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.
- 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.