While the warm season harvest may be over, there is lots of work pertaining to the warm season left to do. One of the biggest challenges is organizing all of the food that was packed away. The canned items should be stored in a way that allows the cans to be inspected from time to time. A few cans will not properly seal, and if left to sit unsealed they are capable of making a real mess. You can tell the cans are no longer sealed when the center portion of the lid pops to the up position, as opposed to the downward position created by an internal vacuum. When the lids pop up, the contents should be discarded either in a compost pile or in the garbage. Out of over 100 jars of canned tomatoes only three have become unsealed.
The harvest may be over but it’s now time to collect seeds for future planting. I’ve found that the hot greenhouse makes harvesting and storing dry beans pretty easy. I start by collecting the bean pods and spreading them out on my tables in the greenhouse. The sun will then dry out the outer husk making the process of removing beans fairly easy, simply apply pressure to the outer husk and watch the pod crack along the seems. The dry beans inside can then be stored in a glass jar for planting next spring.
Lettuce seeds are also pretty easy to collect if they are allowed to dry in the sun. The plants will grow to about three feet in height, and will grow tiny seed pods after setting small flowers. I’ve been experimenting with the quickest way to harvest the seeds, but for now the best advice I can give is to collect each pod individually, and press the pods between your fingers to release the seeds within. You will then need to separate the seeds from the pods, or simply plant the pods with the seeds in the spring.
It’s nearly time to collect Pak Choi seeds as well. I didn’t get a large enough harvest to cook with this Asian vegetable, but I did try it raw, and it wasn’t bad, so I plan to save lots of seeds for next year. The plants seemed to put all of their effort into seed pods, so I may have planted them late in the season, but there will be plenty of seeds for next year.
Before collecting the seeds, wait till the pods turn a brownish color, and crack open easily. A few of the pods have already turned brown, but the majority are not yet mature.
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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.
I’ve been trying to expand my gardening skills to include cooler weather crops, or in other words the items that I didn’t like to eat as a child. I’ve had to adjust my thinking about the growing season to get the plants going, but I think I’m on the right track. I planted my broccoli weeks before the garden was roto-tilled, using a pick axe to turn over and smash up the soil. The plants were tiny then, and after a few visits from some ravenous critters, I wasn’t sure if they would make it, but here they are, growing quite well.
I’ve found a few peas that are ready to be tossed in salad even though they were planted late. I’ve also found that the squash plants that have invaded my strawberry patch are quite good, although they don’t seem to taste like zucchini. They carry a nutty flavor, and light colored stripes. I’m going to assume they are a cross over mix of many of the squashes I grew last year. Either way these plants must have gotten a very good jump on the season, as the rest of my zucchini plants are shorter then the veggie shown.
I’m not the only gardener thinking about the late season possibilities. Over the Fourth of July weekend, while visiting the whole family and enjoying my birthday cake, my Mother and I began conspiring to plant cooler weather crops, and so we planted seeds for broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I hope to add cool season kohlrabi to the mix if I can locate seeds soon. We decided to leave the seedlings on the steps to allow them to grow up in full sun.
The peppers and tomatoes seem to be right on track now, after some heavy watering with my new water cannon. The peppers shown still need some help from the compost pile, but in due time they will be growing like the bean in the fabled jack in the bean stock story.
The honey berries that I planted in the field are doing really well. They have begun their vertical reach, and are nearly 8 inches tall. I wasn’t sure how well they would do in my neck of the woods, but daily trips out to the edge of my yard with a gallon of water have paid off very well.
I’ve finally taken the plunge and moved out my tiny goji berry plants. I’ve added a layer of safety just to be sure the sun would not cook them while they were taking root. I placed a green mesh over the plants to block out about half of the sun’s day time rays. I was mainly trying to block the hot rays the sun beams down during the middle of the day, as they seem to be the most damaging. I moved one of the plants out to the field last week using the same setup, and recently added the second. The shade will be in place for about a week just to be sure the plant gets a good grip on it’s new soil.
