There are several things to consider when planning a seed garden:
- Know what kind of seed you have. Generally it is recommended that gardeners who want to save seed use open pollinated seed. Open pollinated seed will come true to the variety whereas seed saved from a hybrid will most likely not resemble the original plant(s).
- Be familiar with your plant’s scientific name, especially the genus and species. This will help you know who your plant is related to and whether it will cross with something else in your garden. The result of some crosses are desirable, but some are undesirable. Plants with the same genus and species will cross!
- Consider how your plants get pollinated -in other words, how the pollen moves in order to fertilize the plant’s ovaries. If it is self pollinated, the pollen tends to stay on the same plant. If it is cross pollinated, it means the pollen moves from one plant to another with the help of insects or wind.
- Plants that are being saved for seed tend to grow larger and stay in the garden longer than plants we harvest for eating. Make sure to allow enough space for your plants so they can fully develop.
- Have conversations with your neighbors about what they are growing so you can avoid unwanted crosses.
- Watch your plants as they grow and select seed from as many healthy plants as possible.
Information adapted from Seed Savers Exchange, 2010.
What’s new for 2016?
A number of plant breeders, farmers and seed companies have joined together to start the Open Source Seed Initiative. Over the last 25 or so years, the seed industry has consolidated tremendously leaving a small number of large multinational corporation in control of the majority of the world’s commercial seeds. These companies use a number of techniques to “protect” their investments. One is to hybridize seed creating a new variety from two dissimilar parents. If that plant is allowed to set seed at the end of its cycle, that seed won’t come true the next time it is planted. In other words it will most likely revert back to one of its parents, rather than produce a replica of the planted variety. The result is that growers need to return to the seed company and purchase the seed again. More recently seed companies have begun to patent their seed. This also prevents growers from saving or sharing seed to replant the following season.
According to the Open Source Seed Initiative website “patented seeds cannot be saved, replanted, or shared by farmers and gardeners. And because there is no research exemption for patented material, plant breeders at universities and small seed companies cannot use patented seed to create the new crop varieties that should be the foundation of a just and sustainable agriculture. Inspired by the free and open source software movement that has provided alternatives to proprietary software, OSSI was created to free the seed – to make sure that the genes in at least some seed can never be locked away from use by intellectual property rights.” A number of seed breeders have joined OSSI and contributed varieties that can not be restricted in the future. Check here for a list of seed companies who have OSSI listed varieties.
Look for the image below when shopping for seed: