What if you were ready to plant your garden and had nowhere to buy seeds? In many parts of the world, each growing season is not heralded in with garden catalogs in mailboxes and seedpackets lined up on racks in stores. Rather, gardeners not only grow vegetables and flowers, but also the seeds for them. Here, you might want to grow some seeds to ensure a supply of a particular variety of vegetable or flower not readily, perhaps not always, available.
Perhaps your main reason to grow your own seeds would be the same reason that you garden in the first place. Gardening satisfies a primal urge to celebrate and partake in the cycles of life, with growth and decline measured not only month by month through the seasons, but also in terms of years. Growing the seeds that grow into your carrots, rather than just the carrots themselves, widens your participation in that cycle.
Growing garden seeds is not difficult as long as you follow a few guidelines. Two worthwhile books on this topic include “Seed to Seed” (Suzanne Ashworth, 1991) and “Saving Seeds” (Marc Rogers, 1990). Don’t save seeds from hybrids or you’ll get plants different, and generally worse, than the ones that produced the seed. A hybrid is denoted as such on the seed packet.
Seeds you do save should always be from the best and healthiest plants, not necessarily ones that produce the most seed. Collect seeds when fully ripe. If seeds ripening in a dried fruit (a dried bean pod, for example) tend to drop to the ground, tie a paper or cheesecloth bag around the nearly ripe fruit. Finally, store your seeds in a dry place.
If you are a beginning seed-saver, keep your efforts in step with your enthusiasm and knowledge. Special techniques are required to save seeds of plants which are biennials (onions, and carrots, for example), or which need cross-pollination (the cabbage family, for example) or need strict isolation to avoid cross-pollination (squashes, for example). Also, at least initially, do not put effort into saving too many different kinds of seeds.
The easiest seeds to grow are from plants that are annuals and self-pollinating. These include pea, bean, lettuce, pepper, and eggplant. Tomato also is in this category, and saving and growing seeds each year is the way many gardeners are able to harvest delectable “heirloom” varieties passed on to them by neighbors or relatives.