SAVE OUR SEEDS How to preserve heirloom varieties
Saving seed is one of the first steps towards creating a self-sustaining garden
WHY SAVE 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.
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.