Bountiful Blossom Bagging

This simple seed-saving method allows you to preserve true-to-type heirlooms while also outgrowing single-cultivar limitations on your garden.

 Photo by Seed Savers Exchange

The seeds of each well-loved heirloom cultivar are an unbelievable gift, because within each seed coat are the genes that make that cultivar unique: the incomparable taste of a tomato well-adapted to your community, the unbelievable color or form of a flower given by an old friend, or a superb cultivar purchased through a seed exchange that you hope to propagate for years to come.

Saving seeds from species that are capable of cross-pollination is an exciting challenge for seed savers. Home gardeners who want to save the seeds of cherished heirlooms that fall into this category, such as cultivars of tomatoes and peppers, should look no further than the relatively simple process of blossom bagging. Blossom bagging allows gardeners to grow more than one cultivar of a crop type at a time and save seeds of multiple cultivars in the same season.

Isolate to Propagate

The object of saving the seeds of heirloom cultivars is to maintain and reproduce the qualities of that variety in the seeds that are collected. For species that are primarily self-pollinating, such as lettuce, peas, or beans, keeping a cultivar true to type is relatively straightforward. Cultivars of these species can easily be kept true to type with minimal isolation distance, since plants of this type use pollen from the plant itself, rather than from an external source. This simple process is a good introduction to the practice of seed saving for beginners.

Saving seeds from peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes that are true to type is more complex. They require certain distances from other cultivars to prevent cross-pollination of their flowers. For some plant species, which have flowers containing both the male and female parts, blossom bagging is an option for isolating these flowers from unwanted cross-pollination.

The chosen flower for seed saving is isolated from other flowers of the same species so that it can self-pollinate and produce true-to-type seeds. True-to-type seeds are seeds possessing the desired traits of the cultivar from which they were reproduced. To save these seeds, a gardener isolates a flower by placing it in a blossom bag to ensure that the flower is protected from unwanted pollen from the flower of another cultivar of that species. Bagging the flower isolates it from other cultivars, and also thwarts insects from cross-pollinating it.



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