Saving seeds

Saving seeds is a time-honored tradition. It not only helps a gardener save family favorites but it is also done to save heirloom plants from becoming extinct. The term "heirloom" refers to plants that were introduced over 50 years ago, but are no longer commercially available.

Plant qualities for best seeds

High yield
Drought resistance
Long storage life
Good texture
Aromatic appeal

(from Saving Seeds, by M. Rogers)

To keep heirloom plant varieties from extinction, some gardeners faithfully save the seeds and grow them every year.

First, these gardeners identify the plants from which they intend to save seeds. Next, to ensure that these plants are not picked before they go to seed, a ribbon is tied around them. This helps the gardener know which ones to collect from later in the growing season.

Conifer reproductive biology
Claire G. Williams.
Dordrecht ; New York : Springer, c2009.
This compendium on conifer reproductive biology is intended as a text supplement for plant biology courses. Such a volume seems timely because knowledge of model flowering plants is expanding so fast that each new plant biology text has less written on conifers than the last. Conifer Reproductive Biology seems needed as a specialized botany reference for life science professionals, graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Its content was chosen for its relevance to those working in life sciences: ecology, evolution, genomics, environmental sciences, genetics, forestry, conservation and even immunology. Its content has also been shaped by a trend towards the integrative study of conifer reproduction."The chapters that reflect the author's expertise are masterly and I learned much from them. Bringing together this information could not have been done by anybody else."Professor Philip Barry Tomlinson, Harvard Forest, Harvard University and National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kalaheo, HI, USA."Conifer Reproductive Biology is a masterful compendium of the literature and a thoughtful diagnosis of what we know (and do not know) about how these fascinating, diverse, and ancient plants reproduce.nbsp; I recommend it to any and all interested in plant life." Karl J. Niklas,nbsp;The Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Plant Biology,nbsp;Department of Plant Biology,nbsp;Cornell University,nbsp;Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
An orchard invisible : a natural history of seeds
Jonathan Silvertown ; with illustrations by Amy Whitesides.
Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and diversity of life on earth. WithAn Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown presents the oft-ignored seed with the natural history it deserves, one nearly as varied and surprising as the earth’s flora itself.Beginning with the evolution of the first seed plant from fernlike ancestors more than 360 million years ago, Silvertown carries his tale through epochs and around the globe. In a clear and engaging style, he delves into the science of seeds: How and why do some lie dormant for years on end? How did seeds evolve? The wide variety of uses that humans have developed for seeds of all sorts also receives a fascinating look, studded with examples, including foods, oils, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals. An able guide with an eye for the unusual, Silvertown is happy to take readers on unexpected—but always interesting—tangents, from Lyme disease to human color vision to the Salem witch trials. But he never lets us forget that the driving force behind the story of seeds—its theme, even—is evolution, with its irrepressible habit of stumbling upon new solutions to the challenges of life."I have great faith in a seed," Thoreau wrote. "Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." Written with a scientist’s knowledge and a gardener’s delight,An Orchard Invisibleoffers those wonders in a package that will be irresistible to science buffs and green thumbs alike.
The woody plant seed manual
Franklin T. Bonner, editor [and] Robert P. Karrfalt, editor ; Rebecca G. Nisley, editorial coordinator.
[Washington, D.C.] : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, [2008]
  1. Shipping list no.: 2009-0008-S.
  2. "July 2008."
  3. Also available on the World Wide Web.
  4. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Uncertain peril : genetic engineering and the future of seeds
Claire Hope Cummings.
Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, c2008.
After serving as an environmental lawyer for 20 years, four of them with the US Department of Agriculture, Cummings is now a writer and broadcast reporter based in rural northern California. Here she presents a cautionary account of genetic engineering as it is being used in agriculture, though she suggests that many of her findings could apply to its use in medicine, biological warfare, and other areas as well. Her topics include trade secrets, the ownership society, the botany of scarcity, and a conversation with corn. Annotation #169;2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Seeds : time capsules of life
Rob Kesseler & Wolfgang Stuppy ; edited by Alexandra Papadakis.
Richmond Hill, Ont. : Firefly Books, 2006.
A beautiful illustrated guide to seeds ... includes photographs, illustrations and electron microscopy images.
Seedheads in the garden
Noël Kingsbury ; photographs by Jo Whitworth.
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2006.
"Imagine a garden that never has an off-season, one that brims with eye-catching plants in a captivating array of shapes and textures long after its flowering period has passed. Seedheads offer all this, bringing impact to late summer borders and lingering to provide interest for months afterwards. They look dramatic set against a backdrop of fading flowers, associate well with grasses and native plants, and make a major contribution to wildlife gardens." "Important components in the naturalistic plant compositions of pioneering plantsmen like Piet Oudolf, seedheads are placed in historical context by Noel Kingsbury, who goes on to describe their botany and the role they play in the wider ecology of the garden. At the heart of Seedheads in the Garden is a plant directory in which the characteristics of each plant's seedheads are described and graded for value and persistence."--BOOK JACKET.

Timing is everything. Seeds must mature before they are collected so they have accumulated enough stored nourishment to help the plant last through a winter.

When the seeds are collected, they are placed in small paper bags. Gardeners try to choose a dry, sunny day after the dew has evaporated. Be aware that frost can cause an accumulation of moisture that will lower seed quality.

Next, to prevent any confusion, each batch of seeds is labeled as soon as possible after collecting. This is especially helpful when saving more than one variety of a species. Seeds from the same plant variety, such as tomatoes or peppers, are much alike in appearance.

Now seeds are stored until the next growing season.

Seed exchanges are also used to obtain seeds of heirloom varieties. These seed exchanges have been set up as a grass-roots effort to preserve plants that have played an important role in our heritage. Members of plant exchanges trade seeds, of plants they have grown, with one another. The non-profit Seed Savers Exchange has over 8,000 members. They even have their own 170-acre farm near Decorah, Iowa, for growing heirloom plants.

Successfully harvesting seeds from common vegetables, annuals, perennials, herbs, and wildflowers does not have to be a challenge. Instead, becoming a seed saver can be exciting, simple, and rewarding. Not only does a seed saver gain pleasure by collecting their own seeds, but they can share their heirloom seeds with others, keeping these special varieties available.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff