Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hoarding and Purging Seeds

I usually complete my painting projects during the Independence Day weekend, but the weather was not cooperating this year, so I finally got around to purging my hoard of seeds because I was having trouble shutting the lid on my container which stores them all.  We’ve also been working hard the last few weeks to plant the approximately 10 flats of flowers donated to GCGC by Strader’s Garden Centers.  And, we’ve started our annual battle to save our zucchini plants from the dreaded squash bugs and borers.

As faithful readers recall, in May, we retrieved a bunch of tulip plants from Franklin Park Conservatory during its Big Dig.  Amy thought we could turn a bare spot (where we had dumped a load of top soil donated by the City last year) into a flower bed.  During June’s GCGC meeting, Kossuth Community Gardens donated leftover canna lily corns (from their fundraiser) to us and other community gardens and I planted them in a circle in that same flower bed.  Then, Straders donated thousands of flats of flowers and some vegetable plants to GCGC, so I picked up two flats of peppers and several flats of flowers for the Garden.  Amy and I have been busy in June planting the flowers in our several flower beds (where I dig out the dying daisies to make room).    This has caused me to work unusually long hours at the SACG in June (i.e., from 8 until 5 or 6 almost every Saturday – even when it’s ungodly hot).   At least our bee balm and coneflowers are in bloom.  Who knows if they will be next week, though.

We also had a minor tragedy when the key to our shed lock (donated last year by Ken Turner) broke in the lock.  One of the gardeners found a lock smith to get the broken piece out, but it took several trips to find someone who could duplicate our spare key for that lock.  Zipf’s was able to do it.  However, this was one more giant expense that we can ill afford.  And, if you can believe it, our downspout keeps getting clogged with each of these monster rains (i.e., 2.5+ inches)  over the last week that we've blessedly received (thus, keeping our tanks from getting re-filled).  I've had to haul my extension ladder to the Garden in my tiny Jetta at least three times this season to clear debris from the gutters and the downspout strainer.

Can you see the strainer under the debris?
Last week, Cathy and I discovered that squash bugs had invaded the zucchini plant in two plots, which will mean weekly inspection of their leaves.  Luckily, they had not invaded my plants yet (which I attribute to the fact that I always plant mint around my zucchini to temporarily confuse the bugs and delay the inevitable).   The only reliable way to avoid them killing your zucchini plants is to find and destroy the squash bug eggs before they hatch.  However, sometimes they are tricky where they lay eggs and some hatch.  They are relatively easy to kill in the light grey nymph stage because they are not smart enough to run and hide when you find them.  By the time they reach adult stage, they are lightening quick and will run to the base of the stem or even onto nearby plants.  The only concoction that I’ve found which will kill them on contact is to mix water with a bit of soap and neem oil.  However, regular dish soap will scorch and kill plant leaves if left to dry in the hot July sun.  So, this weekend, I purchased some proper insecticidal soap that is supposed to avoid the sun scorch issue.  I’ll keep you posted.

We’ve also seen squash borer moths, which means that we have a bigger problem if borer eggs have been laid in our stems.  I think it’s completely gross to slice a stem to remove the borer worm and it often isn’t effective anyway (because the damage often kills the plant faster than the worm).  Sigh.   I refuse to use row covers and to hand pollinate my  zucchini flowers.  Grrr.

Our food pantry donations are ahead of their usual pace this year.  I attribute this to our unseasonably warm and dry June (which caused some food to ripen earlier, but also smaller, than usual).  In anticipation of this week's seasonably hot weather, I harvested most of the rest of our lettuce because it will likely bolt and get bitter in this heat.  The food pantry volunteers were impressed with how pretty our leaf lettuce is because they are mostly used to seeing only romaine and iceberg lettuce at the grocery.  Sadly, we did not have enough volunteers this year to take full advantage of our black raspberry crop.  (It can take an hour to pick a pint of berries), so we were not able to donate as many as in past years when we had a WEP volunteer assigned.

As for purging my seed collection, I had not done this in years and still had some seeds in my stache from 2008.  I rarely use all of the seeds in a seed packet in any given year and often try to save seeds of various plants each year in case I can’t find that variety (or get it donated) in the following year.   I store most of my seeds in coin envelopes, but only started to reliably note the year in 2012.  When I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to separate the seed from the seed head or I plan to store a large volume of seeds, I use paper wine bags.  Some seeds, like onions, oregano and chives, only reliably germinate within the next year.  Some – like eggplant, zinnias, basil, dill,  cucumbers, lettuce, radishes and turnips, can reliably germinate 5 years later and many seeds can less reliably germinate as long as ten years later (which has been  my experience with tomatoes, for instance).  There are a few websites with charts noting the ranges of viability years for different seeds.  But none of the websites were exhaustive and I still had to search for a few individual plants that we regularly grow at the SACG or in my back yard (like chamomile). 

This week, we have a volunteer group coming to help us get ready for a visit next week by the Franklin Park Conservatory’s Women’s Board.  Of course, it would have to get hot again when we have a lot of work to do.

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