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A Different Kind of Packing

August 14th, 2012

Over the past 6 years I’ve been collecting a wide variety of plants of all colors, shapes and sizes, some of them rare, many of them nurtured from tiny seeds. Many of the plants from my collection will be moved to Maine via cuttings, seeds and a few as potted plants.

Over the past month I’ve been taking cuttings of the hydrangeas in my collection that I won’t be digging up. Most of these have been gifts from Mr Chiots. I have close to 30 different varities in my collection, they range from mature shrubs of 10 feet to tiny first year plants with just a few leaves. There are 10 or so that are small enough to be dug up and potted to make the move. The larger ones are moving via cuttings.

I’ve also been saving seeds for a wide variety of plants that have proven themselves to be great specimens. There’s a stunning yellow/green foxglove that is very hardy and quite lovely, as well as a regular tall purple foxglove that has seeded down every year and managed to survive our coldest winters. My black hollyhocks will also travel by seed to Maine, along with a beautiful pink hardy hibiscus. My collection of herbs will be also traveling by seed as well, catnip, greek oregano and a few others.

There’s even a master list of all the plants I want to take so I don’t forget any. Luckily if I do miss any of my favorites I can probably find seeds or plants in Maine, though I’d much rather have a descendant of one of my plants here. My mom has most of the family heirloom plants so I don’t have to worry about getting those this year, I can get starts from her next spring.

There are plenty of plants I wish I could take but can’t. Many of which, I’ve nurtured from tiny cuttings themselves to the grand specimens they are today. My ‘Limelight’ hydrangea is one in particular, I planted it 10 years ago when it was a mere 4 inch tall stick. I’m also sad to be leaving the boxwood hedge I planted last year. Hopefully whoever ends up gardening here in the future will have always dreamed of a box hedge like I did.

Have you ever moved plants from one home to another?  If you could only take one single plant which would it be? 

Another Great Reason to Grow Heirlooms

April 9th, 2011

About 95% of the edible vegetables in my garden are grown from heirloom open pollinated seeds. I enjoy growing them because of the history behind them. It’s nice to know that generations of gardeners have grown the same things in their gardens. One of the best reasons to grow heirlooms is because you can save the seeds. You do have to take precautions from cross pollination with some varieties, but with a little planning it’s quite easy. I save seeds from a lot of the varieties of tomatoes that I grow. Saving seeds from the plants that thrive in your garden is a great way to develop plants that do well in your area.

I have some arugula that survived the winter and figured these particular plants were the hardiest ones since they survived when others didn’t. I’ll let this go to seed and plant them again this coming fall. I should have better survival rate than this past winter because the seed was saved from these hardy plants. Next spring I’ll once again save seed from the surviving plants and eventually I should have a hardy arugula that will do really well in my particular climate and soil.

I also have some celery that survived the winter and I’m hoping it will go to seed so I can get a hardier version of it as well. This is one of the many reasons to grow heirlooms! Sure they sometimes don’t produce as abundantly as their younger hybrid versions, but what’s wrong with that? I sure don’t want to be replaced with a younger, faster model when I get old. More isn’t always better!

Do you save seed from any of the heirlooms you grow? Have you ever worked to develop a desirable trait in a plant by saving seed and replanting over several years?

Saving Tomato Seeds

October 4th, 2010

I’ve been saving tomato seeds for a few of my favorite varieties including: ‘Principe Borghese’, ‘White Beauty’, ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Goldman’s Italian American’ tomatoes. Saving tomato seeds is an easy process, if you have a favorite heirloom variety you should give it a try to preserve it.

The most important part is choosing a few of your best tomatoes. Obviously these tomatoes have had great germination and have good genes to pass on. Ideally you’d want to choose a few nice ones from different plants (of the same variety of course), but don’t worry if you only planted one plant, the seeds will still be OK. I only have on ‘Brandywine’ plant and I save seed from it every year.

All you need to do to save tomato seeds is to scoop out the seeds and gel and put them into a jar. Add some water and let them sit until a scum/mold forms on the top of the jar. This process ferments the seeds and helps remove them from the gel, I’m guessing it also helps kill bacteria and disease. All the seeds will sink to the bottom when they’re ready to rinse. Generally I let mine sit for a week or two.

You’ll want to skim off the scum/mold, then pour the contents of the jar into a colander and rinse them to get rid of all the gel and any scum. Next you’ll want to spread the seeds on a towel to dry (I prefer a cloth towel as I find the seeds don’t stick as much as they do on a paper towel). When they’re good and dry, put them in a small envelope and label, they’ll be ready to sprout next spring. Make sure you keep them labeled throughout the process as you don’t want to mix them up! Label the jar, label the towel you’re drying them on, and label the envelope, believe me you won’t remember – I know from experience!

Not only is saving your own seeds a great way to keep you favorite tomatoes around, but it’s also a great way to save some money on seeds and have some from trading with friends. You can also give them away to encourage others to garden and grow some of their own food. I’ll be giving away some of mine in a few weeks when I have them all saved.

Do you save your own tomato seeds?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.