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The Complete Guide to Seed Saving: An Article Containing Every Bit of Information That Could Possibly Be Useful

By joseph
January 17, 2013

While the title of this article may seem outrageous, the premise behind the promise is simple. We can grow our own seeds both for ourselves and for our communities. Seed saving is a simple process that is well within the capabilities of anyone who is able to grow a garden.

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Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Jan 16, 2013 7:40 PM CST
I had heard of landraces, but had not been told of the flexibility of landraces to adapt to various conditions.
But I am wondering how they fit with the world need for more nutritively dense foods?
Much plant breeding-say for tomatoes,---- has been to increase the nutrition content.
For example; Double Rich tomatoes were bred to have high Vitamin C and carotene content?
The "blue" strains from Tom Wagner are to provide the anthocyanin content for people who don't have access to blueberries?

I like the idea of giving up my little organza bags, but am wondering if that would necessarily be a good idea?



Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jan 16, 2013 8:35 PM CST
Hurray! Hurray! I got so excited when I read this article. There was only one year that we successfully grew cantaloupe, if you call 3 melons a success. I never though about saving seed from the melons that actually made it to maturity.
Would the wise thing be to plant two different varieties that are considered doable in northern climates? Growing them close together for pollination? Then save the seed for next year?


Cactus and Succulents Farmer Permaculture Xeriscape Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1
joseph
Jan 16, 2013 9:31 PM CST
One of my goals with landrace plant breeding is to add more nutrients to my plants. That is not something I can directly measure as a small scale farmer, but I can look at my corn crop for instance and say: "Hmm. Purple is typically due to anthocyanins, so I can select for more purple cobs." Or I can say, "Yellow color in corn is normally due to carotenes, so I can select for yellow kernels instead of white." With cantaloupes, I figure that more orange means more carotenes, which is a good thing, because oranger fruits also taste better to me. We can certainly allow plants to cross pollinate, and then select among the grandchildren for the edible parts that most resemble the high nutrient grandparent. I put heavy selection pressure on my butternut squash towards oranger flesh. Eventually, most of my butternut squash will have a deep orange color similar to the one on the left.

Thumb of 2013-01-17/joseph/985e45

Regardless of what shape the fruit is:




We can start from where we are at today. Two or three varieties, planted close together so they can cross pollinate, is a great starting point for building a genetically diverse population for our own gardens. I have huge fields devoted to landrace plant breeding, so a few years back it was simple for me to plant 10,000 corn seeds in my quest to develop a frost tolerant race of corn. I was thrilled with the 42 plants that survived. I took a more laid back approach with Swiss Chard, and Turnips. I grew my favorite cultivar to start with, and have added another cultivar from time to time. Sometimes the added cultivar only contributes pollen. I figure that there is no harm done if the new cultivars I trial are around 10% or less of the crop. If I don't like what the children or grandchildren look like I can weed them out before they produce seeds.

I figure that Astronomy Domine is an enhanced nutrition sweet corn because of all the extra colors. I am working on a super-purple (tastes like cherries) sweet corn. It's a slow process, because the super-purple trait interferes with plant growth. I'm leaning towards a super-purple landrace hybrid: I'm thinking that would allow me to combine the high anthocyanin content with good growth, while still maintaining the genetic diversity, flexibility, and local adaptation that I have come to expect from my crops.

Thumb of 2013-01-17/joseph/fce49a

These watermelons, plus one not pictured, represent the entire harvest of watermelons the year that I started my watermelon landrace: That's out of around 300 varieties that were planted!!! Watermelons really do not do well in my climate. Last summer was my second year. I harvested perhaps 60 fruits from a much smaller planting. Based on past experience, next year should be the magical year for watermelons. I love the third year of saving my own seeds, everything just seems to come together.



Some cultivars may continue to elude my grasp... I have not been able to grow fruits from a cushaw/mixta squash. It might be one of those species that is just too far out of it's comfort zone in my garden.





[Last edited by joseph - Jan 16, 2013 9:33 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #346543 (3)
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 17, 2013 2:04 AM CST
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendelian_inheritance
Makes complete sense, instead of changing the micro climate adapt the plant to the environment. Good knowledgeable article Thumbs up . Joseph you seem to have a lot of knowledge, how about a few more writeup's? What will happen if we for example follow the same principle with Marigolds?
Regards,
Arif.

Cactus and Succulents Farmer Permaculture Xeriscape Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1
joseph
Jan 17, 2013 4:46 AM CST
I only grow vegetables, but the same type of principles apply to any plants or animals. Mendelian Inheritance is a good theory for working with highly inbred homozygous lines in a classroom. From time to time I am able to observe simple segregation in the garden. In the field when dealing with multiple interacting traits in highly heterozygous populations, i haven't found Mendelian genetics to be of much value. For the most part in the plants I work with, there are multiple genes that interact with each other, and with the environment, to determine what the plants looks like, and how they grow. The resulting traits in the offspring can be so complex and muddled up that it's difficult to observe and draw any conclusions about the responsible genes. For example, if only 6 genes are interacting to produce a certain trait, they can produce more than 4000 different combinations: Not the 1 in 4 chance that they talk about in the classroom for a single gene interaction. To get around this difficulty I often approach my projects by stating what the end goal is. Then I throw a bunch of seed in the ground, and let it survive or die, for a couple generations. I step out of the way and let the plants figure out how they are going to reproduce, and conform to my end goals. My radish seed crop for example must be resistant to grasshoppers, because plants that aren't resistant to grasshoppers don't produce seeds in my garden. I didn't start out by saying, "I need to select for a strain that is grasshopper-proof". The plants took care of that all by themselves.

