Save your seeds now for next year...

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If you're growing some vegetables or flowers that you really like, and want to grow again next year, it's already time to think about saving the seeds. There are a few road hazards though which you need to know about in order to make it work.

First, if the variety you are growing is a hybrid sort (often indicated when you buy the seed or seedling), then there is usually no point in saving the seed at all, since they will most likely not produce the same quality of vegetable (or flower).

If it is an open-pollination variety (all heirloom varieties are open-pollination for example), you just have to make sure to let some of them "go to seed", as it's called, and then collect them. A really red vine-ripened tomato is ready for seed collection. A cucumber that is just right for your salad however is most likely not ready - since they are usually picked green and before the seeds fully form in order to make them easier to eat. A cucumber needs to be left until it is fully ripe, which usually involves turning at least partly yellow, and stopping its growth completely for a couple of weeks. Things like parsley or lettuce need to be allowed to flower and then form seeds, which you can collect. Flowers you like need to be allowed to keep some of their flower heads even after the flower dies, so that it can form seed pods.

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saving seeds
Another caveat on saving seeds is storing thme properly a fter you have saved them. Store them in a cool (but not freezing location, dry spot, out of the light until you're ready to plant next year. And keeping some seed for more than a year, unless properly dried and sealed, is a no no. Some seeds, like onion, and aster have only a one year viability.

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Open Pollinated Seed
We usually just let about 10% of our plants go to seed - if we don't collect the seed before the seed head shatters, they will self-sow, germinating in their proper season next time around. We simply transplant the seedlings to where we want them. It is a lot easier.

We do save seed too. In Southern California, drying seed (and skin and other things out) isn't too difficult and we have great success in storing seed. You are right about onion seed (and carrot) having a short shelf life, but even under less than ideal conditions, tomatoes have seven years or more and we get decent germination consistently on most seed three to four years old even though we don't have the cool storage we would like.

david

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