How Did Bloomsdale Spinach, Jonathan Apples, or Bloody Butcher Corn Get Their Names? Design Your Own Seed Saving Expedition

How did Bloomsdale spinach, Jonathan apples, or Bloody Butcher corn get their names?

Most likely the names came from someone just like you.

Yeah, when you develop a new variety – you get to name it.

For most of agriculture’s history, developing new varieties of palts was done primarily by home gardeners playing around with varieties in their kitchen gardens.

You certainly don’t have to be a big bio-tech company like Monsanto or Syngenta to develop amazing varieties of fruits and vegetables.  In fact you have much greater advantages than those huge organizations.  For starters, you don’t have share holders to answer to.  And more importantly, you can work directly and intuitively with the awesome forces of nature.

Being able to save seeds is the first step.  And a really important part of living sustainably.

Have you done any seed saving, or are you interested in learning?
What do you want to know about saving seeds?

Comprehensive But Understandable

We are working on a 6 part seed saving expedition that will be offered online this fall. It is designed to be a comprehensive but still entry level course to give  you a very good overview of the entire process of producing, harvesting and saving seeds.

When you’ve completed the expedition you will be able to plan, plant, and harvest your garden seed with the confidence that you have a solid foundation of seed quality that will grow true next year with excellent vigor, germination and production in your garden.

We need you help

Stephen Scott of Terrior Seeds is designing the online expedition.  Stephen is a Master Seedsman.  Stephen is one of the good guys dedicated to rebuilding the vast network of seed savers that our heritage is based upon.

Stephen has written an outline for the expedition, but he wants to make sure your questions get answered.

What do you most want to know about saving seeds?

What are you hesitant or intimidated about the process?

Are there certain aspects of seed saving that you don’t understand and would like a better explanation of?

Here’s the chance to give your input in a new seed saving expedition!

Click here to see an overview of the topics Stephen is covering, and please, please comment on anything else that you would like included.  Note that Stephen will be online answering the comments and this is a great way to get to him directly.
Topics we will be covering will include – but not limited to – challenges and rewards of seed saving, definitions and botanical terms to get you started, lifespan of common garden seeds and what conditions are best for storage, logistics of planning your garden for the highest seed saving quality, pollination and fertilization techniques to promote better seed, isolation methods for home gardeners, population size requirements and how to overcome a home garden’s limitations, soil cultivation to improve seed quality, harvesting and processing techniques, storage and germination testing and why seed quality is important but too often missed or overlooked today.

The format will be online with a new module released each week and will be presented in a PowerPoint style format with video, slides, photos and articles to show you what you need. Resources will be shared on information, techniques and equipment that will help. Registration will open later this summer.

You Help Make it Great

The question for you is what key components would you need in a course like this?  If you’ve got specific challenges, questions or tips we would love to have them so we can incorporate them into the class. We’ve got the outline built, but your input will greatly help make it better – so please give us your thoughts, comments, suggestions.  We will fit them into making this the best course on seed saving for a home gardener!

So what varieties will you focus on – and what will you name them?



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This post was written by Marjory


  • Carroll says:

    I think one of the questions I have is how to prevent GMO’s getting into your rows or beds. I’ve heard stories of farmers discovering it in their fields and I’m thinking that maybe a neighbors could do the same. I may be worrying about nothing but, better to be corrected than for it to actually happen. I HATE GMOS!

    1. Jan says:

      I don’t think you can stop wind pollinated vegetables like corn from blowing into your crop. If you live far enough away, it doesn’t happen. As for me, I stopped growing corn.

    2. Stephen Scott says:

      Thanks Carroll, we will do some education on terms (heirloom, open pollinated, hybrid and GMO) as well as cover what is currently genetically modified, so folks will know.

  • sclindah says:

    I can save seeds from the easier types of vegetables like squash, corn, beans, tomatoes, etc. but I am really lacking on those that go to see the second year like carrots, lettuce, and radishes! I’m looking forward to this. I’d also like information on how to best store seeds and a labeling system.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      One of the introduction parts will be a presentation I’ve done on seed saving from a quality standpoint, as that is all too often missed with today’s popularity on seed saving. Thanks for your thoughts and needs!

  • Charles E. Hughes says:

    I have bought books on growing from seed in the past and I noticed one thing that all the authors seemed to have in common, they never told you where on a plant variety to find the seeds that you wanted to collect. That is my main suggestion, since I consider myself as a beginner, at 64, time is now to learn or be a slave consumer to the Monsanto’s of the world.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Thanks for this Charles! I think this is overlooked too often, or assumed that everyone knew it.

