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Why don't more people save seeds?

 
pollinator
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Why don’t more people save seeds?  It’s generally easy, it’s often free, it saves lots of money in future years.  So why don’t people do it?  As a person that just started saving seeds a few years ago, I thought it would be interesting to explore peoples’ reasons for not saving seeds.  I outlined some of mine below.

1) I found myself somewhat intimidated by the process.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s part of the mentality that only “experts” can do something correctly.
2) I simply didn’t know how.
3) I told myself “Seeds are cheap, so why bother?”  The thing is, seeds really aren’t cheap.  2 or 3 dollars a pack at 20 or so kinds of vegetables adds up.  Every year I would find something new to try, so every year, I would buy more seeds.  Don’t get me wrong, I still buy seeds.  I just don’t buy nearly as many, and not of the things I grow every year.

I’m sure there are lots of people in the same boat I was, that don’t save seeds for whatever reason, so I thought I would put this out there.  I made chili a couple nights ago.  I used red and orange bell peppers, jalapenos, and a poblano pepper.  I didn’t make any effort at all to save all the seeds from them.  When I cut the peppers, I cut around the main stem and most of the seeds cling to that.  I just rubbed them off onto a paper towel.  It literally took less than a minute.  I didn’t separate the seeds but if I wanted to, it would have added a couple paper towels and another minute or so.  See the results.  I can’t believe I will need to plant more of those types of peppers next spring than I have seeds for.  It was free, took seconds of my time, and gave me seeds from things I know I will use.  I consider it a big win.
pepper-seeds.jpeg
[Thumbnail for pepper-seeds.jpeg]
 
pollinator
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Part of my reasons are commercial, people here will only buy "normal" vegetables anything looking different as self saved hybrids often do will not sell.

Reasons, why I don't save seed
1 I grow several types of most plants and do not have space to separate them. for example broccoli, to keep a continual supply I have three types with different DTM  however if they do get to flower the flowering periods overlap. neither do I want random squash hybrids.
2 I need to know exactly what will appear, so anything that may cross, say my sweetcorn with the fodder maize in the next field.. is a non starter.
3 I don't have the time or cleared space to keep bi-annuals for seed, holding back carrots or parsnips will totally mess with the rotation.
4 Disease, not technically a seed, but potatoes I NEVER plant back my own potatoes we've tried it and yields drop by nearly half. We have a list of potato diseases as long as my arm, and seed potatoes are no where near expensive enough to warrant the risk  (we do plant back jeruselam artichokes, dahlias, yacon)


Reasons why I do.
1 Plants I cannot get hold of, I have some tomatoes from the US that I save seeds from every year as they do very well for me and are not avaliable here.
2 plants where it's simply to easy like runner beans/broad beans I'm harvesting dried beans anyway, not keeping some for seed would be silly.
3 random plants pinched from other peoples gardens.. this one is self explanatory asking for seeds is received  much better than asking for a plant.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Part of my reasons are commercial, people here will only buy "normal" vegetables anything looking different as self saved hybrids often do will not sell.



^^This.^^

Many times, I'll invest a lot of time and effort to plant seeds, nurture them, transplant them from the pots they were started in, water them, feed them . . . only to realize that they aren't even close to what the parent plant was.  I'll spend all that energy on a tomato or zuchinni that is really substandard.  For a buck, I can be assured that the squash will be true to type and not the frankensquash that cross-pollinated with who knows what in the garden.

For other things like cabbage, it's just not worth it to nurture the plant for 6 months or more in the hopes of getting cabbage seeds.  Again, for a dollar, I have all the fresh seed I'll need for 50 cabbages.

We've learned a lot about plant breeding in the past 1000 years (give or take).  There are a lot of great seed companies that go to great lengths to assure the purity of their seeds by planting them in remote locations 5 miles from the next nearest farmers to assure that there will not be random pollen floating by.  I have no problem rewarding that effort and their expertise.

But for many other veggies, I save seed and use it regularly.  Sweet potatoes?  I planted one store-bought potato 15 years ago and haven't replanted since.  They grow like weeds on my hillside.  Beets?  I love what we get from seed every year -- I'll never need to buy beet seeds again for as long as I live.
 
