Gardening and Saving Seeds

Why save seeds?

For me the first reason that comes to mind, almost immediately, is that it's a fun, interesting thing to do. But it's always interested me to learn how things are done and develop an understanding of how things work. Especially to learn anew skills that our ancestors knew as second nature and are now all but forgotten by many.

Today the direction taken by growers and producers of seed is toward F1 hybrids which often are more vibrant and vigorous plants. This is good news for the grower as their crop will be more uniform, and for the seed companies too as new varieties become proprietary (meaning sowing seeds from hybrids result in mostly different progeny) thereby necessitating the yearly purchase of seed by farmers and gardeners.

Much of what is available to us today has great eye appeal, but, at what hidden cost? The meaning of the old adage "You can't tell a book by it's cover" is all too clear when one becomes aware that the fruit that appears so lovely may be lacking in flavor or texture or taste. I suppose what most bothers me though is that I've been removed from the decision-making equation. What I want may have become a secondary consideration to what is profitable for those who do the growing. If you're like me then saving seed from your own preferred plants whether flower, vegetable or fruit, is the perfect answer.

Having stated the foregoing what remains, for those of you so inclined, is how to get started. Well, I've found it's a much easier process than you might think.

The information that follows will explain, in a general way, how the mechanics of seeds work. And although not knowing how seeds work won't be an obstacle in your getting plants to grow, having an understanding of the basics certainly won't hurt.

Understanding Seeds

Seeds are alive.

Seeds are living plants that are resting in an embryonic state. Within the seed is a bud, stem, root and food, everything necessary to start a plant growing, and, until the seed is supplied with the correct environmental conditions for vigorous metabolism to begin, it will remain in a dormant state.

Most seeds have within them a similar design: 2 primary leaves (cotyledons), a root tip and a stem and sometimes an endosperm enclosed in a protective covering. Most vegetable plants have 2 cotyledons and are Dicots (fig.1). Grasses, some other grains and onions have a single leaf (cotyledon) and are Monocots (fig.2).

To begin germination a seed requires the correct temperature, adequate moisture, oxygen and often a certain period of dormancy to coincide with it's internal time clock. Also, many seeds need a prolonged cold period in order to break down a natural inhibitor within the seed which prevents germination.

Understandably nothing is forever and although individual seeds may remain viable for a period of years, in a state of dormancy, they can't remain so forever. The reason for the limit on dormancy is that the seed is a living entity and although it's needs are minimal it does stay alive by nature of the food available to it, and when that food supply is exhausted the seed will die.


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