A Gardener’s Diary: Saving Seeds begins with the right plant

There is an art to saving seeds to use next year, and not all plants are suitable

I can see the difference in the day length specially at night. I would like to see a difference in the day temperature. We had a couple of cooler nights but this didn’t last very long. In my last column when I was giving the recipe for the garlic spray, I wrote to fill 1/2 cup (500ml). It should have read 1/2 cup (250ml). Sorry about that.

I am getting a very good crop of cherry tomatoes this year. I enjoy the taste of the “Green Grapes.” I was not sure when to pick but the right time is when there is a tinge of gold and still green showing. Another one is called Red Cherry and these are the biggest cherry tomatoes I have grown. Peacevine is about the size of Sweet 100 but sweeter. Prince Borgia and Black Cherry are very nice but I still give the winning prize to the Yellow Pear, very meaty and a very good taste. I will be drying some to use as a snack. I have taken the nicest ones and harvested some seeds already for next season.

I have been using the green house for drying fruit leather and also some plums. It works very well and the plums were done in two days. I quartered them and used the trays from my dehydrator. I will be doing the tomatoes there, too, if the sun keeps on. The drawback is if the nights are too cool, I have to bring the trays in the house as the product absorbs humidity.

This is the time to harvest seeds from plants that you want to propagate in your garden next year. As summer slowly vanishes, nature is very generous in sharing its bounty. Seed saving is not simply a matter of picking a few seeds and storing them for future use. There is much involved in saving seeds properly and it begins by selecting the right plant.

The first thing to know about seed saving is that not every plant in your garden will grow well from seed. Some hybrid varieties will not produce viable seeds. Others will produce seeds that germinate, but the offspring may not resemble the parent plant in any way. It is said that these plants do not come true from seed. The term “come true” means that the seedling plant has the same characteristics as the parent plant.

If you’ve decided to collect seeds from your own garden plants, you’ll want to observe the plants throughout the growing season and select the best performers so that their genes will be passed on through the seed to the next generation. By continuing to select the best plants each year, you will eventually end up with a seed strain that is well adapted to your climate and conditions, that has the best flower or fruit or leaf colour and that is pest and disease resistant.

The term “heirloom” gets tossed around a lot these days in reference to plants, but what does it really mean? Heirlooms are generally open-pollinated varieties that were introduced more than 50 years ago but are no longer commercially available (although some seed catalogues have now begun to offer them, due to popular demand). These plant varieties were kept from extinction by people who faithfully saved the seeds and grew the plants year after year (protecting them from cross-pollination to make sure the strain remained pure.) More on this subject next time.

Often the only way to obtain seeds of heirloom varieties is through a seed exchange.

For more information, please call 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is The Morning Star’s gardening columnist, appearing every other Wednesday.