It’s that time of year when storing away garden goodies isn’t the only priority. This is a ripe time to save seeds for next years garden, and if you’ve looked through a seed catalog, or lived anywhere other then below a large rock, you too may have noticed just how much seeds are selling for these days. If I had to buy seeds to replace the four varieties shown in the picture, I’m sure I would spend at least $10 on seeds, and I would probably get about 120 seeds for my money. Saving these seeds took very little time, and I’ve probably got about 500 seeds on the four trays.
Saving Tomato Seeds:
Cut open a tomato, and allow the seeds to drain onto a layer of newsprint, then simply let the seeds dry. When there is no more moisture, carefully peel the seeds from the paper, and store them for the spring.
I’ve also purchased quite a few seeds packets. I ordered the seeds on the right as our government was foolishly debating raising the debt ceiling. I was going to order them later in the season anyway, but I decided I would sleep easier if I ordered them before the debt deadline. I tend to sleep easy when I’m prepared for an outcome that is far worse then what I expect.
I’ve also been kicking around the idea of making a new garden area. It’s more or less a rough idea at this point, but the dirt is nice, the slope is less steep then the current plot, and there is lots of water nearby. It could be an additional garden, or maybe a replacement. I guess I’ll see where the world is headed during the winter months, and figure things out from there.
There it is, my supply of seeds as I head into the 2011 growing season. I’ve got all the essentials, including Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Beans, Zucchini, Winter Squash, and lot’s of things which are new to me such as Artichokes and Eggplant. I have my schedule of when to plant each item ready to go so that on June 1st I’ll have hundreds of little plants ready to be moved out of the greenhouse and into the garden. The only thing standing between me and this years growing season is about 3 inches of snow, 6 weeks of time, and the new mess I’ve made in the greenhouse. (I really need to build a workshop for my woodworking hobby).
So here’s the breakdown of my seed collection:
The shoe box on the left contains mostly seeds that have been saved from past gardens. In here I have mostly peppers, squash, and tomato seeds of various flavors, sizes and growth habits.
The box on the top of the photo contains all of the seed packets which I’ve purchased in past years. I’ve got hundreds of tomato seeds, flowers, lettuces, even turnip seeds.
The individual seed packets in the photo are items I’ve purchased specifically for this growing season. Here’s the breakdown:
Black Beauty Squash
Bush Baby Squash
Gold Rush Squash
Beans, Dry and Soybeans
Cannellini Lingot Bean
Marketmore 97 Cucumbers
Green Globe Improved Artichoke
Long Island Improved
PineTree Lettuce Mix
Early White Vienna
Pinetree Cabbage Mix
I’m sure I’ll add to this collection as I spot seed packets at various stores I frequent. It’s nearly impossible for me to walk past a seed display without picking up at least three new seeds.
I have been watching Mother Nature more so then usual now that I have a new project in mind. I’m thinking about building a root cellar to store produce without refrigeration. In order for the project to be a success, I must understand all of the variables which will heat the structure, as well as using the sun as a possible light source.
I’ve also reached a tentative deal with my brother in which I’ll be trading Babe for a piglet, and some bacon. The plan involves Babe meeting a boar, and having some piglets. Since pigs require three months, three weeks and three days for pregnancy, I should have a new piglet sometime in June.
Above I feed Babe the remnants of some frozen corn on the cob. Babe loves corn…. as you can see with that surprised look on her face. She has a very inquisitive expression on her face whenever I bring her fresh produce. It’s almost as if she’s saying “Where did you get a tomato in this freezing cold ?”.
I’ve been thinking about getting a jump start on the winter season by pruning my fruit trees and grape vines before it gets too cold, but Mother Nature apparently has a different plan. This morning, just as the sun was raising itself in the sky, I noticed the temperature at 5 F; Several inches of snow cover the ground, and I’ve found my plans for getting ahead of the season thwarted. I guess it’s for the better, as I’m still in need of my yearly Youtube pruning instructions for a quick refresher of the do’s and don’ts of tree trimming.
When I’ve finished pruning these trees, I’ll have lots of cuttings to experiment with, so I’ll need to get some new ideas for cloning hard woods. I have yet to find a source which states that cloning fruit trees is possible, but I can be quite stubborn, and I won’t let this idea go. I’m going to try a sandy soil base this time, and mist the cuttings more so then in the past. I’ve learned that too much top growth can be bad for clones, so I’ll try to encourage root growth more then anything.
Grape cloning is another possibility for this time of year, and I’ll try not to get carried away again. I’d love to start new vines, as it’s one of the few signs of growth in the winter, but I simply have too many grape plants to tend already. I’m sure rational thought will go out the window however; when I’m knee deep in grape vine trimmings. I’ll wind up with a room full of grape vines, with no where to plant them. I’ll just have to pawn them off on neighbors and co-workers….
