Like me, Larry has enjoyed better produce from the garden than he could buy from the supermarket. Unlike me, he has learned how to make a wide variety of plants succeed in a high desert environment. (Disclaimer: Husband is the real garden guru at our place. But I've learned a ton from him and good neighbors.)
In the first photo, Larry is holding pea pods grown from hybrid and open-pollinated seeds. It's probably no surprise that the larger pods came from certified hybrid seed, or that they tasted sweeter than the open pollinated peas when he let us sample them. A self-sufficient gardener likes to know that she can have a crop year after year, but Larry warned that sometimes when you save seed, you might also be saving a pest problem if an insect has left its eggs or larvae behind.
You can save a seed and plant it whether it's open-pollinated or hybrid, but only the open-pollinated seed will consistently produce a plant that is like its parent. If you want to get started saving seeds, harvest them from the best plants in the garden.
There are some open-pollinated, non-hybrid seed that produces great results. Popular seed varieties that have been passed down through the generations are called heirlooms (not all open-pollinated seed is heirloom, but all heirlooms are open-pollinated). These plants are the source of debate in some gardening circles. They may lack some of the pest and disease resistance that is bred into hybrid varieties. That said, in our climate we've had great success with the pink Brandywine tomato. We love the fruit, which sometimes grows so large that one slice covers a whole sandwich. It's prolific and seems to handle the pests from this part of the world as well as anything else we plant.
One thing it won't do: wait until you get around to harvesting it. It needs to be picked as soon as it's ready or it turns to mush on the vine.
|Hybrid tomato blossom|
|Heirloom tomato blossom|
I have always bought Brandywine seed, even while knowing it was an heirloom variety. Tomato seed are messy and I've lacked the confidence in myself to save them, but here's what Larry does:
He pulls them from the fruit, puts them in a bottle, adds water and leaves them in the sun for a few days. This process ferments the casing around the seed. Then he rinses the seeds and dries them on a paper towel.
To the left is the crop he grows the most of: garlic. He harvests not only the roots but also the seed, which is saved for future plantings. The seed will produce one clove in a season; a single clove will produce a bulb over the same time.
I asked and Larry confirmed it: He doesn't have a vampire problem.
Side note: If you've wondered where I've been... everything is fine. In fact I am enjoying the summer a lot, which explains the sparse posts.