Book Review: The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds

complete guide to saving seedsThe Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, Trees, and Shrubs
by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough
Gardening
310 pages
Published 2011

This is an amazing reference book. It begins with some general chapters on why you should save seeds, the anatomy of seeds, and some basic techniques for harvesting seeds, hand-pollinating, basic general principles of seed storage and the like. Then it dives into the real meat of the book, the chapters on the specific plants. They’re divided into the six broad categories listed in the subtitle: vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruits, trees, and shrubs. Within those chapters, each species is listed separately, with notes on the scientific name, the species family, the plant type (annual, biennial, perennial), seed viability, how many plants to save seed from, spacing for seed saving, and then a few paragraphs on flowering and pollination, any isolation requirements, and specifics on how to harvest, clean, and store the seeds for that species. It also has germination and transplanting notes for each species.

This would be an invaluable reference manual if you intend to save seeds from your plants and become self-sufficient, but it’s still useful if not, for its notes on the pollination of each species. The isolation requirements are especially interesting; there are some plants that will cross-pollinate with plants 10 miles away! The sidebar on pumpkins and squash was also fascinating – I didn’t know so many squash were technically the same species as pumpkins, just different cultivars. And that means they’ll cross-breed if you’re not careful! Even more fascinating, giant pumpkins aren’t the same species as jack o’lantern pumpkins, so they won’t cross breed.

I will absolutely be adding this book to my collection as a reference manual.

From the cover of The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds:

Improve the health and productivity of your garden season after season by saving seeds from your best plants. When you harvest seeds from your own garden, you will:

-Take another step toward food independence
-Save the money you’re spending on plants and seeds
-Enjoy a healthy garden filled with plants uniquely adapted to your own backyard
-Be able to swap seeds with other seed savers
-Preserve genetic diversity and regional favorites
-Ensure a safe and varied seed selection for future generations.

To begin saving seeds, choose healthy plants with desirable traits. Is pest resistance important to you? What about tomatoes that ripen early or spinach that’s slow to bolt? Do you have pink sweet peas whose color you want to replicate next year? Select for these traits and build your best garden ever. Plant-by-plant instructions guide you through all the seed-saving techniques specific to 322 plants.

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