I assume everyone has their favorite seed company, or several favorites. However, as good as these sources are, they might not always be there for you. Even if the company exists, the varieties it carries might not. If they don’t grow the seed themselves, their suppliers, even if they are excellent farmers, could suffer crop failure from time to time. Or, the variety is dropped from the catalog due to low sales. What do you do then, if that variety was the pride of your garden? Did you ever consider saving seed yourself from the varieties you grow? Providing what we are talking about is open-pollinated varieties, you could have grown out a portion of your crop to seed yourself, insuring future harvests.
Open-pollinated varieties are those that breed true, providing they have not cross-pollinated with something else. The parents are the same variety. You would have trouble saving seed from hybrid varieties, but not because they won’t germinate and grow. The parents of hybrids are from two different varieties, crossed to produce an F1 (first generation) variety that has specific characteristics. With the mixed genetics, the offspring of these plants may not be the same. Remember the heredity diagrams from biology class in high school? There are dominant and recessive characteristics that may or may not appear in one generation, but pop up in another. It takes seven years of careful selection to de-hybridize a hybrid variety. In those seven years, you could have been working with an open-pollinated variety to get just what you want.
Getting just what you want to survive in the micro-climate of your garden is what you are after. If you buy seeds that are grown far from your garden year after year, it is like starting over all the time. If you save the seeds of what does best in your garden, you will be developing a strain of that variety that is particularly suited to your place. Personally, I’ve been looking at peppers that do well being started in a coldframe, rather than the warmer conditions indoors.
Some folks begin to save seeds when they are passed on to them by family, particularly when that family member has kept them alive for many generations. Saving seeds from one year to the next was once a way of life. When the immigrants came to this country, they often had seeds with them. I would think that the growing conditions would be different from where they came from. The seeds and plants that survived would have gradually become acclimated to the new land.
Saving money is as good a reason as any to save seeds. Not only is the cost of seeds going up, but so is the shipping. A few packets of seeds when you are starting out doesn’t put too much of a dent in your pocketbook, but as you begin to grow more of your food, you will need more variety and a larger quantity of seed.
If you have been gardening for awhile, maybe it is time to expand your gardening expertise and learn new skills. When you save seeds, you have to be aware of which varieties will cross, the timing of the harvest for seeds, how to get the seeds from the plant to your seed-saving container and how to store them so they will be viable for as long as possible. Learning new things keeps life interesting.
The last reason I have for saving seeds is a biggy. You’ve probably heard that major chemical companies, such as Monsanto, have taken a huge interest in having the rights to seeds so they can patent the genes. They have also bought up seed companies, then discontinued varieties, particularly the ones of regional significance. The major focus of these companies is to breed varieties that do well when used with their chemicals. They even change the genes, inserting genes that may not even be plant genes, let alone a variety of the plant that they are working with. These genetically engineered seeds may result in plants that are able to withstand being sprayed with herbicide or may resist predation by certain insects. This has resulted in weeds and insects that are resistant to their efforts; so around and around it goes. Any toxic effects all of that has on humans has not been considered as well as it should have.
These efforts by the chemical companies have nothing to do with flavor or nutrition; things you would be looking for in plant breeding for your family dinner table. As far as dealing with weeds and insects, if you have developed a sustainable, organic system, you already have those things under control. If you save seeds from your best plants, they obviously have survived the weed, insect, and climate pressure in your garden. Take a look around your garden now and decide what seeds you will be saving. Educate yourself from the many books available on the topic, so you will be ready when the time comes this year.