Seedy Business

last of the annuals

Remains of the Day

It’s seedy business.

If I don’t do it though, the birds, squirrels, wind and rain will.

Gather seeds, that is.

I’m fairly new to seed-saving.  I’ve always been a seed packet junkie, often buying far more seeds than I could ever hope to plant.  When my son was much younger, he regularly talked me into buying every pumpkin variety to be had.  Santa brought additional seeds for his Christmas stocking each year.  Our seeds runneth over!

Last year I started saving my own seeds and now I’m hooked.

Planting:

I planted four o’clock seeds this summer with mixed success, but collected them again for a second try.   I successfully started one plant in a pot, but thanks to ‘self-seeding’ ended up with multiple plants in the side garden.

Growing:

The compost bin produced an entire crop of pumpkins so I had left over seeds to spare.  I started several plants indoors, then gave them away to friends.  Reports were positive, so I definitely plan to do this next year.

Sharing:

This is the best part of my seed-saving adventures.  I saved handfuls of Cosmo seeds at the end of 2012 and gave them as gifts that Christmas.  I made a tri-fold card using digital software and my own Cosmo photos, then added small seed packets inside.  A few of my friends kept the cards and seeds intact, but others planted them.  My friend Stacie sent me a photo last month of her towering Cosmos.  That was pretty cool.

Cosmos Seed Cards - Page 001

Cosmo seed card front panel

Cosmos Seed Cards - Back Panel

Cosmos Seed Cards – Back Panel

Early this spring, I  gave away pumpkin seeds to a pair of adorable three-year-old twins.  I met them walking with their dad one evening while I was working in my garden.  The girls showed genuine interest, so I went inside and got them seeds to take home and plant…and they did!  I saw the family a few months later, and dad told me the plants took root.  Good stuff.

Saving:

The annual garden is going to seed and temps are finally dropping.  I knew time was of the essence.  I collected a healthy sample for next year, at the same time leaving plenty of seeds on the plants for my foraging friends.

seed gathering tray

My system: I used a portable tote and plastic cups from an Easter-egg dying project. I dropped seeds into the cups, then salvaged a bloom for easy identification later.

I’m looking forward to sorting and labeling seeds this weekend, a joyful activity for someone ‘born to organize’ like me.   I’ll share my progress next week.

seed pod

My favorite seed pod. Tiny black seeds tumbled out when I gently tapped the pod

Happy weekend!

Looking Back at the Corner Garden

Earlier this year I removed a small patch of lawn, a corner near the sidewalk facing the house. Originally I thought I would plant annuals and perennials, but decided annuals would be more fun. Perennials, once established, require little maintenance. I wanted a bit of action in my new flower garden and it’s action I got.

sidewalk corner

Corner near the sidewalk

April:

After removing the grass and preparing the soil, I planted seeds, including Sunflowers, Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and a Spring Mix of assorted purple plants.  I covered it all with a portable green house. The goal was to keep digging critters away from the seedlings to give them a fighting chance.

It half-worked. None of the critters were able to dig, but I couldn’t keep it well-watered either.

The seeds didn’t get enough consistent moisture, and next to nothing germinated.(I did get one sunflower).

green house covers

April, 2013
Seeds tucked in for warmth and safety

May:

Disappointed but not defeated, I headed to the nursery and bought a few cell packs. I picked up a dozen sunflowers as a compliment to the one that grew from seed, my signature annual Alyssum and a few flowering annuals.

sunflowers and annuals

May, 2013
Sunflowers, Alyssum and assorted annuals

June:

In early June, I drove up to the house in an unseasonal windstorm, and saw the fruits of my recent labor (the sunflowers) bending in the wind. I dragged a bench, a folding table and anything else I could think of and braced all the plants. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I would move the bench to the edge of the sidewalk, but desperate times (sunflowers in peril) require desperate measures (in this case looking foolish). That said, I’ve gone out to lunch with girlfriends wearing a wig and false eyelashes so I suppose my concerns about looking foolish are moot. Ha!

sunflowers and bench

June, 2013
Sunflowers staked to the bench

July/August:

The summer heat settled in and then this happened. The Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and assorted seeds took off.  Every week something new popped up.  What a joyous experience. As the sunflowers died back, the annuals filled in. This also became my test garden. I bought (and forgot) about three pink zinnias and left them to suffer the heat out back.  I replanted them in the sidewalk garden and they flourished.

sidewalk garden flowers

September:

The Bachelor Buttons started going to seed, testing my resolve. The orderly me wanted to deadhead the flowers and trim back dying branches. Daily visits from the birds kept me in check. It was nice to see them swoop down and grab a bite. Another plus, re-seeding. As the birds and squirrels drop seeds, they’re likely to regrow the following season. We all win!

I planted most of my garden peas in the curb garden, but since I had plenty, I planted a few among the summer annuals. As the annuals died back, the peas could take their place.

zinnias and cosmos

October:

October was all about pumpkins and Halloween. Drip irrigation and a warm sun kept things humming along.

Oh, and this visitor:

butterfly collage

November:

The peas are growing among the summer annuals and will need to be staked soon.  Still lots of color but the zinnias are starting to decay.  Nightly temps in the forties signal the end of summer weather, even when it does make it to 72 F by mid-day.

going to seed

November, 2013
Going to seed

garden peas and flowers

November, 2013
Garden peas grow among the flowers

DSC_0021

What’s next? Time to collect seeds for next year. I’ve snagged a few here and there, but I need to make a concerted effort now before our promised Monday rain. Oh wondrous rain, how I’ve missed you.

Then on to planning for next year. Happy weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

Growing Peas and Carrots

Not only did I grow up eating peas and carrots, but I liked them, too. It will be nice growing our own crop this year, assuming the crafty squirrels let them grow.

grey squirrel

Peas:

Last week I mentioned hedging my bets by starting a few seeds indoors.  Once I consulted the seed packet I decided to direct-sow.  I soaked half the seeds in water for 48 hours, then planted them directly outdoors. I saved the rest of the seed packet to replenish the inevitable casualties.

Looking left and right for squirrels, I surreptitiously pushed several seeds into the soil around the arbor. I planted the rest amongst the still-flowering annuals. With luck, they’ll all come up and produce lovely green vines along both sides of the sidewalk.

Carrots:

I have a lot of faith in the success of the carrots, since we planted starts instead of seeds.  I say ‘we’ because this year I had help from several of Jazzy’s day care children next door. The older kids planted two each;  I filled in later with the rest. Planting was fun, but the real hit: watering cans.  I never met a youngster that didn’t like water.

watering

Watering

I think they’ll get a kick out of watching the carrots grow. I’ve added a carrot countdown in the sidebar to the right so we have a general idea of harvest day. Hopefully each young gardener grows at least one or two carrots to take home.

Stay tuned!

planting carrots

Little hands planting carrots

planting carrots from cell packs

Flip, tap, squeeze and release

Curb Garden

curb garden

Curb Garden

Much is made of ‘curb appeal’ when you sell a house.  I often notice that a pretty garden appears, followed shortly by a realtor’s sign.  It seems a shame that the homeowners wont’ be staying long enough to appreciate it. Personally, I like the idea of a beautiful curb *all* the time, hence my new and improved curb garden.

The curb garden (take two) is almost ‘done’ or as done as a garden can be.  (You can read about my first attempt here). Jazzy’s day care kids are planting carrot ‘starts’ on Wednesday.  A few of the sweat peas are direct sow, but I’m planting some back-ups in my kitchen window ‘just in case.’  You can’t trust those birds and squirrels. If I have enough extras, I’ll plant them in the raised beds where the pumpkins are dying back.

The snapdragons were bowing their heads on Sunday, but after a long drink they’ve returned to their perky selves.

snapdragons

Snapdragons

I replanted a few of the original herbs including mint and lemon thyme. They’re looking as tired as I feel, but hopefully they’ll perk up now that they have nice soil wrapped around their roots and room to grow.

