It's probably one of the
most satisfying and rewarding things of all to do - when it
comes to gardening. Sowing, growing and eating your own fresh
clean and healthy food is a joy. saving seeds from your crops
takes it to another level!
Seed-saving is easy. You'll
get better seed than you can buy - from ANY commercial seed
sellers. And you can keep your own varieties going for future
years. Or you can help preserve those precious, rare and
disappearing 'heirloom' varieties of plants. You can even
selectively breed your own varieties, with patience and keen
observation. When you finally arrive at your destination - where
you have your own unique variety - then you will have reached
the pinnacle of joy when it comes to gardening. I can say this
with confidence because that is exactly what I've achieved with
my AERON PURPLE STAR runner beans.
You can view the feedback
from growers of the Aeron Purple Star here:
If I can do it anyone can.
But .. . just as with growing the plants, there are a few key
bits of information you need to know to keep varieties pure.
It's not hard, you just need to know how to do it.
One key thing before you
start - you can't save seed from F1 (hybrid) varieties.
You need original, open-pollinated seed,. I try not to use ANY
hybrid seed at all, for this very reason.
Later, do remember to dry
your seed properly, or it will not survive storage. Don't use
heat though to dry it, The seed needs to be dehydrated (dried)
For now all you need to do
is start with non-hybrid seed, & read on to find out how many
plants you need to grow, and what to bear in mind to get good
seed that is true to type.
Here is a
SEED SAVING INSTRUCTION LEAFLET (click on the
linked text to download and print it), It's written by the
Real Seed Catalogue, this copy for you to download from
here is a reproduced copy by
Chat-Shed as a PDF document. It is released under a Creative
Commons Licence, so you can copy and distribute it as much as
you like - for example at seed-swaps - providing you do not
charge for it, or modify it, and that you give The Real Seed
Catalogue credit for writing it. So you can now:
this Free Seed Saving Instruction Leaflet , nicely formatted
by The Gardeners Chat-Shed as a PDF document for printing
out neatly by clicking on this button:
- You can also buy an excellent book
Books Page on The Real Seed web-site which is more
detailed and has nice pictures.
- Carry on reading the text of the
leaflet which is also reproduced below from Real Seed's
BASIC SEED SAVING FOR
These sheets are designed
to be a very basic introduction to seed saving. Hopefully they
should help you to grow good quality pure seed that will grow
true to type for year after year. Seed saving is easy; people
have done it for thousands of years, in the process breeding all
of the wonderful vegetables that we eat today. Only in the
last century has it been taken over by professionals. With a
little care you and all your neighbours can grow better seed
than you could ever buy; ideal for your own conditions, with
better germination, and growing stronger, healthier plants.
The Secret of
Saving Great Seed
You want healthy seed
that is true-to-type and keeps well. For any one vegetable, you
need to ask yourself these questions:
Will these plants
cross with any others?
Is this a good thing,
or a bad thing? (Usually bad)
How does this happen?
What can I do to
control this? Do I need to do anything?
Do I need a minimum
number to get healthy seed? (e.g. do they breed as group?)
Or do the plants live
on their own and self-pollinate? (so I can save seed from
Have I chosen the
best plants for seed?
SEED EXTRACTION AND
The answers are different
for each vegetable. So look in the appropriate section below,
and you'll know what to do. Its all pretty easy but you do need
to look it up in each case.
If these sheets encourage
you to develop your Seed saving further, try & get hold of one
of the books listed at the end, which will cover all of the
species not listed here & give you fuller instructions for
Happy Seed saving! Ben
& Kate (www.realseeds.co.uk)
All you have to do:
Broad beans will cross
with other varieties that are growing nearby. So if you want
to keep your variety pure, you need to isolate them in some way.
Theoretically you should aim for at least half a mile between
varieties. In practice, in a built up area, fences, trees and
houses will all reduce insect flight. This means you should
have minimal crossing even with beans much closer than half a
mile so long as none of your immediate neighbours are growing
different varieties of bean.
