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Selecting Seed

Except in special cases, it pays the gardener to buy seed from reputable seeds men and not to depend on home-grown supplies. Very fine varieties that do extremely well in certain areas have been grown for long periods from locally produced seed, and such practices are to be commended, provided adequate measures are taken to keep the strains pure.

Vegetables that are entirely, or readily, cross-pollinated among plants of their kind include corn, cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins, cress, mustard, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, spinach, onion, radish, beet, and turnip. Those less readily cross-pollinated are eggplant, pepper, tomato, carrot, and celery. Beans, peas, okra, and lettuce are generally self-pollinated, but occasionally cross-pollinated, lima beans sometimes rather extensively. 

Because sweet corn will cross with field corn, it is unwise to save sweet corn seed if field corn is growing in the same neighborhood. Hybrid sweet corn should not be saved for seed. The custom of saving seed from a choice watermelon is safe, provided no citrons or other varieties of watermelons are growing nearby. Likewise, seed from a muskmelon is safe, even though it was grown side by side with cucumbers. 

Beans do not readily cross and their seed also may be saved. Cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower all intercross freely, so each must be well isolated from the others if seed is to be saved.

Seeds should be ordered well in advance of planting time, but only after the preparation of a garden plan that shows the size of the plantings and the quantity of seed required. Crops and varieties that are known to be adapted to the locality should be selected.

The agricultural experiment station of each State, local Extension agents, and experienced gardeners are usually able to give advice about varieties of vegetables that are adapted to the area. Standard sorts of known quality and performance are usually the best choice.

Disease-resistant strains and varieties of many important vegetables are now so generally available that there is little reason for risking the loss of a crop through planting susceptible sorts. This phase of the subject is treated in detail under the individual crops.

Some seeds retain their vitality longer than others. Seeds may be divided into three groups as follows: (1) Comparatively short-lived, usually not good after 1 to 2 years�corn, leek, onion, parsley, parsnip, rhubarb and salsify; (2) moderately long-lived, often good for 3 to 5 years�asparagus, beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, okra, peas, pepper, radish, spinach, turnip and watermelon; and (3) long-lived, may be good for more than 5 years - beet, cucumber, eggplant, muskmelon, and tomato.

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