First time or experienced gardeners can rely on the Jefferson County Extension Office for information to keep gardens flourishing.
Starting a Garden
Before planting, the first step is to test the soil. A soil test will tell you if there are enough nutrients present for plants to grow.
A seed library is a collection of seeds where community members can take what they need, and are encouraged to donate back seed they do not use or have saved from their own gardens. Seed libraries encourage individuals to begin gardening, save seed, and share unique and locally adapted varieties.
Jefferson County has seed libraries established at all four public libraries:
- Boliver/Harpers Ferry Public Library - this seed library is a collection of non-hybrid seed
- Charles Town Public Library
- Shepherdstown Public Library
- South Jefferson Public Library
Self-pollinating plants (tomatoes, peppers, beans, and peas) are good choices for seed saving. They have flowers that self pollinate and seeds that require little or no special treatment before storage.
Cross-pollinated plants, those with separate male and female flowers (corn, melons, squash, pumpkins, and gourds) may cross pollinate by wind or insects. Seeds saved and grown from these crops will have fruit tastes and possibly looks inferior compared to the parent plant.
Open-pollinated plants (or heirlooms) are a better choice for seed saving. If open-pollinated varieties self-pollinate or cross pollinate, the seeds will grow into plants very similar to the parent plant. If a plant is not an heirloom, it is considered a hybrid. Hybrid varieties will be listed on the package as "F1."
To save seed, follow these instructions:
- Grow your plants and leave some fruit to mature.
- Select the plants from which you want to save seed.
- Choose only the most vigorous plants with the best-tasting fruit as parents for the next year's crop.
- Do not save seed from weak or off-type plants.
- Make sure the seed is thoroughly dry.
- Store seeds in paper envelopes and store in cool, dry place. You can further protect the seed by placing the envelopes in mason jars.
Some seeds will germinate even after many years when stored properly. For best results, use seeds within their "best by" date.
- 1 Year: Onions
- 3 Years: Carrots, beans, peas, peppers, squash
- 4 Years: Cabbage, spinach, eggplant, tomatillo
- 5-6 Years: Lettuce, tomatoes