeds of the Radishes
Radishes are cross-pollinated by insects, so we must isolate the varieties by at least 800 meters.
I must emphasize that there will be no pollination if we have only one plant, we need to have several plants in flower to produce seeds.
We will let dry the pods of seeds in the plant until they are brown and dry.
Finally, we open the pods and shake to remove the seeds.