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Seed Swap - Herefordshire

Tips for some of the varieties you can save:

Tomatoes

  • Most tomatoes are self-pollinating so cross pollination is unlikely, therefore  most varieties can be grown in close proximity.
  •  3 exceptions: currant tomatoes, potato-leaved varieties and double blossoms on beefsteak varieties.  These have a stigma which protrudes from the centre of the flower and they will cross-pollinate with other protruding-stigma varieties. Either: grow just one of these or isolate the flowers by tying a bag around each truss to exclude insects. The isolated flowers will self-pollinate.
  • Collect seeds from fully mature, ripe fruit.
  • Seeds are encased in a gelatinous coating which prevents them from spreading inside the tomato – remove this coat by rinsing in a sieve under cold water.
  • Spread seeds out evenly on kitchen paper and leave at room temperature to dry.
  • When dry store seeds still on the paper in an air tight jar or sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry, dark place. Label with variety and date. Seeds should last in storage for 6 years.

Runner Beans

  • Runner beans will cross readily with other runner beans, but cannot cross with French or broad beans. They will be true to type if they grown 800m away from any other runner bean variety.
  • If you wish to grow more than one variety or you have other growers nearby you can put fleece over the plants, to exclude insects, and then hand pollinate.
  • Grow plant as normal but allow pods to fully develop and (ideally) dry on plant.
  • Pull the plants up before the first frost and hang them in a dry place e.g. shed or garage until the pods are dry.
  • Shell the beans, remove any that are damaged or have atypical markings.
  • Beans prefer to be stored with good air circulation – a paper bag is ideal. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place. Label with varietyand date. Seeds should last in storage for 3 years.

Broad Beans

  • Broad beans will cross with other varieties that are growing nearby ( including farmers’ field beans ) and your seeds will not be true to type.
  • Only grow one variety if you want to save the seed or you can exclude insects during flowering by covering with fleece and the plants will self-pollinate instead.
  • If you grow quite a large patch you can fairly safely use seed from the plants in the middle, as they will not have been the first stop for in-coming insects.
  • Grow plants as normal but allow pods to fully develop and (ideally) dry on plant. The pods will turn dark brown dry and wrinkled.  Check the beans are dry by biting them, if your teeth leave a dent they need a bit longer to dry. Discard any that are damaged or misshapen.
  • Beans prefer to be stored with good air circulation – a paper bag is ideal. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place. Label with variety and date. Seeds should last in storage for 3 years.

Peas

  • Peas are almost entirely self-pollinating and only occasionally cross with other plants. Set aside a few plants just for seed production.
  • Plant these a few feet away from other peas so that the long shoots do not intertwine and get mixed up.
  • Let the pods mature until they are brown and rattle. They can be left on the vine to dry but if there is danger of frost or very wet weather pull up the whole plant and hang it somewhere dry (shed or garage) until the pods are really dry.
  • Shell the peas, remove any that are damaged, misshapen or have holes of pea moth.
  • Label with variety and date and store in an airtight jar or sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Seeds should last in storage for 3 years.

 French Beans

  • French bean flowers are mainly self-pollinating though insects do sometimes visit and some cross-pollination can occur. This is minimised if other varieties are grown several meters away.
  • Let the pods mature until they are brown and rattle. They can be left on the vine to dry but if there is danger of frost or very wet weather pull up the whole plant and hang it somewhere dry (shed or garage) until the pods are really dry.
  • Shell the beans, remove any that are damaged, misshapen or have holes of bean weevil. Adult bean weevils often emerge in storage but, if there is any sign of them, they can be destroyed by putting the beans in the freezer for 5 days. This will kill all life stages of the beetle but leave the beans unharmed.
  • Label with variety and date and store in an airtight jar or sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry, dark place. Seeds should last in storage for 3 years.

Squashes Pumpkins Marrows Courgettes

  • The majority of summer squashes (courgettes and marrows) are of the species Cucurbita pepo & most winter squashes (and pumpkins) are of the species C. maxima. There is some overlap and a few varieties belong to other species entirely e.g. butter nut squash are C. moschata.
  • You can safely collect seed if you grow one variety of courgette/marrow, one variety of pumpkin and one variety of butter nut squash – as long as your neighbours are not growing other types.
  • Squashes have separate male & female flowers on the same plant and are pollinated by bees. To avoid cross pollination between varieties you could hand pollinate flowers but it is tricky (See “Back Garden Seed Saving” by Sue Stickland).
  • The plants can be grown as you would for eating but you will need a long growing season to allow seed to mature. Protect from spring and autumn frosts.
  • Yellow mottled or crumpled leaves may indicate cucumber mosaic virus which can be transferred to the seed
  • Leave the selected fruit on the plant until they become hard. Pick & leave them in a warm, dry place for a month to finish maturing.
  • Cut the fruits open, scrape out seeds, wash (good seeds should sink in water) and leave to dry before storing.
  • Label with variety and date and store in an airtight jar or sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry, dark place. Seeds should last in storage for 5-10 years.

 Coriander

  • Coriander seeds tend to bolt very quickly, especially in a hot, dry summer. It is unrelated to any other common UK plant and will not cross with other plants, but different coriander varieties will cross.
  • Allow coriander plant to bolt and flower.
  • Collect seed by cutting flowering stem after the petals have dropped.
  • Hang upside down with a paper bag over the seed head. The seeds drop into the bag – making them easy to collect.

Sweet Peppers and Chillies

  • Flowers of peppers and chillies will self-pollinate but most of the common UK pepper and chilli varieties are of the same species Capsicum annum and so are likely to cross pollinate if grown together.
  • Select a mature pepper, cut open and scrape seeds onto a plate.
  • Leave seeds to dry in a non-humid, shaded place.
  • Test dryness by squeezing the seeds – they should break rather than bend.
  • Leave at room temperature until completely dry and store in an air tight container in a cool dry place.

Lettuce

  • Different lettuces will cross so should be grown at least 8 m apart, or wrapped in fleece before the flowers show.
  • Lettuce bolts in response to lengthening days so ensure the lettuce you collect seed from is planted early.
  • When growing head lettuce (e.g. Iceberg) peel back top of the head to help developing seed head emerge.
  • Allow lettuce to bolt and flower. 12 to 24 days after flowering the seeds should be ready to harvest.
  • To get the maximum amount of seeds, shake seed heads into a paper bag.
  • Make sure seeds and bag are dry and store (still in bag) in an air tight container.
  • Lettuce seeds remain viable for up to 3 years when stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Cucumbers and Melons

  • Cucumbers won’t cross with melons, but will cross with other cucumbers or gherkins grown nearby. Melons won’t cross with water melons.
  • Ideally you need ½ km between varieties, probably less if you grow them in a greenhouse. It is possible, although fiddly, to hand pollinate cucumbers and melons.
  • Harvest melons when ripe for eating. Allow cucumbers to fully ripen beyond the stage of being edible and keep for a week or two after picking.
  • Cut open cucumbers and melons, scrape out seeds, wash (good seeds should sink in water) & leave to dry before storing.
  • Label with variety and date and store in an airtight jar or sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry, dark place. Seeds should last in storage for 5-10 years.