Viable/nonviable seed

kentishmanMarch 23, 2012

I saved seed from around a dozen heirlooms last year. I've had good germination rates this spring with all of them except Cherokee Purple. When I saved them, I treated all seeds the same way: let them ferment for several days, rinsed them clean, etc. So, does anyone have any ideas why just the Cherokee Purple would not be viable? Has anyone else experienced this? Thanks for any help you can give me, Tom

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I've grown over about 3,000 different varieties and have saved seed from a good number of them.

Not all varieties ferment seeds the same for it depends on the bacteria and fungi, primarily, that fall into the glop as to what the end products are and also depends on the pH of the tomato innards you started the fermention with. And is also highly dependent on WHERE you did the fermentaions b'c high heat has been known to actually cook the seeds making them non-viable

So it could be that the CP seeds were overfermented, but you'd know that, I think, b'c they would be brown to almost black/ And it could be any of the variables I mentioned above.

Speaking, or shall I say writing, ahem, to just the variety you mention, I've never had problems fermenting Cherokee Purple nor its variant Indian Stripe.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 2:17PM
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Could it be that CP just needs more time? It's the last to germinate for me.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 9:21AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Honestly there are so many variables that can affect germination times and germination rates that it is pretty hard to just lay it off on one particular variety.

But what jumps out at me in your post is "let them ferment for several days". Define "several" as I would never ferment any seeds for several days. More than 1 or 2 is not needed and potentially lethal.

But that would have affected all your seeds not just one variety unless, as Carolyn said, the bacterial count was especially high in that variety.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 1:38PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Dave, where I live a fermentation would never be done in a few days, more like a week and in the Fall even longer than a week.

One good thong to look for in the fermentation container, I use clear plastic deli-containers, is the appearance of bubbles along the walls of the container. And for sure there has to be a well devloped fungal mat or the fermentation is usually useless.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 1:54PM
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I had a small batch of seed go bad on me this spring. I am using pill bottles for containers. Too air tight? I think I placed the seed in the bottle before they were completely dry because they had a bad color. Any way, those seeds were like 10 percent. Lucky I have other collections of the same variety tomato so no big problem.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Thanks to everyone for the helpful ideas. After trying my saved seeds twice (with no germination), I dug out the previous year's seeds and I've got good germination. I'll be very careful saving seeds this year.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 10:06AM
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When I save tomato seeds, I just spread them out on a cotton cloth and dry them. Once dry, I scrape them off the cloth into a bag or container. I usually have very good germination. I have read about the fermentation process, but my method seems more simple. One question I have is are there any problems associated with my method that I could avoid by the fermentation process?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 6:32PM
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I seem to have been getting very good germination results on
my saved and fermented seed for the past 8 to 10 years. I'd say 80% is less than average--I expect to get much better.

Originally, my process had simply been to pick seeds out of a saved tomato , spread them on wax paper, and dry them on a sunny window sill. Seeds had lots of dried gluckie on them, I had a lot of disease carryover, and my germination percentage was maybe 50 to 75%.

Now I have gone to fermentation and have kinda put together a simple repetitive process that works very well for me.

I think good seed saving starts with selection of a healthy looking regular fruit THAT TASTES GOOD! Others have commented on when and where to select the fruit from the plant but I confess I've never got the hang of this.

Every now and then I'll select a tomato for seed that I find later to be "off taste" or poorly pollinated, or diseased when I slice him up to eat and save seeds. So I just have learned to pitch any with questionable looks or taste and select another.

I just use open top small glass jars to ferment in. I wash the seed saved in a small coffee strainer while flushing with running sink water and rub with my fingers. Into the small labeled jar the seed goes with name and start date prominently displayed. I try to reprocess after 5 days. Our lake tap water is very low in chlorination-if I can smell it I'll use rain water and that does work best anyway when I can collect it fresh. I do the fermentation in the airconditioned house--not outside in the sun, and about an inch to 1 1/2" of water is all that is needed. After fermentation the seed is again run into the coffee strainer, held under running tap water and lightly rubbed,
then spread out on labeled and dated wax paper--not plastic or saran--waxed paper releases the dried seed nicely. I find my seed dry enough after a few days on the waxed paper that I can then transfer it easily to a small
clean labeled metal container like a dog or cat food can or even the screw cap that might come with a standard spaghetti sauce jar. I have a bag of containers like these
I store year to year in a plastic bag so it's no big deal.
By going to the metal containers for full long term drying I save MUCH SPACE IN THE HOUSE FOR DRYING ROOM AND CUT DOWN ON SPILLAGE (FROM CLEANING TYPE LADIES, ETC). Secondary drying goes on till late fall/early winter. Then I pack into labeled plastic coin envelopes, and the seeds go into
my freezer.

Extra dry seeds stored in the freezer will hold at up to 75% germination for 5 years minimum and up to 10 or more years at maybe 50% germination. The small coin bags are stored in larger ziplock plastic freezer bags marked appropriately as REDS, PINKS AND PURPLES, YELLOWS, ETC. I think the large ziplock freezer bags tend to stabilize
moisture content at a low and more constant level--anyway it works.

I know this message is a bit long and may not be of specific interest to many but I hope some will get a few ideas to help with setting up a good consistent practice.
Anyway I had a little time this morning.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 7:47AM
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This year I had 9 of 64 varieties that didn't germinate. I replanted the varieties I had extra seeds for using the same procedures (I know it's insanity to expect different results repeating the same procedure.). I put these on my plant stand facing a southern window. Most have come up. I think the difference is the heat from the sun warming the pots. When 55 varieties grow and 9 don't, it's tempting to blame the seed.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 11:06AM
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