Blossom bagging


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Keeping heirloom seed pure (Part 1)

One of the greatest joys with growing heirloom veggies is the sheer abundance of choice. Most heirloom veggie gardeners just have to plant more than a few varieties of one type of veggie. Just so that they can experience the exquisite flavours of 4 or 5 different tomatoes, or be able to have more than one kind of carrot on the table.

The joy of being able to do this is overshadowed by the question of how to keep the varieties pure. The whole aim of heirloom veggies is that one can save the seed from year to year. What’s the point of buying heirloom seed if you don’t save it?

This post will cover the simple process of blossom bagging to keep self pollinating vegetable varieties pure.

Blossom bagging is a simple technique that allows flowers that are naturally self pollinating (tomatoes and peppers are good examples) to literally get on with the job of producing pure viable seed without any insect interference.

Typically one would only need a single fruit or possibly two fruits for a successful seeds saving project. A single fruit should yield anything from 20- 200 seeds depending on the type of fruit in question.

Step 1: Purchase an organza bag, these are bags that are typically used to pack bath salts or homemade soaps in. You can buy these bags at www.livingseeds.co.za or stores that cater for the craft market. If you are really brave you can cut up your wife’s net curtaining… but I never suggested that 😉

Unopened blossoms that are just right for bagging.
Unopened blossoms that are just right for bagging.

Step 2: Identify some flowers of the variety you want to save that are about to open. If you going to save a truss and a single flower has opened on that truss already, you can pull the flower off, leaving the unopened flowers to self pollinate inside the bag.

Step 3: Carefully enclose the flowers inside the bag, pulling the drawstring tight enough to exclude any insects, but not too tight that you will damage the stem.

Blossoms bagged with an organza bag, any colour will do.
Blossoms bagged with an organza bag, any colour will do.

Step 4: Everyday, as the flowers open in succession give the bag a light shake to encourage the pollen to shed and ensure good pollination.

Step 5: Once you can see that the fruit has set, you can remove the bag and mark the truss, we use small coloured cable ties that stand out. The bag can be used after a good wash on another plant. Washing ensures that no viable pollen remains in the bag to contaminate your next set of flowers.

This is a simple process, using it will allow you to save open pollinated and heirloom vegetable seed effectively.

5 thoughts on “Blossom bagging

  1. Sean Freeman says:

    Hi Gloria.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Our minimum pack count varies between 10 to over 1000 seeds per packet, depending on variety and the individual varieties needs. (The only exception is when we harvest limited seed and we would like to share the seeds our as far as possible. And this is an exception rather than a rule.)

    Every variety has different minimum population sizes to ensure genetic diversity. This can vary from as few as one to over a few hundred plants.

    You were looking at the post on polinating corn and applied the corn’s minimum requiremntes to all crops. With Corn 40 is the absolute minimum and we generally pack > 80-100 seeds per packet to ensure that our customers are able to save the seed for following generations.

    We will probably be looking at supplying from a farmers market at the end of this season.

    GM varieties are bred to have sterile (or chemically activated) seed in the NEXT generation. The parent stock that GM companies use, is able to produce viable seed. This seed matures in a farmers field and is then sterile.

    Hope this helps

  2. Gloria Murray says:

    Hi Sean, I heard your interview with JC Williams on 702 and checked out your website. Very interesting, but what was the point of giving JCW 10 seeds if, per your subsequent article, you have to have at least 40 plants, if not 8o in order to save seed? I was most interested until I read this!
    Love the website and I hope to be growing mor of our stuff now I’m retired (after I have sorted out my home). We live in Brackendowns Alberton and visit the Walkerville Farmers Market on occasion. Any chance of your having an outlet there in time?
    I listen to BBC on shortwave & am deeply disturbed to hear how many farmers & their animals in India have either got sick/ died from working with GM crops like soy. Trust our lot to go for all this GM – someone must’ve lined their pockets!
    I have a further question: where does Monsanto get the seed from to supply all the farmers with if the GM seed doesn’t seed?
    Let me know?
    Gloria

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