What are seeds?
A plant produces seeds in order to reproduce itself. Just like an egg has to be fertilized to become a new animal, a seed must be pollinated to produce a new plant. Understanding pollination is key to getting seeds to produce the plants you want.
Some plants are self-pollinating—both male and female parts are in a single flower that fertilizes itself. These seeds are considered “easy” to save because they rarely cross with other varieties.
Other plants have separate male and female flowers and need wind or insects (or human assistance!) to pollinate their flowers. Saving these seeds takes extra effort to ensure they don’t cross with each other.
Types of seeds
The Door County Seed Library offers only open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.
Open-pollinated varieties have genetically stable seeds. As long as they aren’t allowed to cross with another variety, this seed will be “true to type” if saved. In simple terms, you will reap what you sow.
Heirloom varieties are well-loved open-pollinated seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation (typically defined as over 50 years).
Hybrids are a cross of two distinct inbred varieties. If a packet has hybrid, F1, or PVP written on it, seeds from those plants will not produce plants like the parent plant. Most hybrids are patented and therefore their seeds cannot legally be saved.
Plant sex, that is! To save seeds, you need to know the variety’s botanical FAMILY, Genus, and species. This will tell you how it reproduces and its basic seed saving needs. Varieties within a species will readily cross but rarely cross with varieties of other species.
Species define a group of plants with similar fruit, flowers, and leaves.
Family: Cucurbitaceae Genus: Cucurbita
Species: Cucurbita pepo
Varieties: Acorn squash, Warted gourd
Squash and gourd are the same species and can easily cross-pollinate, which might result in an inedible variety. That is why they are considered “advanced.”
New to seed saving?
We recommend you start with these easy-to-save seeds: beans, peas, lettuce, and tomatoes.
Look for the seed catalog drawers that are labeled “easy.” These annual, self-pollinating seeds are great for beginners and it’s very easy to produce plants like the ones you planted.
The other seeds require a bit of planning to ensure that the seeds remain pure. While you are free to grow and enjoy these seeds, we recommend that you learn about more advanced seed saving techniques before saving seeds from these varieties.