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I love saving seeds. To me it's a way to have a little control over the things I grow.

I didn't save my own seed for a long time for all the reasons you mentioned Trace. I think most people don't for those same reasons, and they haven't seen the advantages of saving their own seed!

Yeah there can be weird crosses, but for me that tends to not happen very often with most varieties, and the chances of it happening are greatly reduced if the plants are grown a little ways apart from one another.

I actually like to see crosses most of the time, and the plants seems to be a lot more vigorous with a little mixing of the genes, instead of being inbred like a lot of vegetable varieties are.

By saving my own seed, I know that the plants are going to be generally more healthy, and adapted to be more vigorous and disease and pest resistant for my area, instead of being grown somewhere else across the country with a totally different climate, disease issues, and pests than in my area.

Also, I can expect the plants from seeds I save to be tougher and more drought resistant, having grown naturally outdoors with little care. If I buy seeds from somewhere else, they could have been grown in a greenhouse and may be dependent on regular watering.


Most of the time if I don't save seeds, its's usually due to not finding them in time, like seeds that may have already dropped or finding a mushy cucumber.

I'm trying to minimize this from happening as much as I can, and have started carrying a bucket to collect seeds as I walk regularly though my food forest and garden.

If it's a plant that I've marked and really want to be sure I get the seeds from, I'll even set a reminder on my phone to help me remember to go back and collect it.


To me the advantages of saving seeds greatly outweigh the disadvantages occational inconvenience and slightly more work from saving seeds.
 
Steve Thorn
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I have been recently harvesting some summer squash seeds, and both fruit looked very similar on the outside, but their seeds looked pretty different.

The ones on the left were darker and smaller, and the ones on the right were lighter and longer.

To me saving seeds is an adventure, as you never know what you'll find!
Summer-squash-seeds-that-look-different.jpg
Summer squash seeds that look different
Summer squash seeds that look different
 
Marco Banks
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Seeds that are easy to save and usually true to type:

Carrots
Beets
Peppers (of almost any variety as long as the parent plant wasn't a hybrid)
Leaf lettuce
potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
Any kind of grain (with the exception of hybrid corn)

Seeds that are best re-purchased every year from a reputable dealer:

Any kind of squash/pumpkin
Any kind of brassica with the exception of collards
Tomatoes (this might be debatable, but in my experience, starting fresh every year assures the top quality fruit)
Sweet corn (because it's usually hybrid)


Yeah?  Additions?  Subtractions?

 
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Looks like youre getting a lot of good replies! I like this topic, ill just add my 2c

I prefer heritage varieties, typically, but I have such a large garden and i like to mix it up so i have planted a variety of hybrids throughout the years. I don't harvest the hybrid seeds due to the fact that the produce will generally display a myriad of different characteristics from the parent plants. Im not totally against this, I dont sell my produce and it doesnt ultimately matter what it looks like. But the production from these plants may also suffer, etc. Its like a fun science experiment, and one day id like more space in my garden to science around with hybrid seed replanting and see what kinds of plants occur and see if i can try to selectively breed them.
But im not big into that currently, so thats why i dont save hybrid seeds.

I do selectively take seeds from my best heirloom produce, the ones that i want to perpetuate and get certain characteristics from, which also isnt a guarantee, but thats ok! All part of the fun.

Id say that the people i know who dont save seeds would probably say something to the effect of that it takes "too much time" and requires additional effort on their part, so they dont do it.
I guess its just generally easier to pick up seeds on a routine visit to the local Ag shop, or home depot/lowes than it is to take the seeds from desirable produce
 
pollinator
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For years when I first started out I always bought my seeds. Perusing seed catalogs, picking varieties, getting a box of seeds in the mail were all amazingly pleasurable. Yes I admit it---ordering seeds was actually enjoyable. Getting the box in the mail was like getting a fun birthday present.  But as my homestead food production and self sufficiency project expanded, plus I added up the cost of buying seeds, I felt that I needed to saving my own seeds. This was my base reason to start seed saving. Plus--- Living in Hawaii, shipping bulky seed items can double its cost. Double! So my first attempts were with potatoes. Next beans. Then peas. Thankfully these are easy seed items to save. Success gave me the boost I needed to expand to other veggies. So I started with some easy ones and then built on my success.

