As your flowers begin to fade and you harvest your vegetables, it’s time to think about collecting seed to save for next year. Many plants are quick and easy to grow from saved seed and you’ll be able to spend the money on something else.
You get a variation of plants, with some taller / shorter / different colour / bigger flowers - this doesn’t suit every situation, but does give a bit of variety in an informal area.
You have to have time to deal with indoor seedlings as they grow; pricking them out before they become drawn and leggy.
The genetic variation mentioned above can bring a mixture of sizes and shapes that you’d rather avoid. Seed can be tricky to store properly and doesn’t always germinate as well or as quickly as you need it to.
Seeds can suffer from many different forms of dormancy, which need breaking in order for germination to begin (we’ll look at dormancy in the coming weeks).
You can save seed from peas, beans and tomatoes very easily, although the seedlings may vary considerably from the parent plant if you have grown F1 hybrids (see below).
Once you have all the seed, clean it to remove any dirt or bits of plant then put it into an envelope, labelled with the plant name and date of collection (month & year) so you know exactly how old it is. Put the envelopes into an airtight container and store it somewhere dark and frost free.
Kept like this, the seed will remain viable for some time, although this varies from one species to another and is dependent on the condition of the seed when it was stored. Healthy seed in correct conditions should be good for at least 12 months before it begins to deteriorate. After this, the percentage of seeds that germinate will begin to fall.
Saving seed from these plants will not reproduce those parents and the next generation (referred to as F2) will be completely mixed in terms of size, shape, colour or scent. This is due to cross pollination of the F1s bringing out characteristics from past generations.
We’re often asked whether F1 seed is worth the cost and the answer is yes, if you want to know you’re going to get bigger and better plants. If you aren’t worried about size, colour or an even crop, then non-F1 seed is fine.
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