One of the most rewarding experiences for a home gardener is growing their own plants and saving seeds from the previous year. Not only is it an economical way to grow – but there’s something magical about seeing a plant take shape from your own seed.
We save heirloom tomato and pepper plants for growing in the garden – but by far our biggest “seed-saving” operation comes from the ornamental peppers we grow.
When you plant as many as we do around the farm – in mass plantings, flower pots and hanging baskets – you have no choice but to grow your own from seed! Last year we grew the Sangria, Poinsettia and Tequila Orange and Chinese Lantern varieties – and will probably add a few more this year as well.
Whatever your choice – saving seed is not a hard process at all. However, there are a few basic things you need to know to ensure success.
The Basics Of What To Save:
First, concentrate on heirloom or standard varieties – they are the easiest for the home gardener to preserve and grow. These plants are open-pollinated and will produce the same crop year after year. Many standard varieties of peppers, beans, and tomatoes can be saved and grown year after year.
Hybrid plant seeds on the other hand should be avoided. Hybrids are created by crossing specific parent plants. Many times, the seed of hybrids will be sterile or will not reproduce a flower or fruit that resembles anything close to what the original plant created. Many hybrids produce beautiful flowers or fruits, but it is best to purchase that seed each year to produce the identical results.
One other note – even if your plants are heirloom and/or self pollinating varieties – don’t be surprised if your plants change a little from year to year. Some plants’ flowers are open pollinated by insects, wind, birds and other wildlife – and they can be crossed with other varieties of the same plant that are nearby. The only true way to maintain the exact original variety would be to isolate the plants or plant them hundreds of yards apart from each other – something that is hard for many small home gardens to accomplish.
When and What To Harvest:
When saving your seed, always harvest from the best your garden has to offer. Select plants that are healthy and with the qualities that you find to be most attractive.
You will want to harvest seed from flowers or fruit that has matured – and that is why fall is the perfect time to collect your seeds. Many peppers and beans have fully matured and their seed pods are fully developed. We let our ornamental pepper seeds dry right on the pods of the plants before picking them in late fall to save the largest of the seeds.
Storage of Seeds:
The most important part of storing seeds is to keep them dry and cool. After drying our seeds, we store them folded up in a paper towel and place in a canning jar or envelope in one of the cooler rooms of the house. If you happen to have any of the cilica gel packets that sometimes are packed in electronics or shoes – you can place one in with your seeds to help keep out the moisture.
Refrigerators can be a good place to store seeds as well, with the cool temperatures helping to preserve them. Although if your like us, space is hard to find! All things considered, we have never had a problem keeping them in an old desk drawer in one of the cooler room of the house.
One final note – make sure to label your saved seeds with their name and date. Speaking from personal experience – it can make for quite the surprise when you grow an entire tray of tequila orange peppers from what I thought should have been jalapenos. Let’s just say I learned to mark the envelopes a little better after that!
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!
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