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Seed Saving for Beginners - Why Save Seeds?
Vegetable
Cycle
Pollination
Pollinator
Isolation
Distance
Seed
Longevity
Notes
Bean
A
Self
100'
2-3 yrs
Lose vigor rapidly.
Soybean
A
Self
100'
2-3 yrs
Space farther apart than for market crops.
Beet/Chard
B
Cross
Wind
1/2 mi
3-5 yrs
Beets cross with chards.
Broccoli/Kale/
Cauliflower
B
Cross
Insects
1/2 mi
3-5 yrs
Hot-water treated seeds last only 1 yr. Crossing among brassica species is complex, consult a good reference book.
Carrot
B
Cross
Insects
1500'
2-3 yrs
Crosses with wild species.
Celery
B
Cross
Insects
1500'
2-3 yrs
 
Corn
A
Cross
Wind
1/2 mi
2-3 yrs
Adequate population essential.
Cucumber
A
Cross
Insects
1500'
5-10 yrs
Harvest at yellow blimp stage.
Eggplant
A
Self
150'
2-3 yrs
 
Leek
B
Cross
Insects
1500'
2 yrs
 
Onion
B
Cross
Insects
1500'
1 yr
 
Lettuce
A
Self
50'
2-3 yrs
Start indoors, need long season for seed.
Melon
A
Cross
Insects
1500'
5-10 yrs
Muskmelons will not cross with watermelons.
Mustard
A
Cross
Insects
1/2 mi
3-5 yrs
Crosses with wild species.
Pea
A
Self
50'
2-3 yrs
Do not save seed from diseased plants.
Pepper
A
both
Insects
500'
2-3 yrs
Some varieties cross more readily than others.
Radish
A
Cross
Insects
1500'
3-5 yrs
 
Spinach
A
Cross
Wind
1/2 mi
2-3 yrs
 
Squash/Pumpkin
A
Cross
Insects
1500'
2-5 yrs
moschata 2-3 yrs, pepo & maxima 3-5 yrs. These three species generally do not cross.
Tomato
A
Self
25'-100'
5-10 yrs
Potato-leaf types need the greater isolation distance.
Cycle: A=annual, B=biennial.
Pollination: Self=self-pollinated, Cross=cross-pollinated by another plant.
Isolation Distance: recommended distance by which different varieties must be separated to prevent unwanted cross-pollination.
Seed Longevity: Averages, not guarantees. Seed longevity depends on the conditions under which the crop was grown and how the seeds have been stored.
Minimum Populations: Crossers require minimum populations to maintain vigor and avoid inbreeding depression. Recommended minumums number of plants: 25 cucumbers, squash, melons; 50-100 radishes, brassicas, mustards; 200 sweet corn.

Basic Definitions

Open-pollinated varieties will grow true to type when randomly mated within their own variety. Seed saved from these plants will breed true, provided the plants have been properly isolated from different varieties of the same species.

Hybrid varieties are those produced from the crossing of two different inbred lines. Seed saved from hybrid varieties will not breed true in the next generation.

Amongst open-pollinated plants, self-pollinated (selfers) usually reproduce by using their own pollen. Crossers usually reproduce through the transfer of pollen from one plant to a different plant of the same species.

Botanical nomenclature goes from the general to the specific. Plants are classified into kinds by genus, species, and variety. In Cucurbita pepo Sweet Dumpling, Cucurbita is the genus, pepo is the species and Sweet Dumpling is the variety.

Seed Storage

Keep your seed alive by storing it properly! Humidity and heat are the enemies of seed longevity. Humidity causes the quickest deterioration. Ideal moisture content for most seed is no more than 10-12% so store at low relative humidity. Optimum storage is in a sealed jar in a freezer or refrigerator. Failing that, the sum of temperature plus relative humidity where seed is kept should never exceed 100.

• Never store seed in a humid, warm or sunny spot.

• Don’t ever leave it in a greenhouse or hoophouse for even a few hours.

Most seed stored properly will last for several years. A few seeds are good for one year only, such as onions, parsnips, parsley, chives, shiso, scorzonera, Batavian endive, licorice, pennyroyal, St Johnswort, liatris, delphinium, larkspur, perennial phlox, and any seed that has been pelleted or hot-water treated. If in doubt, try germinating a sample of old seed in moist paper towels.

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Main Line (207) 426-9900

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Copyright Fedco Seeds Inc.     November 25, 2009