  • Kelly says:

    There doesn’t seem to be a link where it says “click here”. I agree with the GMO comment above. How do we isolate our seeds from outside influences? Also, how many plants do we need to maintain a healthy line? I’m never sure if I should save those first wonderful fruits because they were the earliest and that’s what I want (to make sure I get seeds from the right plant), or wait until the plants are wearing out in the fall and let them go to seed. I am accidentally getting my first crop of onion seeds this year from some onions that overwintered. They are in the way though. I’m thinking I should make a bed just for biennials like onions and self seeders like lettuce and kale to overwinter. Is that what others do?

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Your comments are valuable Kelly, so thanks for them! We will spend some time on isolation – the 3 ways that are used and what makes sense for the home gardener, as well as selection – choosing the first vs the middle vs the last seeds to get better production in your garden.

      I’m so glad to see that there are home gardeners that are interested in learning about these things!

  • NolaM says:

    Cross-polinating. How if you have sweet and hot peppers growing side by side, the next your you will have hot sweet peppers.
    I learned my lesson by planting pumpkins, spaghetti squash and cukes in the same bed.
    I had stringy long orange everything. LOL
    Learning what plants seed in the second year and leaving a few carrots, kale, chard, beets for the next year’s seed.
    Learn what grows best locally. I was helping a senior gardener doing spring cleanup (Ida is 88) and there was a patch of green growing up through the snow. I pointed, “What is that?”
    She said, “Oh…that is my lettuce, I brought it from the old country 60 years ago.” (Northern Poland area)
    I scooped a cluster from the still frozen dirt, took it home, grew it out and give seeds and plants away all summer.
    Ida’s Lettuce is amazing. A cross between a romaine and leaf, you rip the leaves off and let it grow up the middle.
    Does not get bitter even when in full seed.
    It is important to give acknowledgement and attribution of where we get our knowledge.
    I have found that people who don’t have personal esteem issues.
    However, when you learn to give the glory to god and others, more is gifted and given to you to pass on.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Good thoughts Nolam! We have planned on covering the isolation issue, as well as what annuals, biennials, and perennials are and how to work with them.

      I really like the thought of learning from older, more established folks. We had planned on talking about this a bit, but your comments give reason on why to increase this. Thanks!

  • Kat says:

    I think the foremost question in my mind is how to maintain genetic diversity. I have some very good seed saving books and they all state that anyone growing to save seed must have LOTS of plants in order to keep the strain from losing vigor. It seems to me that anyone saving seed would have to either routinely introduce seed from another sources or have acres and acres of garden space. I have successfully saved lettuce and some other easy to grow plants for several years will no ill effect. Other plants, such as corn, have lost vigor: the plants have been smaller with less healthy crops. I am growing about 250 (grain) corn plants per year. I also have questions about GMO contamination. My neighbor who is about a quarter mile away has decided to do a giant corn maze on his property. I am assuming that my corn will now have GMO contamination??? 🙁

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Kat, we will definitely be spending some time on isolation/cross pollination issues! There is a simple way that is almost always overlooked on how home gardeners can overcome the “genetic bottleneck” issue – trade seeds of the same variety among gardeners locally. We will go into more detail on this!

      On the corn issue – time isolation is your friend. Plant earlier so your corn has tasseled and pollinated before theirs does. See if you can get to know them and explain what you are trying to do – they might be agreeable. I don’t think that you’ve got GMO contamination necessarily – but will have some hybridization going on. We will spend some time on terms so everyone understands the difference between hybrid and GMO corn.

  • Deb says:

    Great idea, Marjory! This is an area I am really tryng to gain some knowledge and experience. I agree with sclindah’s comment about saving biennials… Plus, though it might seem obvious, folks will need to know that they are starting with heirloom, open pollinated plants in order for the seeds to be “true”. A list of open pollinated varieties for the basic garden vegetables would be helpful. Plus, it might be good to know, if growing more than one variety of a particular vegetable, what are the safe planting distances to keep them from cross pollinating?
    I am really looking forward to this topic… Thanks!

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Thanks Deb, those are some of the core concepts that we will focus on!

  • Jim says:

    You may want to check out both the Suzanne Ashworth Bible on seed saving titled “From Seed to Seed”. She is associated with Seed Savers Exchange. Carol Deppe, with her book “How to Grow Your Own Vegetable Varieties” is a close second. Carol also runs a small 1-person seed company (Fertile Valley Seeds) that also carries seeds and strains she has bred herself. Her little seed company only operates for a couple months each spring.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Yes, Suzanne’s book is one of the most cited references in seed saving for the past 20+ years, and will be listed as one of our references. We use her info for creating planting info for our seeds as well.