I now save many varieties of veggies (all open pollinated). Some are easy, some are more complicated. I find it a fun challenge to learn how to save the more complicated ones. Following Joseph Lofthouse's story has given me the inspiration to try saving seeds without narrowing my focus on seed purity. So I have and save landrace pumpkins and gourd seeds.

I haven't expanded to biennials yet. Nor have I tried to figure out how to force certain things to bloom, such as chard, beets, and kale. They simply never flower here on my farm.  I have some collards that I've been maintaining for over 10 years and it's never flowered. So there are still challenges for me to explore, things to learn.

I'm at the point where I'd like to toy doing some of my own hybridization. I specifically would like to recreate a type of cauliflower called Violet Queen, that is no longer available.  I don't expect to actually recreate it exactly, but I'd like to get a purple headed upright plant that tastes good and grows well, just like Violet Queen did.
 
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One reason I keep hearing is what I call "the myth of the sterile hybrid". An astonishing number of gardeners believe that:

A. Every single hybrid is automatically sterile. Like mules.
and
B. Every single garden plant is a hybrid.

I get lectured a lot on how pointless it is to try and save seeds, because according to these people, the seeds can't possibly grow. I'm a plant breeder, and I actually stayed awake during biology class, so some of these conversations get incredibly frustrating! Yes, there are some hybrids that won't reproduce. But those are the exceptions, NOT the rule!!!

I'm going to stop myself before I turn this into a rant.
 
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I am all for saving seeds, but to be really honest, I often don't because:
-small scale farming, I may have only a dozen plants and the one I set aside for seed, the bugs/birds/cutworms get
-massive weevil/pest pressure on seed, it all has to live in my freezer along with  my flour, my imported spices, etc
-I forget (d'oh)

I tried harder this past year to save seeds when I went to other people's gardens, and to save things I really like.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Steve Thorn wrote:I have been recently harvesting some summer squash seeds, and both fruit looked very similar on the outside, but their seeds looked pretty different.

The ones on the left were darker and smaller, and the ones on the right were lighter and longer.

To me saving seeds is an adventure, as you never know what you'll find!



Was one a C. moschata and the other a C. pepo, by chance?
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Marco Banks wrote:Seeds that are easy to save and usually true to type:

Carrots
Beets
Peppers (of almost any variety as long as the parent plant wasn't a hybrid)
Leaf lettuce
potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
Any kind of grain (with the exception of hybrid corn)

Seeds that are best re-purchased every year from a reputable dealer:

Any kind of squash/pumpkin
Any kind of brassica with the exception of collards
Tomatoes (this might be debatable, but in my experience, starting fresh every year assures the top quality fruit)
Sweet corn (because it's usually hybrid)


Yeah?  Additions?  Subtractions?




Beans and peas are pretty reliable. They generally take so much work to cross, that you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who sells F1 hybrids of them. Hybrids are pretty much reserved for developing new varieties.

Alliums (onions, garlic, etc) are hard to save seeds from. garlic has the advantage of propagating by clove instead of seed, so that lets you bypass the issue. Multiplier onions or potato onions are also a good way around it.

With squash, if you buy heirloom varieties, and make sure to only grow one of each species (there are 4 main species of squash), then you're pretty safe saving seeds from them.

With grains, they actually cross pretty freely, and there are lots of hybrids. In order to make sure they're true to type, you'd have to start with heirloom or open-pollinated varieties, and make sure there aren't any others within the isolation distance. And since most grains are wind pollinated, the isolation distance can be measured in miles.

Carrots will cross freely, both with other cultivars and with wild carrots. Peppers, beets, and lettuces will cross freely with each other, so if you're only growing one variety you're fine. Otherwise check isolation distances.