I’m still waiting for my paw-paw tree, which won’t be shipped until September or October. I find the timing of shipping to be odd, as most plants arrive in spring, but when it comes to paw-paw trees, I’m the still the amateur.
On Tuesday I started planting Tomatoes, so by Thursday I decided it was time to switch gears to direct seeded plants. I started with some Lettuce, then Purple Kohlrabi, two flavors of Mesclun then I finished up with some Green Beans. I’ve been trying to pace myself so that I’m not too warn out for working the next day, and I now have 9 whole days to finish the rest of the planting before going back to work. You heard it right, this IT guy is going into full farming mode for over a week !
Here are the seed packets for the items I’ve planted as seeds.
When I was planning what to plant the other day I couldn’t find the Kohlrabi seeds I ordered, so I went to Home Depot to find some. Their seed selection was still pretty healthy, but there was only purple Kohlrabi available, so I bought three packets. When I finished planting that day, I found the original white kohlrabi seeds.
The table under the seed packets is a side project I’ve been constructing from locally grown/harvested rough cut lumber. You may notice the pattern at the bottom that was left by the sawmill when the giant blade cut this tree into slices. I decided to leave these lines slightly visible to give the piece some additional character. When it came time for staining it, I used a combination of Oak and Birch stains, which have turned out beautifully. I’d really love to be a full time farmer / furniture builder some day.
I’ve finally gotten my Goji berry plants, but I must admit I’m kinda upset with them. These tiny plants cost me $12 plus shipping and handling. I’ve always been one to hold my tongue and not complain, but that is quickly changing. I’m realizing that when things are unfair, light must be cast upon the shadows. I’m planning on calling the company in question and asking if my generously filled out order forms do not merit 5 living plants.
On a more positive note, my Rock Garden is starting to come together nicely. Most of the larger stones were in place when I started this project, and I’ve fitted the smaller rocks around them to build a set of steps. I’ve worked this area as an artist would swirl paint on a canvas, letting the end result be more of a product of the initial state, rather then my own will. I guess it would be simpler to say I’m building around what I’ve been given, and not forcing the project to a particular design.
After constructing the steps, I moved many of the larger stones in the foreground to build a planting area for my herbs. I have Basil, Parsley, Sage and Chives planted here. Behind the apple tree trunk shown, I hope to construct another planting area. Here I would like to place some of the wild Spearmint plants that grow all around the farm.
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.
It’s Time ! If you’ve been following my posts for long, you probably know that I have well over 300 tomato plants in my garden. This spring I planted 20 + varieties, and had over 600 plants in the greenhouse. I selected the best growing plants, and moved them out to the soil with quite a bit of help. On the second day of tomato planting, with five helpers, we managed to plant 180 in one hour.
The tomatoes in my garden should be as varied as the people in time square. I have red, yellow, purple, pink, and white tomato plants. There are canning varieties, stuffing, plum, and sandwich sizes.
Now comes the hard part. What to do with thousands of tomatoes, all starting to ripen at the same time. I better finish that produce stand !
For now though, as I wait for the massive onslaught, I’m saving the seeds from the largest of the early tomatoes. This will encourage future plants to grow larger fruit, at a quicker pace. Above I’ve saved Amish Paste, Garden Peach and Yellow Brandywine. I hope to save more of my own seeds, not just to save money, but more to the point: I want to get a set of seeds that are particularly suited for the environment in valley where I grow them. Plants that grow well in the garden, are more likely to set fruit containing seeds which will grow well next year. It’s really a long term investment of sorts.
Saving Seeds is simple. Find any garden produce that you like. Next, a napkin or paper towel should be placed on a table or counter. Cut open the ripe tomato, cucumber or whatever you’ve selected. Place the seeds on the paper, and leave them there to dry. It may take several days, but ensure the seeds are completely dry. It may help to place them in a well lit area. When they are dry, label an envelope with the variety, and place the seeds inside for next year.