Growing your own garden seed year after year is sustainable, self reliant, satisfying and a big money saver. I was previously spending well over $50 per year just on garden seeds alone, but I am proud to say that I have not purchased seeds for over 10 years now. It took research and years of trial and error to learn how to grow my own garden seeds.
Some seeds are easy to grow, like beans for instance. If you grow beans, you already have next years seed – just let the beans dry on the plant. It’s the same story with corn: Once you have grown corn, all you need to do is to let the ears dry on the plant to get seed for next year. Do not remove the ears until they are dry because the corn kernels are not yet fully formed. Premature removal of any garden seed will cause the seeds to be well, premature. It’s little details like this that one needs to know in order to grow good seed.
Another detail is that you should not use plants that were grown from hybrid seeds. Hybrid plants are a cross between two different varieties. Seed companies cross plants and make them hybrid, so that the offspring will have traits from both parents. Let’s say that on parent is a great producer, and the other parent plant is disease resistant. The hybrid offspring will be a disease resistant, great producer. But that only works for one generation of plants. If you use hybrid plants to make seed, the offspring will have a 50/50 chance of having any combination of traits from the original parents. I have tried this and it does not produce a good crop – at all.
In order to grow your own seed, it’s best to start with heirloom or open pollinated seeds. Heirloom seeds have been reproducing the natural way for hundreds of years and are sustainable for growing your own seed. If you are interested in trying Heirloom seed, just click the highlighted plants in this article to find out more about them on Amazon or you can check out my bonus information page about Heirloom Seeds.
The next rule I use for growing my own seed is that I always try to use no less than twelve plants to grow any one kind of seed. If you use just one or two plants to pollinate each other for seed, the gene pool will not be diverse enough to sustain good quality offspring. In other words, your seeds will become inbred. I have done this and it seems ok at first, but as the years go by, the plants get smaller and weaker until finally they just fail. So always use as many specimens as you can. If you don’t have twelve, just try for more next year and make twelve plants your goal to stay on track as far as genetic health is concerned.
Something else to look out for is cross pollination. Any two plants that are related will cross pollinate, giving you a hybrid seed. Lets take red onions and white onions for example. If a red onion flowers next to a white onion, the offspring will be red, white, pink and will also have some weird results that make me question mother nature. I know because I have tried it. Also, it’s not always as simple as that. Some plants are related that you might not ever suspect. Here is a quick list of a few related plants:
- spinach and beets
- any kind of squash or pumpkin
- cucumber and watermelon
- cabbage, kale, turnip, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collard greens, arugula, kohlrabi, napa cabbage, savoy cabbage, rutabaga, and radish are all related to each other
Any one set of the above groups of plants will cross pollinate with each other. On the other hand, you also have plants that are self pollinating. Even though these plants might be related to their neighbors, it won’t matter. Self pollinating plants do not rely on insects or wind and will not cross pollinate unless you force them to cross by hand. Plants like tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas will not cross and it’s ok to grow different varieties in the same space.
Some plants such as corn will produce seeds in the same season, while others take two or three years to produce seeds. Below is a list of links to my quick and easy YouTube tutorial videos on how to grow your own seeds for several different plants. I invite you to check these out if you are curious and would like to learn more about growing your own seeds. Enjoy!
How to Grow Carrot Seeds – Part 1
How to Grow Carrot Seeds – Part 2
How to Grow Beet Seeds – Part 1
How to Grow Beet Seeds – Part 2
How to Grow Cabbage Seeds – Part 1
How to Grow Cabbage Seeds – Part 2
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