In an open situation like
an allotment, you can physically isolate plants. Broad bean
pollen is transferred by insects working the flowers, but the
plants will also self pollinate, so if you can exclude insects
at flowering time, say by a covering of fleece, your seed crop
will be pure.
The simplest method of
all, if you are growing a relatively large number of beans and
you are not concerned about achieving 100% purity (eg just for
your own use), is to mark and save seed from several plants in
the middle of a block of beans. Insects are relatively
unlikely to come from a neighbouring patch straight to the
middle of your patch, tending to work the outside flowers first.
So by the time they reach your seed beans, the amount of
'foreign' pollen remaining should be small. Always keep seed
of strong, healthy plants and get rid of any that are not
typical of the variety ideally before they flower.
Let your seed beans
mature and dry on the bush. The pods will turn dark drown, dry &
wrinkled. Then pick and shell them out. Check that they are
really dry by biting on them. If your teeth leave a dent, dry
them further in a warm (not hot) place with a good flow of air.
Broad bean seeds should keep for several years, so there is
no need to grow plants for seed every year.
It is important to grow
some bean plants specifically for seed, rather than simply
collecting the left-over pods at the end of the season. The
plants should be good strong specimens, and any that are less
healthy looking or not true to type for the variety should not
be used for seed production.
French beans are
self-pollinating, mostly before the flowers open. Despite
this, they can be crossed by insects with other varieties
nearby. The extent of crossing varies by area. If you are
just saving seed for your own use, grow your seed crop of french
beans at least 6 feet away from any other variety (12 feet if
possible), and you are unlikely to have a significant problem
with crossing in the UK.
Runner bean flowers need
to be 'tripped' by wind or insects before the beans set, and are
much more likely to cross with other varieties grown nearby than
french beans. Ideally, to be sure that no crossing takes
place, seed crops of runner bean should be at least 1/2 a mile
away from any other varieties of runner bean. Bear in mind,
though, that buildings, trees, and other barriers will limit
insect flight patterns, and if you are gardening in a town or
built up area, you are likely to have relatively little problems
with crossing unless your immediate neighbours are also growing
runner beans. If they are - or on an open site such as an
allotment - your only answer may be to try to persuade your
neighbours to grow the same type of runner.
To collect the seeds,
allow the pods to mature fully on the plant until they start to
yellow and dry out. In wet weather, collect the pods
individually as they get to this stage. Then spread out
somewhere out of the rain with a good airflow until the pods are
fully dry and brittle. Once they are dry, shell out the beans
and dry further out of the pods. The beans should be dry
enough that they break when you bite on them, rather than
leaving a dent. Store in an airtight container. If they are
well dried, and stored in a cool dark place, the beans will last
around 3 years.
If you have problems with
weevils eating your seeds, put the sealed container in the
freezer for a week immediately after drying the beans; this will
kill any insect eggs before they hatch. When you take them
out, let the container come up to room temperature before
opening it, otherwise the beans will absorb moisture from the
Peas are almost entirely
self pollinating, only very occasionally crossing with other
plants. Set aside a section of row that is entirely for seed
production, and make sure you sow at a time that will avoid pea
moth To avoid physical mixing up of the seeds, separate
different varieties of pea with another crop. Check the row
from time to time as the peas grow, and pull up any plants that
are weak or not true to type.
Let the peas mature until
the pods are brown and the seeds start to rattle. If the
weather is very bad, pull up the whole plants and bring inside
(for example hung upside down from the shed roof) once the pods
start to wither, to ripen and dry further. Once the pods are
really dry, shell the peas out. Dry the shelled peas further
in a warm (but not hot) place, label with the variety and date,
Aubergine flowers are
mainly self pollinated, but can be crossed by insects. So if
you are planning to save seed, you should only grow one variety.
Aim for 6 to 8 plants each year to maintain a variety long
term. For 100% isolation you need 50 feet between your seed
plants and any other aubergines. If you are growing them in a
greenhouse/polytunnel you should be able to get away with a
somewhat smaller distance.
