I’ve been a little pissy this week. I am getting so frustrated waiting for my vegetables to grow! I feel like it’s never going to happen. So many hours, busted knuckles, sore knees and torn fingernails and nothing to show for it. Boo-hoo, poor me. My cyber-pal Angie says to bring whatever we’ve got going to her Fiesta Friday #15 blog party, and apparently I’m showing up with a case of whine. Hopefully there’s enough handy info to make up for my bad attitude. Maybe you nice folks can serenade me with teeny tiny violins while I bitch and moan?
Nah, enough with the pity party. Fact is, food takes time to grow, especially when you start from seed, so I am sucking it up and entertaining myself collecting seeds for next season.
I am new to seed-collecting, having never put two and two together and realized that seeds make flowers… and food. Duh. It’s like, I knew, I just didn’t really know. Jon on the other hand was always saving seeds from organic vegetables we got at the store and sticking them in the ground. And sometimes they grew! They also sprout from our compost pile and occasionally in spots in the yard we know are popular raccoon restrooms.
So it took a while but I’m finally starting to get it. The gorgeous red amaranth above was one of my first big ‘aha’ moments. Look at that – I’m shaking this thing and seeds are coming out! I now spend hours reading about seeds – finding, harvesting, storing, germinating, etc. It’s a pretty fun way to keep the garden bursting with color and food and save a few bucks in the process. Also, by saving my own food seeds I know I’m getting open-pollinated heirlooms, which are Monsanto-pesticide-GMO-free. And while seeds from the occasional hybrid won’t necessarily grow true, it’s kind of a fun experiment to save them and see what you get.
Not only that, a lot of seed pods are really cool! Some are so beautiful I’m not even sad when the flower dies. Check out these Poppies (Papaver Somniferum) above. The flower is gorgeous, but it only blooms for a day or two and then this crazy seed pod forms. Bonus! The key with collecting poppy seeds is to let the pod dry on the plant but grab them before they split open and pour out their seeds. This can happen very quickly so you must be on your toes! See? Gardening is exciting!
The ones pictured are still green and getting plumper but within a week (probably all of a sudden and while I’m sleeping) they’ll turn brown, little tiny holes will open at the top, the stem will bend over, and a zillion poppy seeds will pour out. It’s great if you want them to reseed, but if you want to collect any seeds you’ve got to keep an eye on them. When they’re nearly ready to pop you must spring on them, leaping from the shadows and pouncing with your weapon of choice (I recommend garden shears), and stuffing them into a paper bag. Like a poppy ninja.
California Poppies are a little different – their pod is long and narrow, like string beans. I haven’t grown these before so I’m waiting to see what happens… also like a ninja. Waiting. Watching. Ready to pounce.
Now this is what happens when you leave an onion in the ground through two growing seasons. Actually in this case, I grew these tiny red onions two years ago and they were such a pain to peel we never ate them. Last fall when they started sprouting in the pantry I stuck them in the ground and people kept asking me what would happen (or did I keep asking people?). I had no idea. I’m still not totally sure if I’ll get a bulb after the greens die, but who cares because these flowers are nuts! The bloom is a gorgeous puffball made of hundreds of tiny white flowers. Bees go absolutely gaga for these things! So do I, obviously.
These have not proven to be the easiest to harvest, but apparently if I let them dry completely it’s much easier. I’m trying to be patient. Tap tap tap. That’s my foot. Through gardening I am finding, surprisingly to me, that I’m not a very patient person. I don’t know if that was clear.
Another important lesson I’m learning is that seeds don’t last forever and they need to be stored right, in a cool, dark place. Onions seeds, for instance, should be used the first year. And see the corn pictured above? I planted it at least two months ago. It should be several feet tall by now. Those seeds were 3-4 years old and had been stored at room temperature. The corn below, on the other hand, was planted a month later from newly harvested, properly stored seeds. As you can see, it is thriving! Every seed germinated, leaving me with two healthy plants in each spot. I have some thinning out to do.
This corn will be so cool. It’s an heirloom called “Glass Gem” only recently brought back into circulation. The kernels are all different colors and you never know what you’ll get. It’s also technically a popcorn, but that remains to be seen.
Now if you don’t mind bringing the conversation back to raccoon poop for a minute, it turns out that many seeds require fermentation before saving. Tomatoes and passionflowers are a couple popular ones. It’s a pretty simple process of soaking the seeds in water for a few days and allowing the non-viable ones to float to the top. Scoop those out, soak again, then rinse, dry and store. Alternatively, you could feed them to a raccoon and follow him around with a baggie, but I can’t promise that will turn out well for you.
This season, my first time starting seeds indoors, I had good germination on all my tomato seeds except the pineapple tomatoes I received in a trade. I planted eight seeds and only one germinated. It grew into a weak, spindly plant that I finally pulled up and tossed in the compost, which is really hard for me. I hate killing plants (wish me luck thinning my corn). I don’t have a photo, it was too depressing. My guess is that those seeds were dried but not fermented.
On a more positive note, these are heirloom beefsteaks I got from Mozybeau Farms. THIS is what a healthy tomato plant looks like! I can’t wait to bite into these suckers in, like, two months. Which takes me to my next post, tentatively entitled “What the hell is taking so long?!?” Did I mention I’m not a patient person?
~~~ On a side note, while I was writing this silly post a family of Phoebes, mom and two babies I think, flew into my front yard! So freaking cute. Okay, I’m happy again. Like a ninja, because, why not.
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