Successful Seed Saving

Robert Alcock, who works at Kew gave us some useful tips on seeds at the Ealing Allotments Partnership AGM on 16 March.

Why bother saving seeds?

  • Saves you money. You can easily spend up to £50 on seeds over the year
  • Packets of eg parsley don’t go very far so can use your own as well
  • Packet seeds – sometimes they’re too many or too few so its useful to have your own
  • Some seeds aren’t always very reliable so you can use your own as a back-up
  • If you order seeds, they can take a while to arrive – if you have your own, you can sow them straight away
  • Over several seasons, you can select seeds to produce preferable seeds
  • You can save heritage sedds and preserve old varieties – for details, see Garden Organic’s Heritage Library information
  • Good for community building – seed swapping etc
  • Good for sustainability – saved seed saves on transport costs;many seeds produced in other countries
  • Better quality if your own – at the Millennium Seed Bank they found that own seeds may germinate quicker and produce stronger plants
  • Better control – you can give them plenty of love and attention!
  • You know if something goes wrong, what may have happened.

What about F1 Hybrids

It is possible to grow them but because the originals were a from more than one inbred line, you may not get what you want. Basically, a bit of a waste of time.

Good Practice

  • Casual approach good for French beans, chillies and tomatoes – wait for seeds to form, then store for next season.
  • Outbreeders: ensure they’re pollinated, then put bags over flower heads to ensure they don’t get cross-pollinated.; generally need about a dozen plants; another approach is to buy maggots which hatch into blowflies and do the pollination or you can brush the parts of the plant yourself.
  • Once harvested, ensure the seeds are dry – don’t dry in oven; keep them in cool place. Seal them in an airtight box; put in freezer, if possible. When taking out of freezer, get them back to room temperature before using.

Don’t keep your own seed potatoes – they can pick up blight or viruses.

Other tips from the meeting:

  • Watch out for onion fly – attacks all alliums. No known antidote. Good idea to use enviromesh or fleece as cover
  • Chitting – well worth doing to give potatoes a head start. Rub down to 3 shoots
  • Compost bags – cheaper bags are poorer quality; you pay for what you get.
  • Seeds – when sowing put in blood, fish and bone in amongst seeds to fool birds; and try putting prunings around them.

For more details, see EAP website which should also have details of 2 books recommended by Robert, one by Sue Stickland, published by Garden Organic.


About davidbays1066

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1 Response to Successful Seed Saving

  1. ellispritchard says:

    Here’s a good guide I found to saving seed of the more common vegetables, which identifies in-breeders and out-breeders:

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