Tomatoes, if you start with an heirloom or open pollinated variety, are pretty good at not crossing most of the time. But check their flowers. The majority have these closed flowers that look open, but the anthers and stamens are actually sealed up, with maybe a tiny hole big enough for a gnat to get through. Tomatoes with that kind of flower are natural inbreeders. They prefer to pollinate themselves, and they don't experience inbreeding depression like corn will. But, once in a while you'll encounter a variety that's an outbreeder. The flowers will be truly open, allowing any bug or strong breeze to pollinate them. Those you have to be more careful saving seeds from.

With potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams, I'll only say that there's a difference between "seed potatoes" and "potato seeds". Seed potatoes are clones of the original, where potato seeds are not.

Personally, I think hybrids are a great starting point for developing my own cultivars. But I know that not everybody enjoys that kind of gambling.
 
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The ones I primarily grow are not well adapted to saving seed.  Potatoes propagate better and easier from the potato.  Tomatoes and squash both cross breed badly and I grow several varieties so I want fresh seed.  
 
pollinator
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Can be tedious.
I don't want to let things mature to seed saving stage. I want to eat it all!
The process of growing things from seed, particularly trees as my family is all in on doing right now, is super laborious.

Just a few thoughts on my end.
 
Steve Thorn
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:Was one a C. moschata and the other a C. pepo, by chance?



They were all C Pepo actually.
 
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I mostly save my own seeds. I like to control the full growing cycle and the care for seeds is part of this. I also learn more because I save my own seeds. Like I wouldn't have known some vegetables to be perennials if I hadn't waited for them to produce seed and then to see them coming up with fresh sprouts as well. Oh, so you have another way of procreating than purely through seed?
And I'm curious enough to want to know how a kale flowers, how an endive flowers, a parsnip, etc. and to see this in my garden. Also to see insects foraging on these flowers - it's how things should be.

The usual way of doing things in my region is to not bother with seed at all, but to buy vegetables as young plants; that way you get a head start and skip a difficult phase. It's what commercial businesses do as well; buying plants as young stock from more southerly regions, thereby having produce to sell a month earlier compared to growing from seed. It wasn't always like that, but in our globalised world with its abundant, public funded infrastructure, production has concentrated in ever fewer places with a real specialist advantage, after which it's getting transported around on ever busier and longer transport links to places which often could have produced it themselves, but lack the same degree of specialisation or sometimes just subsidy. I don't want to be part of this globalised culture. I'm not fond of the perpetual roar of traffic, the amount of tarmac we have and the white lines in the sky from aeroplanes. I don't like the knowledge drain among us as people who know all about apps to get things done but don't know anything themselves anymore. So I'll do things myself if I can, accepting that I'll fail once or twice in the beginning, that's just a necessary part of learning.
I'll still step on my pushbike every now and then and drive for a few hours to get some seeds I want, but then I appreciate it if I can speak to the people where I get the seeds from. If it's too far to cycle I will mostly not bother.
What I'm also seeing is people trying to grow things which aren't very suited to their region. Buying at foreign web shops has become common, but domestic retailers also offer crops or varieties which can only grow with very special care because our normal climate wouldn't suit them. And what I see is people buying different seed every year, which is like beginning from scratch every year; those people develop less as growers. They might still produce alright, don't get me wrong, but there's more up to chance and somewhat less to skill.

It's hit and miss with bought seed, partly dependent on the retailer. Most quality seed goes to bulk buyers, as they are the best costumers. I'm not a good costumer, because I only buy the occasional small package. Often this'll mean second rate seed. It might be old, it might be from a worse batch, it might be of uncertain origin. Seed packages don't usually come with a date on it, so there's no saying how fresh or old it is - of course I'm speaking about how it is in my country, it'll not be the same everywhere. Sometimes there's a sell by date on it here, but that's usually some arbitrary date not connected to how long the seed will actually keep. If parsnip seed is sold in just paper, I know it will not last 4 years, no matter if there's a date printed on it 4 years in the future. Some vegetables are safer to buy seed from than others. Popular seeds are your best bet; they get the most attention and a better turnover means a better chance of fresh.                

