SAVE OUR SEEDS How to pre­serve heir­loom va­ri­eties

Sav­ing seed is one of the first steps towards cre­at­ing a self-sus­tain­ing gar­den

South African Garden and Home - - Contents - THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Sun­flow­ers can be bagged to pre­vent crosspol­li­na­tion. Beans don’t cross-pol­li­nate eas­ily. Peas grow eas­ily from seeds.


It saves money and keeps va­ri­eties alive, es­pe­cially lesser-known ones. The wider range of seed saved, the more ge­netic diversity is main­tained. This en­sures there’ll be new sources to turn to if and when plants be­come sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease.


Choose open-pol­li­nated va­ri­eties.

Seed from a hy­brid will pro­duce an un­pre­dictable mix­ture of char­ac­ter­is­tics, of­ten in­fe­rior to the par­ent.

Only keep those from the health­i­est and strong­est plants. If you want to de­velop a par­tic­u­lar trait, such as heat tol­er­ance, se­lect seed from the plant that was the last to bolt.

Sean Free­man of Liv­ingseeds (South Africa’s largest seed bank of heir­loom seeds) rec­om­mends start­ing with beans and peas. “These are a good op­tion as they don’t cross-pol­li­nate eas­ily.”


Wind- and in­sect-pol­li­nated va­ri­eties cross-pol­li­nate more read­ily than self-pol­li­nated ones. “Wind-pol­li­nated va­ri­eties like corn, beet­root and

Swiss chard are some of the more chal­leng­ing ones from which to save pure seed,” ex­plains Sean. To pre­vent cross-pol­li­na­tion, the first step is to un­der­stand how the plant is pol­li­nated and then iso­late it so it can’t crosspol­li­nate. “There are many in­ex­pen­sive iso­la­tion tech­niques,” he says.

These in­clude:

Cov­er­ing f low­ers with bags or

screen­ing off the plants and pol­li­nat­ing these by hand. For plants with male and fe­male f low­ers (such as squash), gen­tly twirl a soft paint­brush in­side a male f lower then brush it around the in­side of a fe­male f lower. Where the male and fe­male com­po­nents are con­tained in one f lower (such as chill­ies and toma­toes), gen­tly vi­brate open f low­ers, dis­tribut­ing the pollen.

Plant­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties far enough apart or tim­ing plant­ings so they don’t f lower si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Plant­ing only one va­ri­ety of each species.

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