Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gardening - A Rewarding and Seedy Way of Life

Like many of us, I like to save a few dollars, and so over the last few years I have saved my seeds. Last year, as a result of this practice, I grew a Sunmaster (SM) crop of tomatoes that lasted into August at 94 degrees F plus brutal humidity.

2010 we had so many SM tomatoes I froze bags of them or gave them away. I also saved the seeds of Husky Cherry and Roma tomatoes (that made it into July). I got them going again this year, and they are doing really well in regular garden soil. So, there is something to be said for this practice; developing a hardier plant based on the success of last year's crop.

This year, I tried an old heirloom, determinate variety: "Marglobe." How disappointed I have been with its performance! Maybe the very cool weather that we had at night in January and February stunted its growth, but the 8oz tomato fruit this type of tomato is known for was nowhere to be seen, despite slavish attention to watering and regular fish emulsion.

Heirloom vs. new hybrids? I am still figuring it out myself.

The University of Florida recommends (for Florida), Tropic, Floradel, Bonnie Best, Better Boy, Red Cherry, Sweet Chelsea, Sweet 100 and Sweet Million.

Scooped Pulp and Seeds
Back to seed saving, this is how I save my tomato seeds. Cut tomato open and scoop out the pulp and seeds.
Cherry Tomato

Put the pulp and seeds into a mason jar and fill 3/4 of the way with just tap water.

5 days later
After a week the water will be cloudy and the seeds will have sunk to the bottom. I am not sure if this 'fermenting' process is actually necessary, but it works. Note the seed color change from green to tan.
Rinse the seeds free of pulp using a colander and then dry between paper towels. I know, it seems like a lot of work but this is a really successful way of developing hardy seeds that will grow well in your garden and climate zone. 

I also save the pepper and cantaloupe seeds but skip the jar and just dry between paper towels. The milkweed plant just popped open it's pods and I gathered those up too, along with pineapple sage, zinnia and Texas Sage Bush. 

I let a lot of the red lettuce leaf go to seed (for the bees mostly) and I have gathered its seeds. With lettuce you are supposed to wait for the very last batch of seeds. That way you get the most heat tolerant batch.  

Having said all that, the secret of successful seed gathering and propagation is based on one teeny, lit'l detail. You have to remember to label the envelopes!

Lettuce Flowers


  1. I've never been one for saving seeds from my own plants - with one or two exceptions (chillis and beans). Is it worth the effort, do you think?

  2. Hey Mark, it's a good question. I think the idea is that if (for example) taking into consideration the heat and humidity in Florida, I save the last seeds of the last crop of tomatoes that survive in August. I have a generation of tomato seeds that are hardy enough to survive and continue fruiting at 98 F without diseases. If I harvest some early ripe Cherry Tomats (blog example), then maybe next year, using those seeds I will have an early crop of Cherry Tomats. That's the idea anyway!

  3. Hi Dawn,
    Thank you so much for your comment on my blog last month. I've been away, so havenot had the opporutnity to respond to comments and questions.

    You asked about Garam Masala on my Quinoa Beetroot Burger recipe.
    In Urdu and Hindi, Garam means warm and masala means mixture. Garam masala is a traditional condiment used in traditional South Asian cuisines to impart a certain flavour, much in the same way salt and pepper is in Western cuisine. Every South Asian Mama has her own take or family recipe on garam masala, but traditionally it includes black cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamon, coriander, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.

    I am a bit like Mark too, I don't tend to save seeds purely out of laziness.

  4. Great post! Love the pictures of the seed saving process.

  5. Hello Mangocheeks, thanks for the reply regarding Garam Marsala, I love all those spices.

    Hi Backyard FL Gardening, welcome and thank you for the comment!


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