(book review by Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Horticulturist, Univ. Vermont)
The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds
Robert Gough and Cheryl-Moore Gough. 2011. Storey Publ. softcover, 311pp.
This husband and wife team, authors of several gardening books and affiliated with the University of Montana, provide both the background on seeds (part I with seven chapters) and then most of the book is the specifics for various seeds (part II with four chapters including vegetables, herbs, flowers, and woody plants—ornamentals, fruits, and nuts).
In the first chapters, they begin with an overview of seed biology—how seeds are formed and factors influencing this. Next are the tips for growing plants for their seeds, including pollination—both desirable and not. Then they cover harvesting—knowing what you’re harvesting, timing, and cleaning the seeds from chaff and other floral and fruit parts. Of course next is how to store—factors that influence this, where to store, and how long you can store seeds.
The fifth chapter then gets into germinating seeds, including the types of dormancy you may need to deal with and best conditions for germination in general. General tips for sowing and then handling the transplants follow in the next chapter. This part ends in basics of breeding, both to know how seed varieties are bred and if you want to try creating your own.
The second part of the book, over 2/3 of it, have plants listed alphabetically within four major groupings. For each, lots of useful details are given including various species, family, plant type (perennial, annual, biennial), and how long seeds should live if stored properly. Flowering type and pollination is given, such as by insects or wind. A key point many gardeners may not appreciate is the need for some plants to be isolated by a certain distance from others (such as ¼ mile for hollyhocks) in order to prevent cross pollination, otherwise the seeds you harvest may not yield the same flowers on the plant they came from. How to collect and clean seeds, any seed treatments needed prior to sowing, then time and tips for best germination and subsequent seedling growth are given for each genus.
If you’ve ever wondered about how all the seed varieties you buy are developed, how seeds develop in general, how to breed your own plants, or just how to harvest seeds of plants from your own garden and what to expect from them, then this book will help.