Thomas J. Koske | 12/2/2005 2:03:57 AM
Gardeners often want to save seeds from their favorite vegetable crops. Despite popular belief, it is not especially cheaper in the long run than buying fresh, clean seeds every year, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
"So much can go wrong," Koske warns, adding, "The only reason to save seeds is to maintain an old variety or family heirloom selection of an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) variety."
Most of the varieties used today are hybrids, Koske explains, and hybrids won’t grow true to phenotype (breed). Therefore, the generation coming from a hybrid’s seeds will have an assortment of throwback traits and, perhaps, many unwanted characteristics.
Seeds saved from the garden also may have insects, diseases, contain a virus or may be weak, and thus poor in germination. Some vegetable diseases are spread mainly by infested seeds.
"Buying fresh seeds every year or two is really a good idea," Koske says, noting, "Commercial seeds usually are vigorous, true to type, clean and are often protected by seed fungicide treatments."
Most vegetable seeds can be stored several years if kept cool and dry, but it is best to buy onion, parsley, spinach, corn and okra seeds annually.
If you must save non-hybrid seeds, Koske says to consider several points.
§ If the plant is not self-pollinated with a complete or perfect flower, be sure of the hand crosses made for proper pollination.
§ Most vegetable seeds are harvested after the fruit is overripe. Some are harvested dry. In any case, extracted seeds must be air dried well (for at least a week) and stored dry in the refrigerator.
§ Avoid selecting plants or fruits with insect damage and any that even hint of irregular growth patterns.
§ Record what you have and date it.
Gardeners may exchange special seeds as a fun project across a parish or the state, Koske says. He advises checking with your parish LSU AgCenter extension agent or Louisiana Master Gardeners to see if other gardeners are also interested.
Those interested in exchanges of heirloom seeds may wish to contact the Seed Savers Exchange. It offers advice and publications at www.seedsavers.org.
Another good seed resource is the Louisiana Market Bulletin produced by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. For a subscription, send $10 to Louisiana Market Bulletin, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, P.O. Box 91081, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-9081 or call 225-922-1284. A subscription form is also available at www.LDAF.state.la.us by selecting ‘News.’
More gardening information also is available at your local LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for lawn and gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.
Source: Tom Koske (225) 578-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org