Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden

Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden

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Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden

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Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden

Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden

Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden
Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden
Gathering Free Seed<br>From the Vegetable Garden

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Gathering Free Seed
From the Vegetable Garden

By Robert Laurence

When saving old family varieties, or any seed gathered from the vegetable garden, select fruit or vegetables from the healthiest plants you have. Pick the vegetable when it's dead ripe (but not overripe) and scrape the seeds out with a knife. Next soak the seeds for three days in a pot of water at room temperature to allow them to "ferment." Stir the mixture several times a day and finally pour off whatever pulp and dead seeds are floating on top. (The seeds with life in them will have settled to the bottom.) Then rub the seeds until the remainder of the pulp comes off - this is important, for seeds with flesh on them are apt to rot. After the flesh has been removed, wash the seeds in cold water and dry them on sheets of paper in a dry, warm, well ventilated room, taking care to turn them over periodically to prevent formation of mold on their undersides.

Once the seed is dry, treat it to help prevent losses due to soil microorganisms, insects, or seed borne diseases. This procedure can be combined with cleansing the seed, but is given separately here because it is a good idea to process commercial seed, too, if it hasn't been treated. (Examine all commercial seed packets to see if the seed has been treated.) To treat, simply immerse the seeds in a pot of water at 112" F, stir with a paddle, and let the seed soak for at least 25 minutes before drying it. Do the same with seed saved from the garden. This heat treatment will kill bacteria and fungi responsible for many diseases, but won't kill the seed.

Ideally, seed from the garden (or from partially used seed packets, for that matter) should be stored where the temperature is 40'F to 50'F and there is a low relative humidity of 45 percent or less. However, some seed will last up to five years or more in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. If the seed is in partially used commercial seed packets, reseal the packets with a tape or staple them closed after folding over the top edge several times. Seed gathered from the garden can be kept in sealed envelopes, coffee cans with plastic air tight lids, empty baby food jars, or in homemade paper packets taped or stapled closed at the top. Some gardeners store their seed in the refrigerator in a fruit jar, along with a little bag of desiccant to absorb moisture. Where vermin are a problem, put any paper packets in a metal box as an added precaution. Be sure that the seed containers are adequately marked with the variety name and the date of storage.

Before you plant the stored seed you will want to test it for germination. Try the "rag doll" germination test before planting. Just place ten or so seeds a half inch apart on a moist cloth about a foot long and a foot wide. Roll up the cloth, covering the seeds, tie the ends of this "rag doll" with string or rubber bands, and place it in a plastic bag (pinholed for ventilation to prevent it from drying out). After five to seven days, untie the "doll" and count the number of sprouted seeds. Divide these by the number of seeds in the rag doll, then multiply by one hundred, and you will have the percentage of germination: e.g., eight seeds sprouted divided by ten seeds in the doll equals .80 X 100, or 80 percent germination.

The same formula applies if seed is tested in a damp paper towel kept moist between two plates, in pasteurized soil, or in any other sterile planting medium. If more than 70 percent of the seeds germinate, it is safe to assume that the seeds are quite viable or good to use. If less than 50 percent sprout, you may want to try sowing them thickly when planting, but don't bother saving the seeds for the following year.


 
 
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Gathering Free Seed
From the Vegetable Garden