I am currently working on developing a short-season cushaw/mixta squash. I figure that if I throw enough different kinds of mixta seed into the ground for enough years, that eventually something will survive long enough to produce offspring. Right now the only criteria for my mixta breeding project is: "Must produce seed". If that ever happens in my garden, then I can work on something like: "Must taste good".

This year I discovered an okra plant that tolerated one more day of frost than any other okra in the garden.
[Last edited by joseph - Jan 17, 2013 3:33 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #346606 (5)
Name: Melissa E. Keyes
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Zone 11+
Charter ATP Member
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coconut
Jan 17, 2013 7:12 AM CST
Oh, dear, what is the definition of "landrace" again?
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Jan 17, 2013 7:55 AM CST
A landrace is just a strain of living plant or animal which has been grown and allowed to freely breed on its own.
The idea is that the fittest of the organisms will survive and adapt to that location.
I take it that there is some selection of attributes by the growers of any landrace.
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 17, 2013 8:12 AM CST
Agreed but taking a packet of seeds and throwing them into the ground with the aim of keeping only those that survive or only those that survive the onslaught of grasshoppers is still the application of Mendelian Laws. Anyway forget about poor Mendel, interesting possibilities being raised here in the now.
Blinking Okra, one more day of frost survival. Wow, seems to be going to far out on a limb but listening carefully. We have our veg strains that are frost resistant as well as not requiring much water but they are slowly getting lost in front of these modern hybrids. Never entered my mind, I could have sent some to Lynn. Interesting possibilities.
Regards,
Arif.
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Jan 17, 2013 6:37 PM CST
I like that Joseph is able to introduce new traits over time to improve nutrition.
We have lost many vegetable traits because of the commercial breeding for shipping characteristics.
I shall come back to Joseph's article in the spring when I do start a few vegetables, and see whether
one can aim for some landraces on a city lot? I already have small packages of seed mixes such as
a broccoli blend.
[Last edited by CarolineScott - Jan 17, 2013 6:47 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #346954 (9)
Name: Melissa E. Keyes
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Zone 11+
Charter ATP Member
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coconut
Jan 18, 2013 12:41 PM CST
I have been trying to find "Fairfax" strawberries. I grew them about, what? thirty years ago, and they are big and have amazing flavor like wild strawberries. But the plants seem to be gone from commerce.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jan 18, 2013 1:31 PM CST
I found this wonderful site for strawberry plants and seeds. http://strawberryplants.org/2010/05/strawberry-seeds/
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 19, 2013 1:52 PM CST
Lynn, before this current hybrid wheat a cross between wheat and barley as far as I remember, we had a wheat strain whose ears were in a shape of a cone. I have been trying to find this wheat but no success so far. This strain was resistant to local pests, did not require much water. The down side was low yield. As far as land races go we have vegetables now losing ground against modern strains which thrived in arid and frosty conditions. These local ones tasted better that is why I catch hold of seeds if some farmers has some to spare. We have a strain of corn three feet high that grows in only four inches of soil. All losing ground in front of these high yield new strains.
Regards,
Arif.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
Image
valleylynn
Jan 19, 2013 2:25 PM CST
It is indeed sad Arif. And of concern. Sad
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 20, 2013 4:15 AM CST
Shrug! Nothing gets done without His consent and what He has in mind we don't know but then giving up without a fight is also disliked. Between a rock and a hard place or like we say " fell down from the skies and got stuck in a palm" or you would say "out of the frying pan and into the fire".
Regards,
Arif.
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Jan 20, 2013 8:37 AM CST
The breeding for yield and shipping quality has its down side.
That is why we gardeners and farmers must try to save some of the old cultivars,
along with newer ones which will benefit people's health.
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 21, 2013 6:58 AM CST
I wonder if the people before were more unhealthy. The newer ones are for feeding more mouths and I think we are breeding as fast as rabbits.
Regards,
Arif.
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Jan 21, 2013 1:13 PM CST
People travel more now, so I think diseases that did not travel before do now.
The world has a food distribution problem now too.
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 21, 2013 1:35 PM CST
Distribution is the correct word Smiling . No shortage, enough to spare, just dump it in the sea Hilarious! . There was Biafra in one corner and some European country dumping. I remember the irony Rolling on the floor laughing .
Regards I tip my hat to you.
Arif.
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
CarolineScott
Jan 22, 2013 8:58 AM CST
Sad Thumbs down Grumbling Angry
Name: Arif Masud
Alpha Centauri (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Container Gardener Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Enjoys or suffers hot summers Multi-Region Gardener
KAMasud
Jan 22, 2013 10:23 AM CST
Smiling Thats the real world plus human greed. I tip my hat to you.
Regards,
Arif.

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