Other vegetables in the garden, however, are not so particular about reproduction. All members of the squash family are cross-pollinated by bees, meaning that crossing is inevitable when multiple varieties are in one garden. To maintain a pure variety, each variety would have to be spaced farther apart than a bee can fly, which is 2 miles.
Some members of the squash family, like zucchini and pumpkin, are actually part of the same species, meaning that they can interbreed. You could end up with a "puccini" rather than a pumpkin. I don't know about you, but I prefer my Puccini in opera form rather than pie.
The cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and their ilk, are all also the same species and can cross. Fruits like apples do not breed "true," and it's highly unlikely that the offspring will resemble the parent.
Another issue to consider when saving seeds is making sure that the fruit is mature when harvested for seed saving. Most people know that tomatoes should be red-ripe for seed saving, but other fruits need to be ripe as well. Peppers should ripen fully to a color other than green, and beans should change color and dry on the vine before harvest. For flowers, seed heads or seed pods should also mature fully and dry before harvesting.
Once harvested, seeds should be allowed to dry out, then stored in an airtight container. The seeds should be kept cool to extend storage time. I prefer storing seeds in the freezer, because it is a low-moisture chill that will not encourage dampness, unlike a refrigerator. Seeds can be stored for a few years in the freezer. If you are concerned about germination, perform a germination test by placing 10 (or 100 for large plantings) seeds on a moist paper towel and check for sprouting.
The Kanawha Urban Ag Alliance will meet at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 at the WVU Kanawha County Extension Office, 4700 MacCorkle Ave. S.E., Kanawha City. The group is a membership organization that helps members learn urban farming skills, develop community gardens and act as a network for people interested in growing and consuming locally grown foods. For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/kanawhaurbanagalliance/.
John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. He may be reached at john.por...@mail.wvu.edu or at 304-720-9573. Twitter: @WVgardenguru.