Seed saving and fall garden plans
Fall is a beautiful time of year, and one of my favorite seasons. While a lot of people may see it as the end of the gardening season, there are plenty of fun things to start. Here are a few on my list:
Saving seeds is not a difficult thing to do, and can be done with any fruit, vegetable, or flower. There is as little or as much detail as one would like in books and on the internet. Simply put, you collect the seed when it is mature, dry it as needed (fruit and vegetables will have pulp that will have to be removed or dried, while flowers can be left to dry naturally on their stalks}, and store them in a cool dry and dark environment (perhaps a closed glass jar in a cool basement). You will probably want to choose open pollinated varieties, as opposed to hybrids, which are crosses of different varieties. Hybrids may revert to one of their parent plants or morph into a completely new surprise in your next growing season!
There are many reasons to save seeds, but here a few: to save money, to make or keep contact with your ancestors, to help maintain genetic diversity or to make sure you are getting the crop you wanted.
Garlic can be planted in the spring or fall, but I have had best results planting in the fall, plus I enjoy the extra benefits. Garlic will sprout in the dead of winter with a warm day or two. While most everything else is sleeping or gathering strength below the earths surface, a few little green sprouts assure me that spring will come again. Garlic does need some protection from hard frost and bitter winter wind, so a little straw or raked leaves works as a good mulch for protection. Early garlic scapes are another added benefit of fall planting and are great in a salad or stir fry.
A garlic head should be divided into the cloves right before planting, with the tips pointing up. You can order the best garlic online or from catalogs, but even the big box stores carry planting stock now. If ordering, it is best to do in spring or summer before the best varieties are sold out (Music is a popular and hardy variety), and will be shipped to you in the fall at the best planting time. I love getting a “growing parcel” in the fall, especially when it comes as a surprise if I forget to put it on my calendar!
A lot of recommendations are made to plant your spring flowering bulbs in the fall, but did you know you can plant some seeds too? Some favorites that will overwinter in our growing zone are Coneflowers, Blanket Flower, Blac- eyed Susan, and Cosmos, along with most wildflower seeds. These plants need a period of cold temperatures and moisture called stratification to break dormancy and begin to grow. In nature this dormancy is a survival mechanism, so the seed/plant will begin to grow as the weather warms and the ground thaws in the spring.
I don’t want to forget the bulbs though, as they are some of earliest harbingers of spring, in the form of daffodils, crocus, anemones, tulips and others. My all-time favorite are Alliums, or ornamental onions. They produce flowers as small as marbles, but also have varieties that are very large, 5-6″ across! What a statement in your spring and summer garden, and even after they have dried to look like giant dandelion heads, I have been known to spray paint a few for added decorations.
There are many things that can be started in the garden now, so don’t put it to Bed just yet!