The Curb Garden includes:

1 Achillea millefolium aka yarrow ‘Pink Island

3 Scabiosa ‘Vivid Violet

3 Eriogonum Grande Rubescens ‘Red Buckwheat

3 Penstemon ‘Midnight

4 Lysimachia ‘Goldii‘ trailing golden plant

4 Cilantro

18 Snapdragons in assorted colors

I bought all of these plants at our local Almaden Valley Nursery.  My friend Doug recommended the yarrow for repelling some insect pests while attracting beneficial ones. Yarrow attracts predatory wasps, which drink the nectar and then use insect pests as food for their larvae. It also attracts ladybugs and hoverflies.

yarrow

The Mighty Yarrow

I learned further that yarrow:

is also planted for improving soil quality. Its leaves are thought to be good fertilizer, and a beneficial additive for compost.

It is also considered directly beneficial to other plants, improving the health of sick plants when grown near them. Source, Wikipedia.

What an amazing plant.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the novelty of several new varieties.  The snapdragons are the only ‘garden tried-and-true.’

Further good news: so far no one has asked if we’re moving.

carrot starts

Carrot Starts

Lysimachia 'Goldii'

Lysimachia ‘Goldii’

Scabiosa 'Vivid Violet'

Scabiosa ‘Vivid Violet’

A Winning Combination

sunflower sideview

Sunflower

Earlier this year, I dug out a corner of the lawn and replaced it with a variety of flower seeds. The corner faces my kitchen window and sits at the curb, allowing maximum viewing enjoyment.

I started with assorted new and leftover seed packets, then added seeds saved from last summer.  Growing from seed is risky business around here, thanks to a healthy population of squirrels. If the seeds manage to stay under wraps long enough for germination, they face the next hurdle: noshing snails.  Those mollusks love tender shoots.  What’s a gardener to do?

Lacking a greenhouse of my own, I hit upon the idea of ‘tenting’ the corner with a cover I spotted in a garden catalog.  Boy, was I feeling smug.  I planted my seeds, then erected the barricade.  I staked the corners, then added rocks for safe measure.  I checked each day and sure enough the barricade remained sound.

Every other day, I unzipped the cover to water the seeds, then stood back, waiting for them to grow.  Nothing seemed to be sprouting.  I checked with our local nursery, and received sound advice: if the seeds don’t remain moist at the time of germination, they never be viable.  In the past I either started seeds indoors or sowed directly without benefit of a cover.  My attempt to thwart the squirrels ending up thwarting the germination as well.

I went back to the nursery and bought a few bedding plants instead, so I could get a jump-start on the garden.  I bought half a dozen sunflowers, some Alyssum and a couple of small bedding plants.  I added a bright pink Cosmo to the center of the triangle and called it a garden.

Then lo and behold, the seeds began to grow!  Just as the sunflowers were reaching their full height, lacy green foliage emerged below.  Soon blues and pinks joined the yellows.  Bachelor Buttons commingled with Cosmos.  Forget-me-nots were next on the scene producing a brilliant dark purple flower.  My garden corner is now what the garden centers like to call ‘a riot of color.’

Come join me for a walk on the bright side…

magenta cosmos

Bright Pink Cosmos (bedding plant)

golden sunflower

Yellow Sunflower (bedding plant)

bachelor button purple

Emerging Bachelor Button (from seed)

bachelor button blue bending

Bachelor Button (from seed)

bachelor button pink

Soft Pink Bachelor Button (from seed)

Forget-me-not

Forget-me-not (from seed)

garden triangle collage

Here’s the Dirt

bachelor button purple

Purple Bachelor Button

I finally got to the bottom of my Planter Box Failure.  In a word, Topsoil.  All dirt is not created equal.

I ordered planting mix from a local supplier, but they delivered topsoil instead.  The otherwise healthy plants weren’t thriving and I couldn’t figure out why.  In the end, it comes down to the basics: sun, water, soil. The soil delivered was far too heavy and ill-suited for my needs.