To get ripe seeds let the
fruits mature well past eating stage. Purple/black cvs turn a
muddy purple-brown colour, green/white cvs turn yellowish.
Mark 1 or 2 early good fruits on each plant to leave for seed,
and then pick and eat later fruits.
To remove the seed, cut
into quarters lengthwise, avoiding the core, and pull apart.
The hard brown seeds should be obvious. Put the quarters into
a bowl of tepid water, and rub the seeds out with your fingers.
You may need to pull them apart to get all of the seeds. Add
more water, stir thoroughly, & wait a few minutes. Good seeds
will sink to the bottom, leaving debris and poor quality seeds
on the surface. Pour the debris off gently through a sieve,
then refill with water and repeat a couple more times.
Eventually you will be
left with good seeds in plain water. Empty into a clean sieve,
shake to remove as much water as possible, and then tip on to a
plate and spread out well. Put to dry somewhere warm but not
hot, and mix occasionally to make sure that they dry evenly and
don't stick together. Aubergine seeds will keep up to 7 years
if dried thoroughly & stored in a cool dark place.
Sweet peppers and
chillies are both members of the same species, Capsicum annuum
(some less common chillies come from other capsicum species).
Pepper flowers are self
pollinating, and will set fruit without any insect activity.
However, they will also cross readily, and sweet peppers will
happily cross with chillies. You need to isolate your plants
by around 150 feet (50 metres) from any other peppers or
chillies growing nearby. Even if you are only growing one
variety be careful about other varieties growing in adjacent
gardens or allotments.
If you want to grow
several varieties, or if your near neighbours are also growing
peppers, you could consider making an isolation cage to cover 3
or 4 plants. This is easy to do, and costs very little,
especially if you can get hold of some old net curtain material.
You can put a cage up over plants grown in pots, growbags or
directly in the ground.
To save the seed, take
peppers on your isolated plants which have ripened fully to
their final colour (usually yellow or red). Cut the peppers
open carefully, and rub the seeds gently off of the 'core' onto
a plate. Wear rubber gloves to deseed chillies, as the chilli
oil sticks to your fingers and is very hard to wash off. Dry
the seeds in a warm but not hot place until they snap rather
To make a simple
isolation cage ideal for peppers or aubergines, you need some
cheap nylon flyscreen 5 times as long as it is wide, four canes
or thin stakes, and some string and garden wire.
Alternatively, you can use old net curtains, or other netting
small enough to exclude insects. A piece of screen 1m by 5m
will give a cage large enough to cover 3 or 4 plants.
Cut a square piece of
screen 1m x 1m to make the top of the cage, and then fold the
remaining strip of flyscreen round and sew its ends together.
The resulting band will be the sides of the cage. Then sew the
top to the sides, making a cube of flyscreen with the bottom
To put up the cage over
your plants, hammer the four canes into the ground in a square a
little smaller than the cage top, so that they stick up a little
less than the height of the cage. Twist a short piece of wire
tightly round the top of each cane, and then run string in a
square around the tops of the canes, supported by the wires to
stop it slipping. Run a second piece of string around the
stakes lower down to stop the sides of the cage blowing in
against the plants. Then slip the cage over your plants, and
weigh it down with earth or rocks.
Most modern varieties of
tomato are self pollinating, and will not cross. The anthers
on tomato flowers (which make the pollen) are fused together to
make a tight cone that insects cannot enter. Usually the stigma
(the receptive surface for receiving pollen) is very short, and
so is located deep inside this cone of anthers. No insects can
get to it and the only pollen that can fertilise it comes from
the surrounding cone of anthers.
In a few varieties
however, the stigma is much longer, sticking out beyond the cone
of anthers. In this case, insects can get to it, and there is
the chance of cross-pollination. Varieties with longer stigmas
include potato leaved tomatoes and currant tomatoes. To avoid
crossing only grow one variety with exposed stigmas. The
double flowers which are sometimes formed first by many
beefsteak tomatoes also often have exposed stigmas, but later
single flowers will be normal.
