Sunday, June 16, 2013

How to Set a Great Garden Without Any Added Expense

     I have a few extra dollars set aside for seeds to start a garden each year.  It was not always this way.  I used to only be able to afford what I could plant from my seed saving efforts.  In these last recent years, I have taken the easy route, buying seeds and fussing when I didn't get what I wanted.  

     I decided today, I will get back in to the habit of saving seeds for my garden.  The seeds will come from the food I buy to eat from the grocery store.  Right there, no added expense!  I was going to buy food anyway, I will just slow down and save the seeds from the pot!  

Saving Bean Seeds:

     For the beans I will plant, I can take seeds from the beans I have planted this year.  This is the only way I can be sure the beans come from heritage beans and not hybrids.  Still, it is fairly likely you will get heritage seeds from beans that come from close to your home.  Read the plastic bag your dried beans come in.  If they come from a foreign country, get yourself to an organic grocer or a farmer's market!  You cannot save beans from a can.  These beans have been cooked and seasoned.  They will not grow. 

     If you have acquired dried beans for seed saving, take out a cup or so of beans and put them in a bowl.  Pour clean water over them and stir the beans gently.  Let the water come to rest.  Pour off the water to remove the seeds that float, the broken seeds and any chaff.  Set these beans in the soil or dry them out to store for next year.  

Saving BEAN seeds from your garden:  Harvest your beans for the supper table when they are young and tender.  For saving seed, harvest the beans after they have matured and the bean begins to turn brown.  The beans will be at their largest, and they will be hard.  Open the bean and remove the seeds.  Continue drying the seeds on a glass or a screen for a full two days.  Choose the best formed, not the small or wrinkled seeds.  Store in a paper envelope.  Mark it and date it.  Beans will store in a cool dry place for an average of four years.  

Saving Pepper seeds:

To test the viability of pepper seeds:  pepper seeds sink to the bottom, just like bean seeds.  Cut the pepper open, use the dull back side of a knife to scrape off the seeds, rinse in water, skim off the floaters, and dry the seeds as any other, on a screen for about four or five days.  

Saving tomato seeds:

     I can take tomato seeds from the organic tomatoes I buy because they  post the tomato variety name on the card with the price.  I know certain varieties are heirloom.  This makes it easy to save seeds AND eat every last one of my tomatoes.  I have in the past, just cut open the tomato, scooped out the seeds, wiped off the gel and dried them for the next year.  This year, son number two pointed out fermenting the seeds ensures a disease free seed and better chance for the future tomato to survive.  I looked it up, he's right.

     I have tomatoes in a plastic bag that I picked from my garden and a tomato from the grocer on the window sill getting 'over ripe'.  Tomorrow I will put each variety in its own mason jar, cover with water and shake.  After a few days I can pour off the smelly water and the gel, the skin and all the pulp will slip down the drain.  ( Actually, it will slip into the compost heap) The seeds left over will lay out on a screen to dry and be saved for the next year.  

     Son number three suggests pouring the seeds out on a paper towel that is laid out on his drying screen.  He moves the seeds around while they are wet so that when they are dry he can cut the towel into strips as the seeds stick to them.  In the spring he puts the towel strip on the soil, dampens it with water and then covers the seeds with soil. He saw some 'as seen on TV ' ad for flowers by the foot and went with it!  Son number three suggests for the container gardener, you can cut the towel into circles or squares, it doesn't have to be strips.  Also, he uses a cheap, thin one ply paper towel with no perfume or reinforcements of any kind.

Watermelon Seeds and Pumpkin Seeds too!:

     I don't buy seedless water melon because I want the seeds.  I scoop out the seeded section from the melon and squeeze it through my fingers to release the melon flesh from the seeds.  I rinse the melon off the seeds but I check for viable seeds by covering the seeds with water in  a bowl, just like the beans.  You skim off the floaters and keep stirring and skimming till all you have are the viable seeds.  Pour off the water and spread the seeds on a screen and dry them for two or three weeks.  If you have no screen, you can dry the seeds on a plate but you have to turn them regularly to dry them thoroughly.  

Corn Seeds:

     When you go to the grocer's you want to buy corn from a  local producer.  That way you know you are buying a variety that you know will grow in your area.  Don't cut it corn off the cob or disturb it from the cob in any way.  Just pull back the husk and silk and hang to dry.  It makes a very festive fall decoration so don't be shy, dry it right out in the open, safe from bugs and rodents.  When dry, grind two dry cobs together to get a few kernels to pop out, then pull back on each kernel toward the open part of the cob to pop it out of it's socket.  Store in paper bag marked by the year.  Corn stores for about two years this way. 
Broccoli:  I am going to go to son number two for broccoli this year, he let half his broccoli go to seed!  He became fascinated with the ability to eat the entire plant and the flavor!  He let his broccoli go to full flower and seed and saved thousands and thousands of seeds.  Here is a blog with step by step photo instructions.

For more complete how to and a longer list of seeds to save try this site,

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