Kids: Don’t try this at home ! If the gases do not properly escape during heating, you will be in trouble.
Somewhere during my life, I either learned this lesson myself, or picked it up from others: “The longer ahead you plan, the greater the reward”. I decided this weekend to plan ahead for the days when snow will fall, when everything pertaining to the outdoors will become more difficult. I’m starting early this year by re-digging the pit where my Bio-Char barrel resides, and gathering some sticks and other burnable materials. This Bio-Char cooker is a big part of my commitment to lower my Carbon Footprint.
Above is the most basic form of Bio-Char cooker I could find online. It’s terribly simple: Place a metal barrel over a fire, with some holes in the lid. In a normal fire, the Carbon would bind with Oxygen atoms, and create Carbon Dioxide, or if the wood is left to rot, it will decompose into Carbon Dioxide and Water. By keeping the wood in the barrel it will cook all of the gases out, leaving mostly Carbon behind. The Carbon is then added to the soil, where it will be trapped for hundreds of years, and this carbon won’t contribute to global warming as CO2. It’s also very good for soil once it’s been activated.
When the gases cook out of the wood, they expand due to the heat, and they’re flammable. Prepare to see these jets of gasses burn out of the holes like afterburners on a jet. If your thinking of trying this your-self, I would recommend bigger holes in the lid !
When it’s time to light this candle (after some snow falls), I’ll stack wood all around the base, and under the barrel. The setup requires about four times as much wood on the outside which will be burned then what will be converted to Bio-Char. Even though 1/5 of the carbon in all of the wood will be removed from the carbon cycle, the 4/5 burned will make it into the atmosphere early, perhaps by a few years. In the future, I hope to expand the ratio of Bio-Char to Carbon Dioxide by stacking several barrels, and using the flammable gases from the lower barrels to cook barrels on the top. For now, I can bury a little carbon, and at very least, lower my impact on the warming planet, while improving my gardens soil.
In the long term, I hope to clone most of the grapes which I’ve planted near the garden. The cloning part isn’t that difficult, but keeping track of each specific vine’s name over the course of several years may prove the hardest part. That’s where my Tiny Vineyard Map comes in. This morning, I walked around all of the now dormant vines, and noted each varieties name on a small map.
I also decided that this blog may be the best place to store maps of various plants, so here’s a map of my small orchard as well:
I may need to amend this orchard map, as two of the small trees didn’t seem to be doing that well this fall. There are also two new sweet cherry bushes which would be on a third line below the Red Delicious and Cortland apples on the left hand side of this map.
It may still be fall for most people, but for this IT guy there are two seasons: Winter and Growing season. Winter is a time for restocking, weather it be nutrients in the soil, or tools for the next year. This is a time to think about what has worked, and what has not, a time to plan what next years harvest will include.
As far as tools go, I lucked out recently when shopping at the local dollar priced store. You see, I was going to purchase these mechanical timers a few months ago, when there was a 50% off sign nearby. When I got to the register, they rang up at full price: $6. The frugal man in me proclaimed that they were marked half off, to which the attendant explained this item was excluded. I felt I had been the victim of a bait and switch, and even thought the items were worth the full price to me, I declined the purchase.
Then this last Friday, while my nephew was paying for his usual skittles and soda, I spotted a shopping cart marked “90% off” in the same store. I looked inside to find these Mechanical Timers, which contain water valves. If you set them to 30 minutes, the valve will be open for that amount of time. These would be a perfect addition to my watering habits. I can now set the sprinkler in the middle of the garden, add the appropriate amount of time, and walk away ! No more trudging trough mud to turn the water back off, and no more missing bits of my favorite shows. The best part is, after tax, each timer cost a whopping 63 cents.
Later in the weekend, Jenny and I were surveying the odd vegetables available to our climate, and made a list of new items to grow next year. Top of the list: Pak Choi, followed by colorful Swiss Chard, Purple Carrots, Bird House Gourds, and maybe even some…. gasp…. Brussel Sprouts.
When picking the final peppers before the first hard frost of the year, I found this pepper plant with four small peppers. They were too small to harvest, but too big to ignore. I dug up the plant, and placed it into an indoor pot, and set it by a large window. The plant is growing quite well, and I’m hoping to get four large purple peppers smack dab in the middle of winter. If it grows as well as the indoor pepper plant I had last year, I may replant it back in the into the garden in June 2011. That should really turn some heads if I can get fresh peppers before the end of June…. I guess well see.