To collect the seed,
allow your tomatoes to ripen fully. Then collect a few of each
variety that you want to save seed from. Slice them in half
across the middle of the fruit, and squeeze the seeds and juice
into a jar. You then need to ferment this mixture for a few
days - this removes the jelly-like coating on each seed, and
also kills off many diseases that can be carried on the seeds.
To do this put the jar of seeds and juice in a reasonably warm
place for 3 days, stirring the mixture twice a day. It should
develop a coating of mould, and start to smell really nasty!
After 3 days, add plenty
of water to the jar, and stir well. The good seeds should sink
to the bottom of the jar. Gently pour off the top layer of
mould and any seeds that float. Then empty the good seeds into
a sieve and wash them thoroughly under running water. Shake
off as much water as possible, and tip the sieve out onto a
china or glass plate (the seeds tend to stick to anything else).
Dry somewhere warm but not too hot, and out of direct
sunlight. Once they are completely dry, rub them off the plate
and store in a cool dry place, where they should keep well for
at least 4 years.
& leaf beet
beet/perpetual spinach, swiss chard & sugar beet are all members
of the same family & will cross readily. They are biennial,
and flower in their second year. Chard/leaf beet for seed are
overwintered in situ, and will be fine in most of the UK.
Select a minimum of six to eight plants to leave for seed which
best fit your needs (depending on your preference for stem
versus leaf, smooth or wrinkled leaves etc). Beetroot can also
be overwintered in situ, or can be harvested in autumn, the best
plants selected & stored then replanted in spring.
All types of beet will
cross with one another, and since the flowers are wind
pollinated, crossing can take place with any other flowering
beet plants within around 2 miles. How fussy you need to be
about crossing depends on what you are trying to achieve. If
you simply want a reasonably diverse population of leaf beet, a
degree of crossing is not that important. Plant your seed
plants closely together in a square, and take seed from the
central plants in the block; you will find that the amount of
'contamination' is minimal providing there aren't large numbers
of other flowering beets right next door.
If you are aiming to keep
a variety true to type you need to isolate it, usually by
physically covering your seed plants. To do this, plant at least
six plants very close together in a circle, with a wooden stake
in the middle. As the seed stalks form, growing up to four
feet tall, tie them together, supported by the stake. Then as
they develop cover the group of flower heads with either a shiny
paper bag that will withstand rain, or a bag made out of
agricultural fleece. Shake the bag from time to time to make
sure that pollen is distributed within the bag.
As the large, prickly
seeds mature, keep an eye on them, and start to harvest as they
turn brown and start to dry out. You can either cut entire
seedstalks, or harvest mature seeds by rubbing them into a
bucket. Make sure that the seeds are thoroughly dry before
storage, and they should last at least five years.
Carrots are biennial,
flowering in their second year of growth. In areas with mild
winters, leave your carrots in the ground, mulching them
heavily. The foliage will die back in autumn, but will then
resprout and start to flower in the spring. In colder areas,
dig up your carrots in the autumn, and select the best coloured
and shaped roots. Twist off the foliage, and store the roots
in a box of dry sand in a frost free place, making sure that
they don't touch. In spring, replant the roots, and they will
resprout and flower.
If you want to maintain a
carrot variety effectively, you really need to save seed from
at least 40 good roots to maintain good genetic diversity. If
you have too small a genetic pool, you will end up with small,
poor quality roots in a very few generations.
Carrots grow into big
plants waist high or taller, producing successive branches with
large flat umbels of flowers. They are insect pollinated, and
need to be isolated from other flowering carrot varieties by at
least 500m in an open field situation. This is not normally a
big problem, since few people let their carrots go to seed.
However, they will cross with wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace),
giving thin white useless roots. As with all insect pollinated
crops, barriers such as houses, tall hedges and other high crops
can affect insect flight paths drastically, so you don't
necessarily need to eliminate all Queen Anne's Lace within a 1/2
km radius; but do watch out for any white roots in subsequent
generations and get rid of them.
