Saving Seed from Hybrid Plants
There is quite a bit of misinformation out there about saving seeds. Again and again I read the pronouncements online that you can’t save seed from hybrid plants. This simply is not true. You can save seed from hybrid plants or from plants that have been cross pollinated. It is important to note, however, that the plants you grow from these saved seeds will carry the genetics from both ‘parents’ and may display different characteristics than you are expecting. If you are interested in growing heirloom seeds that grow true to type each year, check out my post Seeds for Self Sufficiency.
Although most gardeners like to know what they’ll get when they plant seeds, there are pros to planting the seed from cross pollinated and hybrid plants. For starters, you could come up with a brand new variety of pumpkin, radish, or green bean. Plant breeders have worked for ages to develop new varieties of fruits and vegetables that produce better, resist disease, and bear earlier.
Although the prospect of developing new varieties of plants sounds pretty exciting, it is likely that you’ll grow quite a few less than desirable veggies in the process. Many seeds available are hybrids (plants with two or more parent varieties) that bear earlier, produce more, or hold their quality longer in shipping. When you plant the seeds from these hybrids, the new generation will revert back to the parent varieties. These may not have the best flavor, production, or space saving qualities. However, if you save the seed from the best plants each year, you can eventually come up with a brand new variety. Once the offspring continually show the same characteristics of the parents, you have a new variety.
Saving Seeds for Preparedness
Many preppers purchase and stash away a myriad of heritage, or open pollinated, seed varieties in anticipation of the collapse of society. Their plan is to start growing and saving heritage seed varieties when the grocery stores are closed and food is scarce. I think it is a good idea to keep extra seeds on hand, but I think it is a much better idea to grow a garden every year, save seeds from your crops, and develop new varieties that are better suited to your growing conditions.
I see several problems with hoarding a huge stash of heritage seeds in anticipation of the end of the world as we know it. First, many seeds only have a shelf life of a few years and then the germination rates decrease dramatically. Parsnips are a good example of this. I have had extremely poor germination from parsnip seed I’ve keep for more than one year.
There is also a huge learning curve when you start gardening. It takes several years to gain the experience needed to grow enough food to sustain your family. So preppers should seriously learn the skills rather than just saving up boxes of seeds in hopes that they’ll have a great first garden.
The best course of action is to start gardening and learn the skills needed to raise, prepare, and preserve your food. Each year seed should be saved to plant a garden the following year. Some crops are biennials and the seed can’t be gathered until the second year of growth. For these plants, some seed should be planted each year and some of the crop should be left in place to grow and produce seed the following year.
There is a lot to learn about saving seed from your garden. It takes time and energy to selectively breed for new varieties. But saving seed from hybrids and cross pollinated plants will often produce a crop of edible fruits and vegetables. Every year I have volunteer plants that sprout from my compost pile and the results are often very tasty. So don’t listen to nay sayers that tell you that you can’t save seeds from hybrids. It’s just not true!
Do you save seed from your crops? Have you ever saved seed from cross pollinated plants? Were you happy with the results?