Gardener's Grapevine 2013.01.23

Written by David Green.

This past week I have been home with my husband getting things organized for him. He has to walk with a walker and it limits what he can do. The walker is not to keep him from using the hip, it is to keep reminding him not to move wrong. Once his muscles heal he can put the walker aside.

With that said, you would think I’d have gotten a lot of things done. Well, the intention was there, but the reality is that I could be home for six months and not catch everything up. Top that off with trips to the doctor and physical therapy, and you begin to see the week sliding away.

At least the Christmas decorations are back in their totes and soon to make the trip back to the attic. It is so much work to get the decorations out and up with just as much work to put them away. I start out gung ho and end up with "Oh, goodness, why did I get all this out?"

Gardening is the same way. Every spring I think, let me at the dirt, I want that plant and that plant. I start January with the intent of starting my seedlings inside and having great plants by spring. Some things come to pass and some become like the decorations—oh, what have I done? I have great respect for those folks with a yard full of big beautiful blooms and not a weed in sight. Either those people don’t sleep, eat or hold a job or they have a huge staff of hired people helping out, because that takes an act of God to accomplish on your own.

Let’s talk about seeds. Do you keep left-over seeds? Do you start with new seed packets every year? Do you save seed from your favorite plants? I do all of the above. Every year I plant seeds from the year prior and take a chance on if they will germinate or not, so I decided to do a little research on the topic. What I came up with from many different sites is that you should test the seed prior to planting and see if it will germinate. Most recommend wetting paper towels (I would use a couple put together for added strength), placing the towels in a low pan and add eight to 10 seeds in a row on the wet towels. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it on top of the refrigerator so it’s out of the way, yet warm. Leave it there for a week and water with a spray bottle if the paper towels get dry.

After the week, open it up and check to see which seeds have germinated. If less than 50 percent have started throw out the seed; more than 50 percent you are working with good seed. It sure saves a season of poor crops and wasted garden space. Some seeds, if stored in a cool dry place, can last five years or more. Others are just not that resilient.

Years ago saving seeds was a given if you were to have a decent garden. Most everyone relied on their gardens to get through the year without starving. Canning and drying foods were a common way of life for everyone. Seeds have been available to purchase for a long time, but it was and is much less expensive to save your own. You can save seeds from open pollinated or heirloom plants, but not from hybrids which most vegetable plants are if they come from a garden store. Open pollinated plants are plants that the offspring replicates its parents. The seed will breed true to type. Sources for open pollinated seed include Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seeds of Change, and the Territorial Seed Company.

Seeds must be completely dry prior to storing them in airtight containers. A dry seed will shatter when squeezed in a pair of pliers.

Whatever you do for seeds, I wish you good luck. Gardening is as much luck as it is knowledge.

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