Winter squash is very problematic to buy seed from, as there might be anything in the package. I know someone who got 6 or 7 different varieties last season, and only one of those actually returned the squash that was printed on the package. My own experiences are a little better in that respect, but I've been getting my fair share of ornamental squashes from packages that should have contained edible squashes. Erratic germination is a problem as well. There's often only 5, 7 or 10 seeds in a package, which doesn't allow much room for failure. If some fail to germinate, I need to be really careful that no slugs or surprise frosts get to the seedlings, and also that the plants catch on well and get to produce some female flowers before the season is over, which already is a race in a short, northern season anyway. Of the 2 winter squashes I grew from a package this season, the yield is only one single fruit, that due to cold stayed very small as well. I had a decent yield total, but that's due to self saved seed. I've barely got a choice with winter squash. Summer squash on the other hand works fine from a package. That type grows faster and I'm always left with something to harvest. With the winter squash from my own seed I have to be tolerant of some hybrid randomness, I would rather have it less random, and have also started to pollinate by hand, but I still have to see how that works out; I know of the possible downsides.

Sometimes growing 2 varieties that can cross isn't a problem for keeping them separate, as sometimes the cross can be spotted. If I'm growing a large broad bean next to a small broad bean, and in the pods of the large broad bean I'm finding beans which are small for the variety, I know a cross happened. Same if I'm finding large beans in the small bean variety. I can tell you from experience that broad beans cross quite frequently, different from common beans, where it should be very rare - I can't say I've seen a cross there myself.

But so yeah, curiosity, wanting to know how it all works and interest in the full cycle is probably my main drive behind saving seeds.
 
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I have been gardening my whole life but only got into seed saving around 5 years ago and only with some simple vegetables like beans and peas. But I did let plants volunteer and I loved that.

The biggest reason I did not save seeds was that it was so simple to buy seeds from a store and it was fun looking up all the varieties and trying out new ones and getting old favorites again.

There are a lot of things each of us could do and even the simple tasks take time and energy. Sometimes I pick the route that costs a little money but saves a lot of time because I have decided to do other things that at that moment are more important to me or will have a bigger impact.

That all being said each year I'm expanding the number of seeds that I save and I try to expand to a new vegetable each year too. The benefits in terms of productivity from developing my own locally adapted strains is too good for me to pass up. But I'm still just doing this on a relatively small scale.

An alternative to saving seeds for me has been to focus on volunteer vegetables and to focus a lot on growing perennial vegetables. To me this has provided a lot of benefit without needing to invest a lot of time/energy. But I'm still saving seeds and I would love to be growing the majority of my vegetables from seeds that I saved the previous year.
 
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I think people don't save seeds because they eat all plants they get and being afraid of cross over horror stories. Joseph Lofthouse breeding program changed my view on saving seeds. So what if squash has five different types, they're all edible..  I was surprised too, expecting huge orange pumpkins, but when i discovered some of them keep longer than others, it turned out to be a good thing that happened because i had squash for month without any effort! People don't seem to be able to be that flexible, if something happens that they didn't expect it must therefore be a bad thing. But it's not, it's even kind of a good thing if it ends up on/in the compost pile, worst that can happen!

I save lots of different seeds 50 or more, flowers and veggies, trees and shrubs. Big reason is i'm on poor granite little clay acid soil. Most nurseries are based in super rich soils neutral to alkaline with lots of clay, completely the opposite of what i need. The seed companies chose these spots deliberately to get the most out of their seed company. The result was if i bought their seeds that are for sale everywhere they didn't do well for me in my poor soil. The garden centers absolutely love this situation because i will never ever save my own seeds and return every year to buy new seeds. Buying fertilizers and other things with my last money, because i am so sad and clueless about my miserable garden, while their chemical poison make my soils ever poorer. It's an insanely effective business model.

I am improving my soils as well, but that is an ongoing process, and probably my soils will never be of the top quality the nurseries have bought into, that took thousands of years to form. So it's the best strategy to save the seeds that do do well, don't eat everything! And plant loads the next year, so that i won't eat it all and have plants make seed. What a joy to see insects gorge themselves! By exchanging locally with friends and from exchange fares i managed to get a lot of plants, seeds and tubers that do well and gave a lot of seeds away to others that will do well on my poor soil. If those people really try to grow my seeds there is no reason they will not succeed, if they do do well that encourages other people to grow more different kind of plants, because the success makes them feel empowered. Which will lead to them buying and trying more, which if successful will come back to me someday. That's my tactic and it works. By giving i get.

