Thinking about Saving Strawberry Seeds?

We get frequent questions about saving strawberry seeds. We hope to talk about this in detail in the future. In fact, we plan a separate publication on the subject because it is an important aspect of growing any plant from seed. Here are a few thoughts.

Seed saving has been a part of agriculture since it began hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Seed companies are now trying to take that away from us in the name of convenience or using productivity arguments. Most of us do not want bureaucracies or corporations controlling what we plant. We all search for varieties/selections that grow well in our climate and systems. When we find just the right plant we want to keep growing it year after year.

This is not going to be a lesson in genetics. It is an introductory lesson for those who want to save strawberry seeds. And, it will be simple. Part one is that you can grow multiple species like Fragaria vesca and F. virginiana with assurance that they will not naturally cross. The second name indicates the species. Runnering and non runnering vescas will cross with each other. And, I might add that you will get some very interesting results with these types of crosses. It seems that runnering is what they want to do.

Another aspect true for F. vesca is that crossing white and red fruiting types will again result in some interesting results. It seems that the tendency is toward red fruit. Most of the cross made with vesca will result in red fruit with plants that produce runners. You will get some white/yellow and some clumping types but if you want to breed the ultimate white fruiting clumping type it will be a challenge and you’ll have to grow a LOT of plants to find what you seek.

The final thing I’m mention is that if you want to grow the same selection year after year then grow only one unless you have multiple locations separated by a mile or more. If you grow two selections in the same area they very likely will cross and the resulting plants will be different than than what you started out with. If you want to grow white or yellow fruiting types then don’t even think about growing a red fruiting selections. And, make sure and pick all the fruit. Volunteers produced from unpicked fruit can produce plants that are not the same as the parent. This is primarily true of crossing but self pollination can result in inbreeding and varietal variability.

We will try to expound on this theme and will rely on questions we receive to help guide the discussion.

Time to Think About Your Seed Needs

Within the last couple of days there has been a spike in emails and phone calls about seeds. The most asked question to date is whether our seeds are GMO. The answer, we signed the safe seed pledge which means that we do NOT sell GMO seeds. All of our seeds are open pollinated and are not hybrids.

We do sell some heirloom plants that are hybrids but none are GMO. They are propagated vegetatively which means by rooting their runners, so they are not open pollinated.

A couple of notes about seed availability and price. So far we are holding our prices or offering better prices and more discounts than in the past. We don’t know how long we’ll be able to do this. Some of the seed is now grown here in Delaware but a still significant amount is imported. The U.S. dollar is weaker than it was a year ago but we are pretty well stocked up right now. We likely will have some shortages as the season goes on, especially for seed we produce.

One other factor affecting availability is a significant increase in demand for seed from outside the U.S. Several species and many of the selections we offer are not available at all or to any great extent off shore. This is especially true for Fragaria virginiana and many of our F. vesca selections.

We are still making the transition from plant production to seed production. If demand for seed continues to increase we will likely significantly reduce our plant production and sales. Many of our customers are either garden centers or growers who grow for garden centers. With shipping costs being what they are it’s probably for the best if we ease back on plant production. It will be much more economical for gardeners to buy plants locally than to have us ship them across the country. It comes down to shear economics.

One last point. Most strawberry seed takes about 14 weeks from sowing to first fruit if grown in a range of 65 to 75 degrees F. This knowledge will help you to plan your sowing and also your seed purchases. Seed can be stored in a freezer prior to sowing and actually should be frozen for at least a month before sowing. All strawberry seed that we ship is already preconditioned and ready to sow. If you get the seed early or if you are a distant international customer who has to wait up to a couple of weeks to receive your order, freeze the seed until you are ready to sow to help optimize germination.