Friday, October 28, 2011

Saving Seeds

Every spring we love shopping for packets of new seeds at the local nurseries.  It's so fun browsing the racks of colorful seed packets and imagining the future delicious meals and beautiful flowers contained in each little seed.  We try to grow a few different varieties of vegetables and flowers each year to expand our repertoire.  Sometimes, though, we like a variety so much that we want to grow it again the following year.  This has led us to the craft of saving seeds.  

There are many advantages to collecting your own seeds.  Besides saving a little money, you also have an excuse for letting your garden get seedy (which tends to happen when you get overwhelmed and can't keep up with all the harvesting and deadheading).  To get started collecting seeds, it helps to plant way more than you can eat (that way you don't feel bad letting some veggies go to seed).  Then toward the end of the harvest season, just let some plants go to seed.  Let the pod, fruit or seed head mature and then collect the seed.  Do some research on the specific vegetable or flower you're trying to collect from because you might find that it's better to just buy the seed especially if it's a hybrid variety.

Here are just a few types of seed we collected this summer.

Sweet Pea Flowers
(Note: the pods are toxic if ingested)

I let the pods dry on the plant.  They split open easily to expose the seeds.  Be sure the seeds are completely dry before you store them or they will get moldy and rot.

Fava Beans
I also let the pods dry on the plant.  A few pods that I didn't collect eventually fell to the grown and are now sprouting into new fava bean plants.  If the winter isn't too cold, they baby plants should overwinter and produce beans again next year.

Chive flowers are a pretty lavender color.  Then they dry out and produce tiny black seeds.  One seed head produces way more seeds than we need.  

I just shake the flower over a piece of paper and then use the paper to funnel the seeds into a bottle.

Label and store the seeds in a dry dark spot like a cabinet.
Don't forget to plant them next year.

If you collect lots of extra seeds you can create your own seed packets which would make cute gifts for your gardening friends.    

Monday, October 24, 2011

Growing a Garden: Progress at Orchard & Vine

Over the past month we took on the task of building the last big and highly anticipated feature at the Orchard & Vine Community Garden.  The original design I drafted in the May 2010 called for a covered "Garden Pavilion" to serve as a gathering space for potlucks, workshops and meetings and a refuge from the rain and hot sun.  We discovered just how important this feature was this past year.  Our spring potluck ended abruptly with a passing shower and soggy food and our summer bake sale fundraiser occurred on a hot sunny day with the volunteer hosts hovering in a tiny sliver of shade with platters of melting frosted cupcakes.

With the busy summer growing season over, we set to work on building the Garden Pavilion before the heavy autumn rains.  Over the course of several weekends we got the final specs completed, materials approved and purchased, volunteers organized, and got it done.  We drafted a simple shed roof design to maximize our limited funds and minimize construction complexity.  We couldn't be more pleased with the results.

Breaking tough ground

Anders digging in

Moving the heavy posts

Setting in the posts

Bolting in the beams

Attaching the rafters

Installing the roofing material

Almost done

All done

Ready for a potluck!

Our next goal is to install a gutter and rainwater collection system to allow gardeners to water their plots while the city water is shut off from November to May and to be a model for sustainability.  Plus, natural rainwater is better for plants.  We're out of construction funds, so we spent this weekend working on our first grant proposal.