The supplier offered a refund, but they can’t or won’t pick up the unwanted dirt.

Freecycle to the Rescue!

One of my readers suggested I offer the soil on Freecycle.  I posted the offer last night and woke up to half a dozen emails.  Wow!

The soil is going to one or two good homes and the emptied planter box will soon be mine.  It’s late in the season to start over, but I’m going to plant a bag of flowers seeds I have on hand and see what grows.

Meanwhile, I had to scramble to transplant the surviving plants.  I filled in some bare spots in the triangle at the corner of the lawn.  I pulled four spent sunflowers which gave me room to transplant the status.  I transplanted snapdragons and several cosmos that were struggling to establish.  The roots of the plants hadn’t spread at all.  They’ll do so much better now in their new fertile soil.  The one plant that seemed to be taking hold in the box was the chocolate mint.  Each plant sent out foot long runners beneath the soil and were really taking hold.  The mint will go back into the new and improved planter box, but for now they’re resting in a few plastic pots along the walkway wall.

What seemed daunting last week now feels like an adventure.  I love planting, so enjoyed ‘rearranging’ the plants.  I’m happy the mint is doing well and can replant accordingly.  Most of all, it feels great to find a home for all that dirt.

planter reversal

Time to transplant; Mighty Mouse assists

back to basics

Back to Basics: Ready for pick-up

Merging Flowers

Merging Flowers: Cosmos, Status, Bachelor Buttons, Sunflowers, Snapdragons and Forget-me-nots

A Mighty Wind: Bending and Breaking

sunflowers and garden bench

Sunflower Save

I guess the downside to planting a small garden is that ever single plant seems precious.  Farmers, especially organic ones, expect to lose 20% of their crop.  They simply take it in stride.  Not me!  So when I pulled into the driveway last week, greeted by heavy winds and leaning sunflowers, I knew I had to act.

Earlier this season, I planted several sunflowers from seed, for a near-perfect garden fail.  One sunflower survived.  To be fair, we do have a thriving squirrel population, so it’s important they don’t go without.  😉

I hit the nursery for a second go and bought a cell pack of (6) six-inch plants instead. I planted the second batch of sunflowers during an early season heat-wave and they all survived.  Thrived even!  Within a month they had tripled in height with flowers everywhere. Ironically the one plant started from seed continues to grow in height. It’s the big sister to all the other plants.

I digress.

So…I’m driving up the road bemused at the crazy weather, only to see my precious plants bending in the wind. No one else was home to help,  so I dragged the heavy wooden garden bench across the yard and the walkway so the plants could lean into the back for support.  I grabbed some garden twine and laced up the stalks to the slats in the bench. I’m sure the neighbors thought I had lost it, placing a garden bench at the curb facing the driveway, but I’m past worrying about that.

sunflowers and bench

Garden bench and a card table to the rescue

Relieved that my impromptu support was working, I turned to go inside, only to find the glass hummingbird feeder smashed to pieces.  Again with the mighty wind. The wind snapped the tree branch holding the feeder, sending sticky glass crashing to the ground. I found parts of the feeder on the patio step, across the lawn and in the shrubs along the walkway.

broken hummingbird feeder

Once there was a hummingbird feeder…

“Cleanup on aisle….” Oh right. I guess I’m on my own with this one, too. Ten minutes and one pair of worn out gloves later, the broken glass was up. While I tidied the sharp and sugary mess, hummers buzzed overhead. They couldn’t figure out why dinner had suddenly disappeared. They seemed to think I was responsible.

It was tempting to redirect them to the aforementioned sunflowers for a drink. “Hey…look over there!” Since we’re in the business of spoiling our local wildlife, however, I headed indoors to unearth our backup feeder. I mixed up a quart of sugar-water and we were back in business.

The mighty wind is fierce and strong; the resident gardener, resourceful.

Win or lose?

I think we’ll call this one a draw.