I want to be able to propagate from seed and get annoyed if i have something growing that doesn't reproduce viable seeds. For instance I have good lavender which doesn't produce viable seeds, so i went online and bought seeds, those seeds are growing now and hopefully will produce viable seeds next year. Hyssop i found a selection for that produces viable seeds this year, it's babies are growing, no idea yet what to do with it, but pollinators love it!
Just because it's so easy to start a hundred plants from seed without spending much money, just time and energy! I don't like sun chokes/jerusalem artichoke and comfrey that go to seed. It would be horrendous to have that prolifically seeding!!!  
And of course it's a big chaotic mess having all these seeds, and i forget to plant them sometimes on the right exact time, but nature is so forgiving as well. So topic to my heart. Thanks for starting it and sharing thoughts everybody.
 
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One excuse is I don't know how to store them. My answer is supplement bottles.  They often have a desicant pack in them to keep the seeds dry. they keep weavels from getting in or out.  Peal the label off and write on the bottle with a marker.
 
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I save a decent amount of my own seed, but when I don't it's usually for one of three reasons:

It's a biennial and it didn't overwinter like I'd hoped (alliums and brassicas) or

I wasn't able to get a fruit to sufficient maturity (melons, peppers, okra, luffa)/ get one there without without sacrificing productivity of the plant(s) (summer squash, cucumbers) or

I've tried saving seed from a given type of plant in the past and had poor germination (usually flowers) or unfavorable results that were likely to be repeated (mostly unwanted crosses, carrots x Queen Anne's Lace and some C. pepo travesties), so just gave up.  

And there are always bad years for any given plant.  This year I got hardly any bush beans or peas, not even enough for fresh eating; only one lettuce plant bothered to bolt before keeling over.  If I had to rely only on my own seed stock, I would starve.  
 
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This may be helpful. James Prigioni made a recent video about fermenting and saving seeds.
 
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I save some of my own seeds, mostly flowers, but some vegetables as well.  I am a market farmer and sp I have to be a little more careful about the seeds that I use.  Like someone else mentioned, most people just want to buy things that they are familiar with.  
 
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Like many of you, I save seeds and buy new ones to try out. I've been gardening for more decades than I'd like to admit and I've come to the realization that if the process of seed saving is too complicated and time-consuming, I probably won't do it unless it's something really exotic and/or rare. Does that make me lazy or efficient with my time? Probably lazy.

Contrary to conventional wisdom about tomato seed saving, I scoop up the gelatinous seed mass from the inside of the tomatoes that come from my best plants and spread it out on a double layer of paper towels, trying (not too hard though) to keep some space between the seeds. I eat the now-seedless tomatoes, then I write on the paper towel with a sharpie, noting the type of tomato and year, and let it slowly dry at room conditions. When it comes time to plant the following year, I tear off a small piece of paper towel with a few seeds stuck to it and plant this in my seedling tray. I get extremely good germination with this method so there must be some fermentation happening on the paper towel before it dries completely, which takes a day or so. I also have handy stacks of folded paper towels with various seeds and years so I can go back and grab some from previous years if I don't get enough of a crop to save (usually from weather). I get good yield for many years when stored on the paper towels in a box. I have used this method with cucumbers also. Having stacks of paper towels is easier for me than lots of little packets for each year (although I have that for some other seeds).

Just like any new endeavor, I learn what I can about the process, then start experimenting with my own methods. If I were selling seed, I would approach this much more carefully and keep better records, but for my own garden, this works for me. I have kept seeds from some Ropreco paste tomatoes I started decades ago and this year they produced heavily at our new property, planted one month late, much colder nights, and in pots. I'm amazed we got anything under those conditions. At our old place in Denver, they were the only ones to produce after a string of 105F days killed all of the other (35+) tomato plants. Also, I now have a great Black Krim cross that's golf-ball sized, doesn't cat-face, and produces lots of yummy tomatoes. I'm still growing out these seeds each year until I don't get any of the bigger, cat-facing ones. I really enjoy seeing what nature can do.

