Saving Seeds and Putting Beds to Bed: Wrapping Up a Busy Season

After a long, long, harvest season, where basil still grew next to fall greens, harvest is finally over and Fall is bumping up against Winter. Last week, we finally put the Children’s Workshop Garden at Campos to bed for the winter. We ended the season “officially” on November 1, with a Dia de las Muertas fest at the garden with fun for kids and adults alike.

Chris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fall peas held on to the big freeze in December, hoping against hope that they could bear fruit before it got too cold even for these hardy cold weather plants. But alas, the sun was too low and days too short to create flowers and pods for peas.

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During clean-up, we found this giant beauty of a squash: it’s a southeast Asian variety, grown by the Bangladeshi gardeners in Campos, likely a bottle gourd aka calabash. If you know the precise variety, feel free to comment.

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Here’s a short slideshow of some of the last beans, corn and herbs before we picked them to save the seeds for next season.

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By spring, these plants will be our compost for next year’s garden.

Finally, and sadly, we broke down the straw bale beds. Normally, the straw bales should last at least two seasons, but three things shortened the life of our bales: 1) the bales were too loose and sparse, rather than full and tightly bound; 2) our space limitations kept us from placing multiple bales side by side to bolster each and reduce run-off; and 3) being our first attempt, we likely over-fertilized and this hurried the break-down process towards compost (which also explained the very healthy plants with relatively few fruit; good fruit often bears from plants that struggle a bit, so lesson learned in two ways). Our spring compost will be that much richer though!

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We will be replacing the straw bales with a permanent Children’s Garden with four raised beds and a Three Sisters in the middle. We also hope to expand the education and cooking programs — stay tuned for news!

Saving Seeds

To complete the circle of life and of sustainable gardening, and to preserve our ability to grow our own food, it’s important to save at least some of the seeds from the plants you grow in the garden. Various plants create seeds in different ways: some plants like herbs and greens may flower and then “go to seed,” like this Thai basil, which hold about two seeds in each dried bud.

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Beans are easy–you let a few dry on the vine and then just pop open the dried pods. Here are Scarlett Runner beans and Fin de Bagnol that we will replant in next year’s Three Sister’s garden.

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And dried corn right off the cob becomes next year’s crop. Here’s Mandan Bride and Tuxedo yellow.

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Squash hold their seeds inside, so save them when you eat your squash. Saving pepper seeds are also pretty easy, just scrape them out and dry them, but it requires some foresight and planning whenever you use your peppers during the season and take a few days to dry in open air.  Or if you dry your peppers, you can set aside the seeds for planting as you crush open the peppers.

Tomatoes are a bit harder–you have to let the seeds sit in gooey pulp and almost rot or ferment. It’s a messy proposition for a New York City apartment. Generally, I rely on more expert seed savers for my heirloom tomatoes and pepper seeds, such as those from Seed Savers Exchange, or I buy already well-started and healthy plants from local organic farmers, as well as hope for a few “volunteer tomatoes” the following season, rather than try to save my own tomato and pepper seeds.

Happy Holidays! Can’t wait for spring! We’ll keep you posted on what plants we’re starting for spring and give you more details on seeds and where to get yours for next season.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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