Gardener’s Tips: Saving Seeds to Save Money
Onions such as the downy-mildew and white-rot resisting variety Up-to-Date which dates from the 1890s, which are now swept from the seed catalogues by the aforementioned Act, deserve the care in seed -saving that will keep them alive.
Tofor seed saving, choose specimens that weigh at least 240 g (8 oz) each from the stored ropes that should be hanging safely in your shed or garage, for planting sometime between the end of late autumn and the end of mid-winter. Dig in rotted garden and firm the ground well before planting the bulbs about 45 cm (18”) apart each way, with the firmed up to their necks.
The leaves should start to grow as early spring begins, and these will be followed by thick, strong flower stems which should be staked as soon as they reach 45 cm (18”) in height, and then retied as they grow up to 1.2 m (4’) for they blow over easily. By the end of early autumn the pods that make up the round, drumstick-like heads will be ready to peel back from the tips, to reveal the four seeds inside each one. When the pods are black and hard it is time to cut them with 30 cm (1’) of stem and hang them head downwards, with ventilated paper bags tied over them, in a cool, dry place. Allow the seed-pods to dry completely before husking them and storing the seeds in cotton bags.
Leeks need much the same treatment as, but it is easy to dig the largest of those you have been eating through the winter and transplant them to a place where they will not be in the way while they are growing their large drumstick heads. These will be ready to cut and dry about mid-autumn. Both leeks and onions have large, heavy seeds, so that during their final cleaning the seeds are easily separated from the chaff, most of which will blow away.
Seed of brassicas is reasonably cheap, so it is not worth saving your own, and, more important, it is too risky for the gardener to attempt to save brassica seed, because of the danger of cross-pollination. Cabbages, for instance, will cross not only with, , Brussels sprouts, most kales and kohlrabi, but also with closely related of the family Cruciferae, such as the common charlock.
Radishes set seed easily, but birds attack the seed-heads fiercely, and it is so cheap that there is little point in saving your own. The problem with all the brassicas, including, is that they are pollinated by bees, which will range from garden to garden and consequently may bring pollen from your neighbours’ flowering Brussels sprouts to spoil your sprouting broccoli.
Marrows, tomatoes and
Pumpkins and squashes cross so freely that they, too, are not worth saving, thoughseed is easily gathered after cutting up a monster for jam.
Tomato seed is expensive and those who have a warm greenhouse to raise their own plants could well save their own seed now that so many old fine-flavoured varieties have disappeared. Select your fruit from the third truss and choose those that are perfectly round and shapely. If a plant has misshapen fruit, take none from it, for any plants grown from the seed in these fruits will share its inheritance. Split fruit results from weather or bad watering, and as acquired characteristics are not inherited, you can take the best off these plants. There will be about 150 seeds in each tomato, but you should take only the best. Cut your fruit from side to side, scoop out the middle into a soup plate and wash in slow running water while working the pulp with your fingers. Finally tip the seeds into a strainer and spread the washed seed on a piece of blotting paper and leave to dry for two days in a warm room.
Cucumbers, likeand pumpkins, all of which belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, have separate male and female flowers. The ridge varieties must have their flowers pollinated to produce fruit. The female flowers of the green-house, or frame, varieties, on the other hand, produce fruit without pollination. When growing cucumbers for eating you should not allow these female flowers to be pollinated so that fertilized fruit is produced, as this is bitter-tasting and full of hard, inedible seeds. Pollination is prevented by removing all the male flowers or growing one of the ‘all-female varieties’.
Nevertheless, you can grow a few cucumbers for seed-saving, but if you choose a greenhouse variety, do not do so at the same time as you grow them for eating, as all the fruit stand a good chance of being pollinated by insects.
As soon as the male and female flowers open, pollinate the females by hand. Allow the fertilized cucumbers that develop on the plant to swell at the lower end. Remove the cucumbers when they are ripe, and slice them lengthways with a sharp knife to reveal the hard, creamy-yellow seeds within. Then separate the seeds from the pulp and dry them, in exactly the same way as for tomato seeds.
Quite a number of cucumber varieties, notably the ‘all-female’ varieties, are F1 hybrids, so that they should not be grown for seed-saving.