Throughout the years I've talked to many people that ask about seed saving like it's some mysterious process. The most surprising one was a co-worker with a PhD in engineering that didn't realize that you could save tomato seed from a store bought tomato or pepper and get plants the following year. This isn't a matter of intelligence by any means. More of a disconnect with humans and nature. She started experimenting with saving some seeds for her own garden a few years later. For most people I suggest some reading or internet searches to get familiar with their favorite plant, then just start in with saving some seeds and finding out what works. That helps take some of the fear about "doing it wrong" out of the process.
 
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People do not save seeds, organic or natural garden for the same reason, they do not believe it is needed or useful  to do so.
I like the video, but he over stated how bad other people mess up, when saving seeds, I have tomatoes coming up every year from rotten tomatoes that fail from the vine the summer before.
I have had lots of seed in one 2 inch circle, with no help from me at all, so saving seed is so easy & he make it sound hard, it is time consuming, but not hard.
 
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In my very biased opinion, people don't save seed out of :
- lack of time
- ignorance
- lack of curiosity

Worst constraint is lack of time. It takes time to save seeds properly. It is nowhere near a profitable activity, given the ease with which one can buy from a variety of industrially produced seeds from any gardening store. I do save seeds from 100 varieties, every year, and that includes hard ones like biennial brassicae (not the kale/collard types which I hate to eat and will starve you to death in winter), carrots, etc... which cross like hell and don't have a long shelf life. It takes time and effort. Learning with good books is a start, a pre-requisite. Carol Deppe's or Suzane Ashworth are the best as far as I'm concerned. But when one gets serious about seed saving, collaborating with other seed savers locally becomes necessary. For example, our little community here saves seeds from 4 varieties of cabbages, 4 varieties of corn : that means any one of us can only, for one year, save seeds for one of the four corns, and one of the four cabbages, and we share both the seed saving and the harvest between us. But as we need to account for crop failure, it takes 8 people to save the 4 brassica varieties, as we do doubles. Coordinating this reasonably modest effort in a time and age which values comfort, cut prices, and leisure,... takes even more time, a lot of persuasion,... and a good dose of passion, to be honest.

Then comes ignorance. By that I mean, not ignorance of how to do it, but ignorance of just how much important this is, if one truly believes that permaculture, homesteading, independence is important, or that collapse-SHTF scenarios are probable. When/if a SHTF event occurs, however unlikely, people won't be able to "begin" saving seeds that year. Or the next. Seed saving is something that has to be planned years ahead, especially as comes to quantity. Our local group has given itself the following goal : to save enough staple seeds each year to be able to feed 300 people. That's a lot of seed potatoes, that's a nice set of half gallon jars full of squash seeds, that's even an impressive few pint-sized jars of lettuce seeds. And for most of those, we double or triple the needed quantity to be on the safe side.

Last comes lack of curiosity, which imo, is the least problematic. I did begin to save seeds because I was very curious of how it all worked. I've been doing it for 20 years now. But in our group, there are a lot of people who couldn't care less about the magic of seed saving, but have understood the strategic importance of doing so.

And for the courageous/passionate folks out there, its all very doable. Start small, ramp it up as you go. Have fun in the process.
 
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In some cases, it's because I haven't figured out how to do it. Most seed savers in the Dominican Republic will plant them in-fruit, i.e. cut the tomato in half and put the entire half-tomato in the ground; then transplant the seedlings later. But I haven't gotten that to work with eggplant.
 
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I save seeds because of Joseph Lofthouse.

I originally thought that seed saving was only done in order to save money (win)! However, the development of a plant more suited to my soil conditions was incredibly appealing and letting cross-breeding happen in order to have the chance to get new, tastier happy accidents happen is appealing. Plus, I like knowing that the seeds also came out of my own plants that have 0 poisons dumped on them.
 
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T.J. Stewart wrote:I save some of my own seeds, mostly flowers, but some vegetables as well.  I am a market farmer and sp I have to be a little more careful about the seeds that I use.  Like someone else mentioned, most people just want to buy things that they are familiar with.  



