Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Kate in GA
All ‘preppers’ or ‘survivalist’ know that the only seeds you should be saving are from heirloom plants. But is that really accurate? I have a different point of view. There may come a time when you are faced with a barter opportunity and the only thing offered to you is hybrid seed. They may be carrots, green beans, squash or tomatoes or something else entirely. Do you turn down the barter because they are hybrid seeds? What if you no longer have any seeds from that vegetable?
My answer is “it depends.” The simple fact is some seeds saved from hybrid plants make very acceptable second generation plants able to produce good quality vegetables/fruit. The trick is if you don’t practice saving seeds from hybrid plants now, you won’t know which ones are viable and which aren’t.
While I will give you my point of view, different growing environments can bring different results. I would never recommend going out and purchase hybrid seeds for everything in the garden. However, it is very doable to select one hybrid variety of one vegetable/fruit and try saving seeds from it. Do this each year and you will soon have a very good knowledge of which hybrid seeds will produce acceptable second generation plants and which won’t.
Let me start with a common mistake many people make. Hybrid seeds are not necessarily GMO seeds. The word ‘hybrid’ means two plants have been crossed to make a new plant that has some of the traits of each parent plant. Hybrid seeds work well for novice gardeners to grow plants that are resistant to common diseases they would otherwise experience. Sometimes, it is also advantageous to grow hybrids plants in areas of the country where heirloom plants would not normally do well. Growing carrots in the South comes to mind here. In the South, gardeners can be much more successful growing hybrid varieties that are heat tolerant.
So what hybrid seeds have I had the most success with? Peppers and tomatoes. It makes sense that these both do well since they are cousins. The first time I grew chili peppers (a long time ago) I went to a big box store and bought hybrids. At the time, I was experimenting with making my own insecticide and wanted to try it before I started storing seeds. The peppers produced extremely well. When I sliced them to dry, I noticed that each pepper had a prolific amount of seed as well. (I don’t eat them so I didn’t know this.) I took some and placed them in an envelope and threw them in the back of my kitchen closet. (This is my standard process for saving all seed. I don’t do anything fancy – dry them on a paper towel for a day or so and put them in an envelope. No soaking or removal of pulp or anything ‘special’. In my experience, it isn’t necessary.)
The next year, the seeds germinated quite quickly. They also produced very well. They only difference I noticed from the parent plant was the peppers were smaller in size. This fact didn’t bother me at all. All these years later, I consider the seed stable because they now produce consistently – year after year.
For the tomatoes, I saved seeds from a grape tomato hybrid. I bought the seeds in a big box store. They were from Burpee. The second generation plants produced well and produced good flavor. While I didn’t grow any third or fourth generation, a friend from church did. (I gave her a tomato plant the first year I grew them. She let the ones that fell off the plant stay in the raised bed all winter (she didn’t do fall cleanup) and they germinated the next year. This continued for four years.) She is not an expert at gardening; I usually must help diagnose problems with her garden one to two times each year. I told her that the original seeds were hybrids and the flavor of the tomatoes would probably diminish each year they grew. However this tomato had no problems with disease or bugs and produced in abundance! She told me the tomatoes had wonderful flavor from year to year.
The last success I would like to mention is with Honey Bear Squash seeds. This year, I have 3rd generation plants growing. The plants are producing decent size acorn squash. I haven’t grown these long enough to state if the seed is stable or not, but all signs with the plants in the garden this year point to a stable seed. If they also produce well next year, I will call them stable. Of course, the final test is the taste.
Let me mention some hybrid seed failures I have had. The first one that comes to mind is carrots. I had a heat tolerant variety. I let the plant overwinter in the garden and nurtured it through the second summer. I was quite excited to see the flower stalks start growing in July and waited with anticipation to save the seed. This was a total failure. The seeds were sterile. Nothing germinated. I had a similar experience with a few different hybrid green bean varieties as well.
Next year, I am going to try saving seeds from hybrid broccoli. I am going to plant some this fall and see what happens. Currently, I have growing one row of second generation cotton plants from hybrid seeds. I am excited to see if the second generation plants will actually produce useable cotton!
To conclude, let’s go back to the barter scenario I mentioned. Would I accept the hybrid carrot seeds as barter? They would need to be in the unopened original package with a seed harvest date within 3 years of the current date. If the package looked good and did not look like it was tampered with, then yes, I would – even knowing that seeds saved from them would be sterile. The barter price will be the equivalent for only one year’s worth of carrots, since I know they will not produce additional generations. If they did not meet all of these criteria, I would not accept them.
Try expanding your gardening horizons by experimenting with saving seeds from hybrid plants. This knowledge could help to keep your garden producing during times of trouble!
Prizes For This Round Include: (Ends July 29, 2016)
- Gift certificate for $150 off of Handgun Ammo courtesy of Lucky Gunner.
- WonderMill Electric Grain Mill courtesy of WonderMill.
- 72 Hour 1 Person Kit courtesy of Augason Farms
- WaterBoy Well Bucket and Tripod Kit courtesy of Well WaterBoy Products
- 72 Hour 1 Person Kit courtesy of Augason Farms
- MRE-Star Case of 12 Complete MRE Meals.
- LifeStraw Portable Water Filter.
- One can of Yoders Fully Cooked Canned Bacon
- One Jumbo Roll Toilet Paper / Toilet Tissue – 2000′ all courtesy of CampingSurvival.com.
- Five Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate 16 oz – Beef Kosher courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Ebook copy of The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving TEOTWAWKI.
- Ebook Copy of The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook.