Thursday, August 27, 2015

Garden Tip Thursday- Saving Your Summer Seeds

Saving your own seeds can be easy and well worth the time, but only if your plants were heirloom or traditional varieties. Seeds from Hybrid plants very rarely produce the same result in following years. The seeds have been engineered to produce a certain kind of plant and that doesn't always pass along fully to the seeds.

Not seeing any seeds from some of your produce, not to worry not all plants produce seeds their first year. These are your biennial varieties, like cabbage, beets and other root vegetables. Some climates are friendly enough to plants that they can survive the winter and then produce the greens and seed pods for collection. Most areas this isn't possible, so go ahead and order your carrot seeds for next spring.

When collecting seeds from fleshy vegetables, such as tomatoes and melons, you will want to wait to pick them until the are fully ripe, maybe even a bit over ripe. This will give the seeds time to mature. 
Beans and corn should be left to dry on their own before being picked for seeds. Make sure to be picky about which plants you pick from. These will be your basis for next years garden and you want the ones who are the most robust and healthy, these are also the ones who have shown that they have adapted well to Your Garden's environment.

Fleshy seeds can be scooped out by hand or with a spoon and then spread over a paper plate or paper towel to dry. Remove as much of the moisture and flesh (veggie) as you can, so that you have mainly seeds left.  Make sure that they have a good current of air so they don't mold. We use the paper plate idea because we can write the variety of seed right on the plate. Small seeds all tend to start looking like and I know I have so much going on I can often forgot exactly which plate had my favorite Cherokee Purple Tomatoes on it.

 Corn can be picked when the kernels have "dented" tops, this confirms that they have dried. Beans should be hard and the pods crackly. Keep any eye on them this can happen quickly at the end of summer and you don't want to share all of your hard work with the birds!

Also if you have planted marigolds, keep an eye on them also. They often produce a wispy seed on the flower heads. one flower can produce a lot of seeds and can be blown about your garden. They are great for your garden but you'd might not like to have them every where..

How  you store your seeds is also important. If it's a smaller seed, like tomato or pepper you can keep them in a small coin envelope. We get ours from an office supply store, the size fits well into a trading card holding page that we then put into a binder. For larger seeds, Pumpkin or squash they can be kept in glass jars with a tight fitting lid. But only once they are dried. No matter how you store make sure that you list the variety of seed and when it was harvested. If kept in a cool, dry place seeds can last for many years. This year we planted pumpkin seeds that we harvested 4 years ago and they are growing great. We did have to hide them from E, roasted pumpkin seeds are one of her favorite fall treats! So when you are harvesting your pumpkins make sure to get enough to go around..

As with every thing else that is related to growing your own foods, prices are climbing every year. We get a couple of very nice seed catalogs and I always buy a few exotic seeds as well as seeds for our root veggies but we have come to depend on our saved seeds to save us just a bit more. I hope this information helps you to save seeds and a bit of money at the same time!

Check back next Thursday for another Fall garden idea. Cover Crops!!
I hope you're enjoying your share of dirt this week...


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Garden Tip Thursday- Direct Sow for your Fall Garden

Last week we talked about starting seeds but there are also other seeds and bulbs that can be direct sown right into your garden late in the summer.

In northern climates your soil is starting to cool off a bit and it's time to plant your garlic. Hardneck varieties do well with colder winters and the softneck are more adapted to more moderate winters. If your temps are falling a bit it's time to go ahead and get your cloves in a well drained loose soil. If it's warm where you are you still have time to put in your orders for your garlic. Garlic has a long growing season but it's worth the wait. It can often be the last thing you plant in the fall. Hardneck varieties are what we grow even though we have a more moderate winter, because you get the added benefit of scapes. Two products in one! For more on Garlic check out a prior post here.

Beets and other root crops are also a great for a fall garden. The benefit from being directly sown into your garden. Parsnips rutabaga and turnips will give you delicious veggies for those fall stews. Radishes are also good for fall gardens, they have a quick turn around of four weeks, so go ahead and put in a few seeds now and a few seeds later to space out your harvest. Celeriac or Celery root has a longer growing season but can withstand cooler temperature and some light frost,

Beans also have a quick turn around and expect a larger crop than your spring growth due to the reduction in beetles during the fall. Beans are easy to dry for later use. So they make a smart addition to your fall garden as well as to your pantry! Be sure to look for a short season pea, shelling or snap, they freeze well and will definitely be enjoyed when the weather turns cooler.

While you are doing all of this work in the veggie garden make sure that you take a bit of time to plant flower bulbs for the spring, too. Flowers such as crocuses and hyacinths will give bees an early boost as they are coming out of winter.

Each region has a different timing for planting and these are just some suggestions, Check out your local garden centers and see what is available in your area!

Thanks for stopping by next week we'll be talking about saving some seeds from your own garden for use next year. Not only is economical but now you have a seed that has been personalized to your area.

Dig Happy and wear your dirt with pride!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Garden Tip Thursday- Starting Seeds for Fall Plantings

So you've got your area worked up and have add some nutrients back to the soil. While we are waiting for that to work in, we can go ahead and get some seeds started for that Fall Garden.

It sounds counter to what you would think but your best bet is to start your fall seeds indoors. In most climates it's just been too hot for seeds to germinate properly outdoors. I've fallen into the trap of thinking that the warm weather would act as a green house and get them moving faster but in all actuality it's just too hot for them.

What should you start from seeds?
 Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Collards, Mustard,  Swiss Chard, and  Spinach.
Don't forget to try something new too, like Kohlrabi, Rutabaga and Bok Choi.

Depending on your Zone, You will want to start your seeds about 12 weeks before your first frost. Not that those come with a handy schedule but you can check the Farmer's Almanac for an estimated date. For us here in North Carolina that would be August. Some areas will get a longer season and northern climates you are closing in on times to get your cabbage plants out. Other greens will still fair well if started now in the colder climates. But with the weather we have had this year, we might have a bit longer than we think!

Make sure to use a good starting soil, plenty of water and once the sprouts are up use a good organic liquid fertilizer that has been diluted a bit. If you have a protected patio or porch those are both great places to keep your seedlings until they are ready to go out. A couple of weeks in you should have seedlings with true leaves coming out. Be sure to place them in a protected area where they can get a small amount of breeze to help stiffen up the stalks, if you don't have a place safe from birds, direct sun or in our case Chickens, leave them inside and use an oscillating fan for a bit each day.

About three weeks in the plants should be ready to place out in the garden. Plant in the afternoon or on a cloudy day so the seedlings have a bit of time to adjust.

For your rows, fall planting is a bit different that spring. Since the  soil is already warm you'll want to make your rows a bit taller than normal. While the soil is warm now, we will start seeing shorter days and cooler nights soon. Taller hills have more area to warm during the day and this helps for those cooler nights. Also plant a bit deeper than you normally would, the top layers don't have as much moisture available this time of year. Make sure you water your transplants well, less frequent but deeper watering is better than quick watering every day. Mulch is as important now as it was in spring plantings, it will still help keep the moisture in the soil, weeds down but it will help to also keep the heat in around the roots so they can continue to flourish during those cooler/cold nights.

Enjoy getting your Fall crops started and check back next week we'll be talking about what can be directed sewn into your fall gardens!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thursday Garden Tips

It's all ready August and I just can't believe it! Fall will be here before you know it and never fear great gardening opportunities are still available.

This weekend would be a great time to get your tired summer garden ready for a great fall garden!

Your first step would be to take out and vines or plants that have passed their prime, if they are still in a healthy shape with no molds or other issues go ahead and put them in your compost. They'll get a another turn in the garden next spring just in a different form. If the plants seem to be diseased or bug infested go ahead and bag them up for disposal. We don't need that in our fall garden!

Now that you have some open space go ahead and add back to your garden. If your spring and summer were as tough as ours has been your going to want to build the soil back up. Use your own compost or your local garden center often has bags available. One local center near us sells compost made by the city. They have a drop off point for yard waste and they grind it up and let it sit. You don't always know what's in it but is encouraging that they are offering this service! If you don't have a compost that's easily available check out "Black Kow". It's a great manure mixture that has been composted and comes if different size bags so there are options for any size garden or gardener for that fact. If you are wanting an organic option I've seen an organic mushroom compost at Lowes and even at our local Harris Teeter.

I know it seems soon but you are going to want to give it a bit of time to settle in and work it's magic before you start the planting season over again! It needs to be done at least two weeks in advance to get a good start for those fall plants.

Now that you've thought about the soil, we'll be thinking about starting fall seeds next.

Check back Next Thursday for tips on starting fall seeds to get the best germination and results in your garden!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Figs are on!

And they are taking up all of my spare time. Not that I normally have much but I do have a couple of other projects I'd like to work on this week.

And I'm not the only one who has realized they are on.Anyone have a good recommendation for getting rid of June Bugs or Japanese Beatles for those of you not in the south?

These monsters have found the fig tree and are swarming. The tree is rather huge and I really don't mind sharing a fig or 5 or 6 with them but when you are below them picking and you wiggle the branch they all fly out and inevitably some will run into you and at least once during each picking, one will get into my hair and I'll just say the outcome isn't pretty for either one of us..They all bunch up on one fig, which I should be grateful for since there are so many hanging around this year. I have those bait bags but they have an attractant in them. I don't need to attract any more. I wonder perhaps if my neighbors down the road would mind if I put a few bags up at their house? 

June Bugs aren't our only guests, we have plenty of crows, wasps, spiders, and butterflies. Some of these I mind more than others. 
This guy is okay, I think he wanders back and forth from the front yard butterfly bush to the back and the figs. Maybe I should put out one of those shallow basins for butterflies to drink from. I have seen quite a variety of them but only when I don't have a camera handy. Of course.

This is one of the nasty visitors, I'm hoping the birds won't fill up on fruit and decide to have a bit of a wasp side dish to round out their dinner.

This guy I saw last night and he is always welcome! 
In fact this is an open invitation to bring his friends!

So I'm going from this to..
This.. Strawberry Fig Jam among other flavors. So I guess it's almost worth bugs in your hair..

Hope you're having a really great week, check back soon for Duckling Updates, Fall Garden ideas and an easy fruit butter recipe!