I'm putting up a high tunnel next Spring and from everything I've read, the hybrids will out produce the heirlooms by almost double and at some point, I want to sell the excess at a market. We're in the boonies and people out here aren't into trendy foods. Tomatoes are supposed to be globe shaped & red. Not into baby greens. etc Seems like a good majority of high tunnel growers buy hybrids recommended for high tunnels/greenhouse from johnny's. On their website, you can filter your choices. Applying "greenhouse" and "heirloom" gives you one product under vegetables and it's not seeds. It's an heirloom tomato plant collection grafted to hybrid rootstock. ($251 for 24 grafted plants)

Filtering for "greenhouse" and "hybrid" gets you 77 results.

The heirlooms tend to have too many problems with the higher humidity of a greenhouse/tunnel.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Jason Hernandez wrote:In some cases, it's because I haven't figured out how to do it. Most seed savers in the Dominican Republic will plant them in-fruit, i.e. cut the tomato in half and put the entire half-tomato in the ground; then transplant the seedlings later. But I haven't gotten that to work with eggplant.




I can't tell exactly what's going wrong without more details, but I can take a guess. The most common problem when saving eggplant seeds is letting them ripen first. Eggplants, like cucumbers and zucchini, are eaten while still immature. In order for the seeds to be viable, they need to ripen all the way. Try marking a few fruits and leaving them to ripen as long as possible. The skin should develop a yellow or brownish color. Here's a good video showing how:  


If there's something else going wrong in your process, could you describe what you've done in detail so I can try to help?
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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pete host wrote:

It is nowhere near a profitable activity,




I got a chuckle out of this line. I grow seeds for a living!
 
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:

pete host wrote:

It is nowhere near a profitable activity,




I got a chuckle out of this line. I grow seeds for a living!



And so I too have to respond. Of course if you concentrate on only one activity, if your business is selling seeds, then you will hopefully be profitable. A lot of people do try, a good few manage to keep those businesses running for decades.

But the question opening this topic (why so few people save seeds) addresses the gardening/homesteading population at large. If your business, for example, is market gardening, then the seed producing activity is an unprofitable one in most cases and one had better, from a business/financial POV, buy seeds than produce them oneself. It's the main reason why most professionals don't save seeds. Money is time, time is more profitably invested somewhere else for them. period. As for amateur gardeners, on the same line of reasoning, their time is limited and they'd rather spend it growing things (or so I guess) than spend it growing things *and* producing seeds.

Now, to make my point clear, I am of the opinion that time and money considerations, taken to the extreme (which is the norm nowadays), are driving us towards dangerous levels of fragility as a society. I am market gardening. I have chosen, as a few 50 professionals in my region, to produce my seeds. It takes me time, make my business less profitable (marginally so, but undeniably), but makes me more resilient.


Sara Rosenberg wrote:I save seeds because of Joseph Lofthouse.

I originally thought that seed saving was only done in order to save money (win)! However, the development of a plant more suited to my soil conditions was incredibly appealing and letting cross-breeding happen in order to have the chance to get new, tastier happy accidents happen is appealing. Plus, I like knowing that the seeds also came out of my own plants that have 0 poisons dumped on them.



Agreed. Joseph is amazing. His view on seed saving really helped us make sound decisions. I mentioned the case of "labour/space intensive" varieties as comes to seed saving : some, like cabbages really justify the effort. Some, like carrots are better done with Joseph's approach. We only do maintain a big "carrot landrace" for example, not individual varieties. Same goes for winter radishes, and a good few promiscuously pollinating plants .

[EDIT 11/5/19]: I didn't do Joseph Lofthouse justice enough : not only does he have ethics which resonate with my own, but he really pushed the envelope of what individuals can do with seed saving : I used to painstakingly maintain my varieties as "pure" as possible, which took me a lot of time. I now only maintain a few varieties "pure" (the 4 cabbages I talked about : cauliflower, headed cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts) because I don't have the resources to begin a landrace experiment with those. For the rest, I adopted his approach which could be summarized (if I dare) : let them cross, aim for taste, precocity, forget the rest.
 
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