To harvest your carrot
seed, keep an eye on the umbels of flowers, and cut them off
with secateurs as they start to turn brown and dry. If you
have plenty of plants, just save seed from the first and second
umbels of flowers to appear on each plant, as these will give
the biggest and best seed. Dry the seed heads further inside,
and then rub them between your hands or in a sieve to separate
them. You will notice that the seeds have a 'beard' which is
removed in commercial seed to make them easier to pack.
You can sieve the seeds
further to remove more of the chaff, but there is no need to get
the seed completely clean - just sow slightly more thickly to
allow for the chaff mixed in. Carrot seed is relatively short
lived, but if it is stored somewhere cool and dry, it should
give good germination for 3 years.
Basil, coriander and dill
are annuals, parsley is a biennial, flowering in its second year
Basil flowers are insect
pollinated, and different varieties flowering within around 150'
of one another may cross. On a garden scale, if you want to
grow several types of basil, just keep picking the flower stalks
off of all the varieties apart from the one that you want to
grow for seed. Once several flower spikes have set and the
flowers have started to wither, mark those spikes for saving
seed from, and you can then allow the other varieties to flower.
The seeds are ready to collect when the spikes turn brown and
dry out. Don't worry about the seeds dropping out - they are
well attached, and actually need quite a lot of rubbing to free
from the dead flower heads.
With both coriander &
dill, to get the best seed for sowing in future years, pull up
and discard the earliest plants to bolt, and only save seed from
those plants that produce plenty of leaf and flower late. It
is best to plan to save seed from early summer sowings, to allow
plenty of time for the seed to mature and dry on the plant.
Harvest as soon as the seed is brown and dry, as it does tend to
drop from the seed heads. Rub the heads together in your hands
over a bucket to free the seed. Dill seed usually comes
cleanly away from the seed heads. Coriander seed tends to
contain more chaff, but you can winnow it by pouring gently from
one bucket to another in a light breeze if you want to clean it
for kitchen use.
To save parsley seed,
overwinter at least two or three plants. In warmer areas mulch
heavily with straw or cover plants with a frame, elsewhere grow
a few plants in a polytunnel or greenhouse. The next spring,
the plants will start to flower and produce seed. Flat and
curly leaved varieties will cross, as the flowers are insect
pollinated, so you should only grow one type for seed at a time.
Harvest the seeds from individual flower heads as they dry and
turn brown, as they tend to drop from the plant when ready.
kale and cabbages
cabbages, cauliflowers, calabrese, kales and Brussels sprouts
are all members of the same family (Brassica oleraceae),
and will all cross with each other. They won't cross with
turnips, swedes, oriental brassicas or mustard greens. In
addition, they are mainly self-incompatible - which means that
in order to get seed, insects have to carry pollen from one
plant to another to pollinate the flowers. Because of this,
you can't simply grow your broccoli or cabbages for seed in an
insect proof cage to avoid crossing.
So long as you only save
seed from one member of the family in any given year, you can
grow as many other brassicas as you like without problems so
long as you don't let them flower.
For absolute seed purity,
make sure that there are no other flowering brassicas within a
mile of your garden. In practice, fences, trees and tall crops
all break up insect flight patterns, so as long as you don't
have any immediate neighbours with flowering crops in their
garden, you shouldn't have too many problems with crossing. To
make it as easy as possible for insects to work your seed
plants, make sure that they are laid out in a block, rather than
a row, so that bees tend to move from one plant to another,
rather than away to other flowers elsewhere.
Keep at least six plants
for seed, ideally more. Remove any poor specimens, or any that
are not typical for the variety -you can always eat these
plants, so long as you don't allow any flowers to open.
All of the brassicas,
including cabbages, will throw up a tall flower stalk covered in
lots of small yellow flowers. These will then form slender
seed pods, which start out green, and turn a straw colour as
they mature and dry. Once they start to dry, keep a close eye
on them, as they tend to shatter and drop their seed. Its best
to cut entire plants once most of the pods begin to look dry,
and then leave them to mature further on a sheet indoors. Once
they are thoroughly dry, the seeds will come out of the pods
very easily; the simplest way is to trample the plants on top of
a large sheet, and then sieve out the debris.
