Seed Saving Time: Start with Quality Garden Seed

Pepper - Paprika (4)I’m always going on and on about why it is so important to focus our seed saving efforts on making sure that seeds are saved correctly.  Specifically, that seed savers learn to avoid cross-pollination between varieties within the same species.  If done wrong, your seeds won’t come true to type.  In practice, it is a small job that takes little time.  In terms of results, it means the difference between quality seed and failure.  But there are other ways to help ensure that the seeds you save will not only germinate and come true to type, but will thrive and produce abundantly in your garden.

When we save, sow, and reap our own seed, we are unwittingly adapting them to our local environmental conditions.  This makes the resulting crops stronger, more resilient, and more productive.  And while we love to save our own seed, it’s hard to save an entire diverse garden’s worth by yourself.  That’s where buying seed from local, or at least regional, sources comes into play.  Margaret Roach talks a little about this in her detailed article in Mother Earth, entitled “How to Source Truly High-Quality Seeds”…

“The more I learn, the more I’m inclined to take my locavorism to the seed level. It’s not an original idea. “In the 12,000 or so years of agricultural history, farmers have always had, until very recently, an intimate relationship with the seeds they grow,” Navazio says. “They have been stewards of the seed and, in fact, shaped the seed — and farming practices and communities have co-evolved with the seed-crop varieties they grew.”

Even if you don’t choose to save your own seed, tracking down seed bred for your region will provide enhanced performance against local climate, pest and disease challenges. Doing so can even affect flavor, such as with tomatoes, says Tom Stearns, founder of Vermont-based High Mowing Organic Seeds, which sells a mix of hybrids, heirlooms and modern OPs. “A tomato’s final flavor is 60 percent genetics, 40 percent environment,” Stearns says. “If it was bred and selected for the environment you’re growing it in, then you can get to the pinnacle of that variety’s taste. But if it’s a Florida-produced variety, for instance, and you grow it in the Northeast, the marriage of that seed’s genetics and your environment won’t result in the realization of that crop’s ultimate potential.”

The two gentlemen quoted here are experts in the field of seed genetics and their remarks should be taken to heart.  But I particularly like Margaret’s section on Picking Your Packets: 6 Seed-Shopping Rules (pages 6 & 7), which are…

  1. Take your time.
  2. Know your breeder.
  3. Focus on your region.
  4. Consider specialty sources.
  5. Eschew harmful chemicals.
  6. Be forgiving.

I’ve only listed the rules, not what she has to say about them.  So I hope you’ll take a moment to read “How to Source Truly High-Quality Seeds”… It’s a good one for seed geeks like you and me!

Check out our page: Heirloom Seed Sources for quality, heirloom, open-pollinated, non-GMO seed!  You might also like an earlier Show Me Oz post, Saving Seeds: Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid.

Have a Happy New Year of Saving Seed!!!


The Garden Seed Saving Guide by Jill HendersonThe Garden Seed Saving Guide
Seed Saving for Everyone!

Save money, become more self-sufficient and avoid GMO’s by saving seeds!  This excellent resource for beginning and hobby seed savers takes you step-by-step through every aspect of saving your own seed in plain English.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore
Look inside!


Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.


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