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Why Isolate Peppers For Seed Saving?
There are many gardeners who are interested in collecting seeds from the peppers they grow so they can plant them the following year. If you’re one of those people then it’s important for you to prevent cross pollination and isolate peppers for seed saving. If cross pollination occurs then the peppers produced from those seeds will not grow true to the original species.
Can Pepper Plants Cross Pollinate?
Pepper plants along with some other vegetables, such as tomatoes, have what’s known as a perfect flower. This means that each flower has male and female components and can self-pollinate. Most likely, a perfect flower will pollinate itself even before the flower is fully open or as the petals pop open… usually. If for some reason the flower doesn’t self-pollinate then pollen from a nearby pepper plant can pollinate the flower, the term for this is cross pollination. Plants can cross pollinate from wind blowing the pollen from a nearby plant or it may be carried by a bee or other insect.
How Do I Make Sure My Peppers Don’t Cross Pollinate?
The simplest, and probably the most obvious, method would be to only grow a single variety. As long as none of your nearby neighbors are growing peppers you should have no worries of cross pollination.
Isolating By Distance
Chances are you want to grow more than one variety of pepper. If so, one option is distance. This means that you could space the different varieties a distance of more than 100 feet apart. For most backyard gardeners this is not going to be a reasonable solution.
Isolating Peppers For Seed Saving With Organza Bags
The most feasible method to isolate peppers for seed saving is to cover the plants, or parts of the plants with netting. It’s likely that you’ll just need a few peppers from which you’ll need to collect seeds for a home garden. As such, you can just cover the end of a branch with a few flowers using little mesh pouches known as organza bags. If you would like to save seeds from a lot of peppers you could also use 5-gallon paint strainers to isolate entire branches.
Whether using organza bags or paint strainers it’s very important to cover the flowers while the petals are still closed. If the petals are already open exposing the inner parts of the flower, cross pollination may have already occurred. It’s really as simple as placing the mesh bags over the branch and unopened flowers and securing bag tight around the branch. Organza bags have a draw string. For the paint strainers we use Velcro strapping to secure the bags shut.
Shortly after the flowers have opened, you’ll see that petals start to with and die. The withering of petals is your sign that pollination has occurred. At this point you should remove the mesh bag. Be sure and tag the pepper so that you’ll remember that it’s an isolated fruit. The tags can be as simple as a bread tie or piece of a straw (see photo above). Whatever you use to tag the flowers make sure it’s a bright color. Be sure and leave the fruit growing on the plant until fully ripe to ensure the seeds will be viable.
We hope you found this information useful. The isolation techniques mentioned here could be used for tomatoes and other vegetables as well. If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comment section. You may also be interested in our post about saving seeds from your garden.