You should get lots of
seed from even a few plants. The seed will keep well for up to
five years so long as it is stored somewhere cool and dry.
Turnips and the
Mizuna, pak choi, tatsoi
and mibuna are all sub varieties of Brassica rapa - the same
family as turnip. This means that although they will cross
with each other, or with turnips in flower, they won't cross
with broccoli or cauliflowers. Although you can only grow one
of these vegetables for seed in any year, you can of course grow
any of the others for kitchen use, so long as you don't allow
them to flower at the same time as your seed plants.
To grow an oriental
brassica or turnip variety for seed, you usually need to
overwinter the plants. They are naturally biennials, producing
their flowers and seeds in their second year of growth.
Although spring sown crops may bolt to seed in hot summer
weather, this is not ideal for Seed saving, as you may end up
accidentally selecting for early bolting in future years. The
best solution is to sow your seed crop after midsummer in a
polytunnel, where semi-mature plants will overwinter quite
happily in all but the coldest parts of Britain. If necessary
you can give extra protection in cold weather by putting fleece
over plants inside the tunnel. Select at least 6 of the
healthiest and most typical plants to reserve for seed, eating
the rest over the winter. In spring, the plants will flower,
and then form seedpods. Make sure that there is good insect
access to the tunnel at this point so that the flowers are
The seedpods are green at
first, but then gradually dry out and turn a pale tan colour.
Once most of the pods are dry and brittle, cut the entire stalks
of the plant, and lay out on a sheet somewhere undercover with a
good airflow to finish drying off. Then rub and crush the pods
with your hands to release the seeds, and separate the seeds
from the chaff with a coarse sieve.
Note: We also have a
whole page devoted to the details of
processing brassica seed.
Lettuce flowers are self
pollinating, and very rarely cross. If you plan to save seed
from more than one variety of lettuce, separate them by around
12 foot or plant a tall crop in between the rows.
Select two or three good
lettuces from your row, and mark them for seed. It is very
important not to save seed from any plants that bolt early, as
you want to select for lettuces that stand well. Heading
lettuces may need a little help for the flowering stalk to
emerge; slitting the heads partially open with a knife works
Once the lettuces have
flowered, the seeds will ripen gradually, starting in about a
fortnight. Harvest seed daily to get the maximum yield,
shaking into a bag. Or wait until a reasonable number of seeds
are ready and then cut the whole plant. Put it head first into
a bucket, shaking and rubbing to remove the seeds. If you
leave the whole cut plant upside down in the bucket somewhere
dry, slightly immature seeds will continue to ripen over the
next few days.
Most of what you have
collected in the bucket will be white 'feathers' and chaff. To
sort the seed, shake it gently in a kitchen sieve. Some seeds
will fall through the sieve, with the rest collecting in the
bottom. The feathers and chaff will rise to the top, and you
can pick them off. There's no need to get the seed completely
clean; a little chaff stored and planted along with the seeds
won't cause any harm.
If the seed feels a
little damp, dry it further on a plate before labelling and
storing. Lettuce seed should keep for around 3 years, provided
it is kept cool and dry.
Pumpkins, courgettes, marrows and squashes
Beware that pumpkins,
squashes, marrows & courgettes will all cross readily with each
other. The best (usually only) way to save pure seed on a home
scale is to hand pollinate one or more fruits. This is very
easy & will avoid disappointments with lumpen squash/courgette
crosses. The explanation given here is for pumpkins, but
applies equally to squashes, courgettes & marrows.
Pumpkin plants have two
different types of flower, male and female. The female flowers
are the ones that will grow into pumpkins. They can be
identified by the small immature fruit which should be obvious
beneath the flower. Male flowers just have a straight stem.
You need to transfer pollen from a male flower into a female
flower, making sure that no pollen gets introduced from plants
of a different variety.
