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 😉
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.
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.