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Here’s another interesting place:

Homegrown Goodness

It’s a forum / discussion board very much into seed saving and breeding, saving old varieties, and growing information. Worth taking a look at.


When people seed-save, they are urged to select, ‘open-pollinated’ varieties.
What does this mean exactly?

The confusion may be understanding the difference between selecting seeds from ‘Open Pollinated’plants as distinguished from ‘Hybrid’ varieties.

In open pollinated varieties of plants, strict (or lucky!) attention is paid to planting distances between different varieties in the same vegetable family. Or specific techniques breeding techniques, like staggering pollen producing times, or ‘bagging’ varieties so that pollen from one variety does not ‘mate’ with another variety, producing a hybrid.

Hybrid is not necessarily undesirable. Hybridizing happens in nature all the time.

In the animal, and vegetable kingdoms;)
I grow several hybrid varieties of vegetables like spinach, and corn because they have specific traits, that I find desirable.

Most of the vegetables that many people consume these days, would likely be, from hybrid varieties.

Many plants ‘cross-pollinate’ as their primary means of reproduction. (as compared to self-pollinators, described in a prior post) Their flowers accept pollen from a plant of the same species that has a different genetic makeup. Plants grown from these seeds, may have different characteristics from the parent plant.

However, if a seed saver, saves seed from a hybrid plant( usually having the symbol F1 or F2 beside the variety name), they will not know until they grow that seed ‘out’ what characteristics those plants will have. Which specific traits selected from their parent plants intentionally by breeders.

Hybrids can produce desirable crops. Bred for a host of desirable traits like disease resistance, early maturity, productivity, flavor, heights etc.

However, it is less complicated to start, saving seeds from ‘open-pollinated’ varieties.

If anyone has a better way of explaining this topic…go for it!

Are you pouring over your seed catalogs, trying to decide what to grow this year?

Join the Club!

I have favorite varieties of vegetables that I grow. However, so many new and old(heritage) varieties look and sound tempting in the catalogs. Hope that you will post on the blog some of your favorite varieties…and why, you select them.

When selecting vegetable varieties with an eye towards seed saving possibilities, it’s necessary to understand which plants are ’self-pollinating’. This means the flower accepts its own pollen, with or without insect intervention, and can be more depended upon to produce seeds that will grow into plants like the parent since their inheritance is the same.

Includes plants like peas, beans, tomatoes and lettuce.

These plants, can be among the easiest for first seed-saving endeavors, since you can be fairly confident that the plants grown from them will ‘come true’.

Carrying on from the early discussion about identifying heritage beans.
Many years ago, I lived in the West Kootenays in a predominately Doukhobour(religious sect from Russia) rural community. Being vegetarians, my neighbours basically raised the bulk of their vegetable, fruit and dairy food supply to sustain their families through 12 months of the year. Half of which were snow-covered.

My neighbour gave me dried bean seeds, that were in my description, a mottled pinky tan. These seeds were her and the other neighbours primary dried bean. Which again, subjectively speaking, looked,cooked and tasted like a pinto.
Years later, came across Taylor Horticultural beans featured in the Canadian seed company specializing in European varieties especially of Dutch heritage. They looked in the pods/seeds, grew, cooked and tasted so similiar to the Doukhobour dried beans. However they are described in their catalog as striped red seeds? Also described as Red-Flamed Podded.

At least our Seed Saving Project is starting out with ‘named’ varieties of beans!

I’ve been growing a drying pole bean for a couple of years that seems to have some variety name confusion.

The one I’ve been growing came originally from either the PR or CV Seedy Saturday labeled “Ukrainian Pole Bean”. It’s a strong grower, would easily go past 8 feet if I let it, productive, the pods go from green to red and cream-striped as they dry down. Seeds are mostly white with maroon flecks, but there are some which are maroon with white flecks. As they age, the white areas on the seeds darken to a brownish pink but the darker maroon flecks are still obvious. A few plants in each planting seem to stay very low and set beans near the ground.

I also have two other types of bean seed which look identical. One was labeled “Bull Hunk” (which might be a misprint for “Bohunk”), the other “Uncle Jim’s Pole Bean”. When I grew them out the plants looked identical to Ukrainian Pole and the behaved the same way, resulting seeds looked identical too. So, they may all be the same thing.

A bit of online searching doesn’t turn up any reference to a bean called bohunk or bull hunk, and the only Ukrainian pole bean is one called “Neabel’s” from Salt Spring Seeds or Annapolis Valley Heritage Seeds. No picture, but the description says “Very pretty maroon speckled two-toned beans. A heavy yielding pole variety” which certainly describes this one I have.

Any other ideas about this variety? Has anyone else been growing it?

I bought tomato seed (their “cherry riot mix”) from this company at the Comox Seedy Saturday in 2006 or 2007 and they did very well for me. Unfortunately all my saved seed was eaten by a rat!

The farm is located on the Island outside Victoria, so many of their varietes should do well for us here. They have a lot of interesting and unusual heirloom tomato varieties, as well as lettuces, herbs, peas and beans and other stuff.

Two Wings Farm

Another handy online resource with some very good basic information about planting and saving seeds from some common plants. Lots of good info about ornamentals as well.

Here is a detailed and useful post from Sharon Astyk with some good basic info about seed-saving. Here is her advice about where we might think about getting seeds here in the PNW:

For the Pacific Northwest, the obvious leader is Territorial Seeds  I like them, and I’ve had good results using varieties adapted to their region in the Northeast.  I will say that I’ve had difficulty getting good information from their customer service over the years – they have declined to reveal the source of seeds, are sometimes slow to send things out,  and when they listed two varieties I had seen elsewhere as hybrids as open-pollinated, I was pleased to think that someone had stabilized them, and then  called and was reassured that yes, they definitely were open-pollinated varieties.  Well, oops, no they weren’t.  Their prices are also high – too high to give mediocre customer service.  But they do provide an important service in their region, and offer some varieties you won’t find anywhere else.

Other Northwestern options are a tiny company I’ve ordered from and liked and the wonderful Northern CA Bountiful Gardens Catalog. Bountiful Gardens is a terrific small seed company that is run in part by John Jeavons, the person who has most devoted himself to figuring out how to feed the world in small spaces. Not only do they have great seed, but they are a great cause. They also have a remarkable variety of compost, fiber and other uncommon crops. For those of you in northern CA and the Pacific NW, this is probably the place to buy, but all of us can get some wonderful things from them.

She also links to another one of her posts about designing a seed-saving garden, in which she mentions the book by Carol Deppe that Kevin got a hold of:

The two most useful books for seed savers past the very beginning stage are Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed and Carol Deppe’s Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties — I strongly recommend that these be part of every gardener’s library. The second one may sound intimidating, but even if you have no intention of breeding, it is full of fascinating and useful information about plant genetics, presented in an accessible and fun to read (I know that sounds nuts, but it really is) way.  The reality is that seed saving is plant breeding – each subsequent generation becomes better adapted to your region and its conditions.