One evening, when the
plants are just beginning to produce flowers, find some male and
female flowers that are going to open the next day. Buds that
are just ready to open are much fatter than the others, and they
have turned from green to yellow.
You need to stop these
flowers opening, so that insects can't get into them. The
easiest way to do this is to gently slip a thin rubber band over
the end of the petals, to hold them shut.
The next morning go
back to the plants. Pick a male flower, take off its rubber
band, and tear off the petals. Gently take the rubber band off
of one of your female flowers. Using the male flower like a
brush, rub the pollen on to each section of the stigma in the
centre of the female flower.
Then carefully rubber
band the female flower shut again so that no insects can get in
with more, 'foreign', pollen. Tie a piece of wool loosely
around the stem of the female flower, so that at harvest time,
you know which pumpkins you have hand pollinated.
Now leave the pumpkins to
develop and ripen. After you have harvested them, keep them in a
cool dry place for another month or so to ripen further
Then cut the pumpkin in
half, and scoop out the seeds, leaving the rest of the fruit for
cooking as normal. Wash the seed in a colander, rubbing it
between your hands to get rid of the fibres, and then shake off
as much water as possible.
Spread the seed out on a
plate to dry. It needs to dry as quickly as possible, but
without getting too hot, for example on a sunny windowsill. To
test whether the seeds are dry enough, try bending one in half.
If it is dry, it will snap rather than bending.
All varieties of melon
will cross. Ideally, you need around a quarter of a mile
between different varieties. If your melons are in a
greenhouse or tunnel, you can probably get away with a somewhat
smaller distance, particularly if there are hedges, houses or
other tall barriers in between your melons and the neighbouring
crop. Cucumbers won't cross with melons, but will cross with
any other cucumbers or gherkins nearby. Again, you need around
a quarter mile isolation to make sure that your plants won't
It is possible, although
fiddly, to hand pollinate both melons and cucumber flowers.
Grow plants under a fleece tunnel to exclude insects, and then
hand pollinate the flowers on those plants with a paintbrush.
Make sure that you exchange pollen between different plants to
keep the diversity of your variety.
To harvest melon seed,
pick the melons when they are ripe and ready for eating and keep
indoors for a further day or two for the seed to mature further.
Then open the fruit, scoop the seed out, and wash in a sieve
under running water. Spread out on a china plate to dry
Cucumbers need to be
ripened well beyond the edible stage. They will become much
fatter, and green varieties will turn a dark yellow brownish
colour, white varieties a paler yellow. Keep for a week or so
after picking to let the seeds mature fully. Then cut open,
scoop out the seeds and surrounding pulp into a jamjar, add a
little water and stir well. Leave the jar on a sunny
windowsill for 2-3 days for the seeds to ferment. On the
third day, fill the jar fully with water, and stir well again.
The good seeds should sink to the bottom of the jar, leaving
pulp, debris and empty seeds floating on top. Gently pour off
the water and debris, refill the jar, and repeat. After a
couple of rinses, you should be left with good seeds at the
bottom of a jar in clean water. Drain off the water, and
spread out on a plate to dry well.
Both melon and cucumber
seeds will last for several years if dried well and stored
"Back Garden Seed saving"
by Sue Stickland (ISBN 1899233091) is an excellent reference
with a good intro to seed saving plus details about each
"Seed to Seed" by Suzanne
Ashworth.(ISBN 1882424581) tells you simply and clearly what you
need to do to save seed of any veg you care to mention using
materials you have at home.
"The Seed Savers
Handbook" Jeremy Cherfas, (Grover Books, 1996) is also good and
also talks in more detail about the reasons that you might want
to save your own seeds.
"Breed your own Vegetable
Varieties" by Carol Deppe ( Chelsea Green Pub Co; ISBN:
1890132721) is a good introduction to vegetable breeding for the
interested amateur. Until 50 years ago, all gardeners were plant
breeders - it's not difficult, you just need to know how to do
it, and the tradition has been lost. This book will give you
the basics, and then if you're
interested, the nitty-gritty too.