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Time to Collect Wildflower Seeds for Pollinators

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It’s time to collect wildflower seeds for our native pollinators.  I mostly use the seeds for seed balls or package them as promotional items to encourage pollinator conservation but they can also be sown and grown under lights or in cold frames to kick start their growth before planned planting.

I like to snap or cut the mature seed heads into a bucket. After letting the ants and other little critters that might be in there crawl out, I transfer the seeds to paper bags or envelopes where they will undergo dehiscence or dry out and split to release their seeds. The paper bag allows air circulation thus preventing mold.  If you plan to hold the seeds into spring and grow them yourself be mindful that some seeds like many milkweeds require cold stratification before germinating and require refrigeration in a mix of horticultural sand and water.

Eco-School students and Green Clubs can collect and package seeds, craft a marketing plan and sell seeds as part of a schoolyard habitat fundraiser!

Citizen Science participants can collect milkweed seeds to send to Monarch Watch for their Bring Back The Monarchs Conservation initiative!

 

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

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Tomato Sauce Appreciation Day

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I’m proud to say that my natural gas bill went up $25 this August or approximately 40 cents a jar.  Canning sauce is a skill to know and a process that includes both tangible and intangible benefits that make it a worthwhile endeavor.  However, I see why so many gardeners skip the canning step and simply make and freeze their sauce rather than add the effort and expense of putting it up in ball jars.  You can also add a whole mix of other garden goodies like onion, carrot, eggplant and squash without having to worry about the acidity within the jars if you plan to freeze.  Or just rely on our current mass production market and buy a 12 pack of 15oz cans of “certified organic” tomato sauce from Costco for under $10 but what would the fun be in that.

 

 

 

Sunflower House in the Garden

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Taking on an abandoned plot at the local community garden we decided to plant a bean tee-pee surrounded by a sunflower garden. Since we planted sunflowers later into the summer their bloom has been delayed until this week just in time for the start of the school year and luckily also the garden “open house” event. Now I just need a welcome sign to let visitors know they may enter. The variety used was Mammoth Grey sold by Bakers Creek Heirloom Seed Company. They are drought tolerant but will produce a better seed if well watered.

As the flower heads begin to lean downward and shed their small yellow corollas on the many disk flowers it may be time to harvest for seeds. To be sure you can pull out a seed to check for striping and texture. The shell of the seed should feel slightly solid and crack or pop open when pressed to reveal the seed meat inside. I’ve read that you can place the whole seed head in a cool dark place like a paper bag in a closet to let the seeds dry for a few weeks but we went ahead and removed the seeds after cutting and enjoyed them as both a tasty treat raw and cooked.

To make them salty, soak the seeds in a salt water bath over night.  Drain the water and any remaining little floaty bits. Let the seeds dry on a tray or window screen. Place them on a cookie sheet type tray in the oven coated lightly with a touch of oil and a pinch of sea salt. They can cook at about 300 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes until golden.  Try it out. We enjoyed them.

Our Organic Community Garden 10×10 plot

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This season my wife and I signed-up for a 10×10 plot at the local community garden. We planted mostly Baker Creek Heirloom seeds and dug in a few seedlings picked up from a Master Gardener plant sale.  We have harvested sorrel, spinach, chard, fennel, radishes, peas, beans, beets, carrots, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, zucchini and peppers from our healthy compost laden soil. When the cucumbers are ready we’ll be canning with our dill.  It’s safe to say that we will sign-up for more than one plot next year.

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