by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
Seed savers know that the key to obtaining pure seed is by controlling the pollination process. Each species is made up of many varieties. If two – or more! – of those varieties get too close to one another during flowering their seeds will not come true. Of course, not all gardeners have the room to grow multiple varieties spaced far apart. Sometimes, we just don’t know that we’d like to save a certain variety of seed in early spring and so we don’t pay any attention to the spacing requirements for purity. If this sounds like you; have no fear! Blossom bags are here to save the day!
Lucky for those of us who can’t or forgot to space varieties far enough apart to ensure seed purity, blossom bags are cheap or free and come in several sizes to fit everything from tall flowering crops like brassicas, lettuce and turnips to tiny ones that are just right for crops with perfect self-pollinating flowers – like peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.
Plants with perfect flowers are much easier to save seed from than those with imperfect flowers. This is primarily because these flowers don’t require pollen from another flower to complete reproduction. This is why many gardeners choose to save seed from plants with perfect flowers. It’s also why they usually get away with inadequate isolation distances. I’m definitely guilty of this.
Perfect flowers (also known as complete flowers) have both male and female reproductive organs within the same flower and most are self-fruitful and do not need another flower to complete pollination. Plants with perfect flowers include all members of the Legume and Nightshade families, such as tomatoes, eggplants, beans and peas.
Yet, while perfect flowers generally self-pollinate before they ever open, that does not necessarily guarantee that they won’t be cross-pollinated by insects just as they are opening at the crack of dawn! This is particularly true for very old varieties of heirloom tomatoes and all varieties of eggplant and pepper, which cross much more readily than you might have ever imagined.
The good news is it’s not too late in the season to save seed! Blossom bags are cheap and easy to find or make and they can be put to use in your garden any time during the season – including fall. And you don’t have to spend a fortune buying specialty blossom bags, either. You can either make them out of any lightweight fabric – white curtain sheers are perfect – and a bit of string or take a quick jog over to dollar shop and ask for small, sheer organza gift bags with a ribbon draw string. These bags can be washed and reused multiple times.
Once you’ve got the bag ready, simply cover one or several unopened blossoms before they open and pull the string tight. Voila! Instant isolation!
If you are faced with a cluster of buds that seem ready to open, but one has already opened – simply pinch off the open ones and cover the rest with the bag. And if big leaves around the flower buds overwhelm the bag, pinch them off, too.
Now all you have to do is wait until you see the baby fruit beginning to form on all of the buds inside the bag. Once that happens, you can remove the bag and mark your perfectly pollinated fruits with ribbon or yarn tied around the stems so that you know which fruits to save seed from.
For more information on how to use blossom bag, here’s a quick tutorial from Seed Savers Exchange: How to Use Blossom Bags
As always, we love to hear your seed stories! Feel free to leave a comment and share your seed saving strategies!
Until next time, happy seed saving!
© 2015 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
The 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.
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.