  • BIG Doug says:

    I have saved seeds from squash and gourds, and have tried to grow Oak trees from Acorns, but the problem was mold got the seedlings. I have started many plants from seeds but they die off before the weather outside is agreeable. My timing needs improvement I guess.
    Right now, I have volunteer carrots and lettuce coming up and going to seed. Some of my onions that I started from small bulbs are making seed heads. I may let some go to seed. I need to know how to catch the seeds before they hit the ground and get into the ground for next year.
    Secondly, I do not see the outline for the series that will be out this fall, and can only say, the sooner the better please.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Thanks Big Doug! I’m working on getting it out mid August if everything goes according to plan…

  • JJM says:

    As a novice, I can let my seeds reach maturity, harvest and dry them. The problem is how to separate small and light seeds from the chaff after I work the seeds from pods (broccoli, onion, herbs, etc). When separating by gravity on a cookie sheet OR allowing a breeze to blow the chaff away, seems that I lose a lot of seed.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Thanks for this Jim, we will work to include info for this!

  • Jan says:

    I do save seeds. I have lots of questions. Like I had an awesome Lacinato Kale developed, I kid you not, 4 feet high and over a yard wide with big leaves, yet sweet, I planted most of the seed, had a crop failure and the left-over seed was not viable; therefore, I need a seed storage saving system that protects the seed for the most positive outcome. I also started to breed an unusual summer squash. I picked the ones with the traits, but I could have hand pollinated and put covers on the varieties in my garden not to be used for pollination, but I didn’t. Therefore, I didn’t get just what I wanted. Instead, nature took its course. I would rather have learned how to keep records, hand pollinate, and maybe even cut off a vine, use gel to start more plants and make the whole crop out of the best type. I did not know how. Furthermore, How about a seed storage system? What information needs to be on the packet? Maybe, taking a picture? Lastly, how do you decide how many traits you can have in your seed? I go for taste, vigor, size, and looks. Am I missing any?

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Excellent thoughts and questions, Jan! Thanks for all of them. Most of these are in the outline/modules, but your questions on a seed storage system looks like some good info for everyone.

  • Debbie Y says:

    I plan to start saving seeds from my garden this fall and like Charles, I am a beginner. I hope to see beginning to end how to find, process and store the seeds. I know it will take practice and a lot of trial and error, but we have seeds today because of other’s trial and errors. Thank you so much Stephen and Marjory. I look forward to the expedition.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Thanks for your confidence in us!

  • Sandy says:

    I have saved seeds before and am amazed at the viability of some of the varieties (especially tomato) seeds I have saved. What length of time is the recommended optimum time you can keep seeds and still have them be viable. I’m interested in all of your subject matter and look forward to the class!

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Seed viability and lifespan will be an important part of this course, along with rules of thumb and what are optimum conditions for storage.

  • cindi says:

    haha!….well…..i’m with charles; except he is probably more experienced than me! i am very interested in the process from beginning to end, and i know absolutely nothing about it! i also live in north florida which is either hot and humid in the summer, or cold and humid in the winter. i’d like to know especially how to store and keep safe (for germinating) my seeds.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      It’s in there Cindi! Thanks for your comments!

  • Carol says:

    I’m hoping the expedition will have a video component. I have seed-saving books and have successfully saved (and used) some types of seeds, but I learn best from watching it done and would love to watch a master at work! I look forward to the expedition and whatever you can share on when and how to harvest and store seeds, and yes, on some of the more unfamiliar plants, where to find the seeds!

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      I’m planning on doing some video and photos to help with the Powerpoint format. I agree, a 30 second video or a few photos can explain better than several paragraphs!

  • Selene says:

    The most intimidating part for the small seeds is identifying the seed itself.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      Yes, we’ve been stumped several times on what, exactly, is the seed and what part is the carrier. We will talk about this a bit!

  • Selene says:

    Is there any way you can tell the smaller seeds by touch? I don’t see well. Thanks.

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      That is a real challenge Selene! We will look into it.

  • Judy says:

    I have no seed saving experience. How do you save seed which are attached to liquid, such as tomatoes and cantalopes? Will drying separate the two?

    1. Stephen Scott says:

      We will cover wet and dry seed saving methods, as well as home alternatives to fermenting tomato seeds and what the differences are.

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