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Re: Ack! Heirloom tomato question

  • Subject: [cg] Re: Ack! Heirloom tomato question
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2006 14:50:53 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, Holly,

LOL! I know how you feel about gardening, got the same
problem. Maybe there's a 12 step program for folks
like us (maybe this list is a virtual CGA meeting...?)

First, two favorite outfits in the seed saving dept: 

Seed Savers Exchange  - http://seedsavers.org

Southern Exposure - http://www.southernexposure.com

On tomatoes, Holly, I'm not sure your source has it
quite right botanically for tomato isolation
distances. Tomatoes, like beans and lettuce, are
self-pollinators, meaning the plant itself can
generate fertile seed and does not require pollination
from another plant. This is in sharp contrast to
cross-pollinators such as, say, members of the squash
family that cross like crazy (and need pollinators
such as bees to set fruit at all). You have to isolate
(or otherwise manipulate) squash, melons and cukes, or
you'll end up with cukazukaloupes. With tomatoes, this
isn't a worry, and many old timers simply save seed
from a few of their best and biggest 'maters each

However, it isn't quite this simple if you really want
to safeguard a particular tomato variety. To do that,
you are better off with some distance between
varieties you want to keep 'pure'. 6 meters (20 ft) is
a  'rule of thumb' I've heard a couple of times-
though it depends. Here's a very good overview from
Jeff McCormack, founder of Southern Exposure:


Also, 'maters require an additional step or two - you
have to ferment the seed. Rather than try to explain
it, here's an illustrated guide to the fermentation
process (it's easy, and good for kids because it's
messy) from Victory Seed:


Seed saving is really fun, and I'm hoping to do more
of it. David Bradshaw of Clemson University is a great
speaker on the subject, and has done a terrific job at
Clemson setting up a seed saving area. His list is at

Seed saving is especially important as a way to
maintain varieties that work best in our particular
agroecosystems, or that have wonderful
characteristics, such as flavor, that don't always
make it through the conventional 'square tomato'
breeding process and into those pretty looking but
cardboard tasting tomatoes in the supermarket.

In the meantime, there are a number of heirloom seed
companies and organizations that sell very interesting
varieties and deserve our support, especially for
veggies that are hard to save seed from on a small

Go for it, Holly!

Don Boekelheide
Urban Ministry Center
Charlotte, NC

From: ilexwhite@yahoo.com
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Sent: Thu, 24 Aug 2006 5:59 PM
Subject: [cg] Ack! Heirloom tomato question

Hello everyone, I'm very new to the list and new to
gardening, period, 
but I got 
bit by the bug pretty bad this year and now I even
dream at night about 
vegetables!  I'm doomed, doomed...  I love the
conversation in here and 
plan on 
becoming a dues-paying member next paycheck- this list
really brightens 
my day.  
The no-till conversation has been very informative.
  I just came across something surprising/
disappointing, and I'd love 
on this.  It seems that the International Seed Saving
planting heirloom tomatoes 100 feet apart.  Now, I
have a container 
garden on my 
small porch in downtown Detroit, and I'm planning on
creating a 
rooftop vegetable/ herb/ whatever garden for my
apartment building next 
I'm already compiling a list of heirloom tomato
varieties I'm dying to 
try next 
year, and I'd be pretty bummed if I could only try one
or two.  Is the 
100 foot 
recommendation simply for seed saving, in the interest
of keeping the 
from cross-pollinating?  Just how close can I plant
heirloom varieties?   
I am 
interested in learning proper seed saving, but I also
want to plant as 
much as 
my family can eat!  Input?
  Thanks so much-

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