Digging In: Creating and Maintaining a Great Vegetable Garden
Planning and Planting a Vegetable Garden
Soil and Composting
Caring for the Garden
Pests, Diseases, and Other Problems
Crop by Crop: Secrets of Success With Your Favorite Vegetables
Beets, Radishes, and Other Root Crops
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Friends
Lettuce, Spinach, and Other Leafy Crops
Melons and Watermelons
Onions and Garlic
Squash and Pumpkins
Excerpt from Planning and Planting a Vegetable Garden, page 30
Q. A friend of mine has some seeds he saved from his garden last year that he'll give me. Are they okay to use?
A. That depends on what he saved and how he saved it. Seeds saved from hybrids - cultivated varieties that are the result of crossing two distinct parents - will not "come true" from seed. This means that the plants that grow from the seeds may not exhibit any of the fruit or foliage characteristics their parents featured. For this reason, they will probably yield disappointing results in your garden. If your friend grows heirloom and open-pollinated cultivars and saves seeds from plants that did well in his garden, they're a good choice since they will come true.
The other concern about saved seed is how it was stored. For best germination, seed needs to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. While you can try to germinate seeds that have been stored in other conditions, germination will probably be be poor, and you're far better off spending your time and effort on new seeds.