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COLUMN: Gather seeds now for next year’s garden

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Another season has come and gone. Seems like only yesterday we were savoring that first ear of corn, ripe tomato and squash casserole.

I was usually up and picking at 6 a.m. Now the sun isn’t even up until after 7. The planet has moved on to the next season and so must we.

I’ve been gathering seeds to save for next year’s garden planting. I used heirloom vegetable seeds so I can save them all and they will come true next year. Coming true means the seeds are just like their parents. No VF1 or other hybrids will come true. Saving seeds not only saves money and seed lines, it saves you time.

When you have your own seeds you can start them when you want, so you can have tomato plants growing inside in February and bragging to your neighbor in May when you pick that first ripe tomato. My kitchen counter is littered with paper plates covered with drying seeds. The seed box is filling up and the garden is going to bed.

There is a lot to do this time of year. Bring in all those tender plants that have been summering outside. Transplant houseplants to give them fresh soil. They feed/live off that soil. Save your chemical, store bought fertilizer until winter.

Clean up around the apple trees to keep disease down and prune off all old canes from the blackberry and raspberry patch. Fertilize the lawn with corn meal gluten now. Fertilize the strawberry patch. They would like a lot of nitrogen right about now.

If you buy bags of ammonium nitrate, then add 2 pounds per 100 square feet. If you want to use organic methods, find some chicken manure and let it dry for a month if it’s too fresh. You can turn it into a liquid by putting it in a bucket and adding water. Then, water them with this mix. You’ll have a bumper crop of healthy berries next year.

Now that my friend Jeff has retired, he’ll have lots of time to follow one of his passions: trees. Fall is the time of year to save some tree seeds and try your hand at starting your own little nursery. Trees are expensive, but if you have the patience to wait, growing your own from seed becomes a hobby.

You may have tried your hand at transplanting little trees you’ve found. I’ve tried transplanting dogwoods. You’ve got to reorient them in the same direction they were when you dug up the little fellow. That’s tough. Starting from seed is easier, even if you have to wait a few more years to actually put it in the yard and see the blooms.

Start watching now for the red berries and gather them before the critters do.

Gather as many berries as you’d like and peel them down to the seed. Put the seeds in a Ziplock bag with a wet paper towel and put them in the refrigerator. Next, go mark your calendar for three months from the day you bag them. When that day comes be prepared with flats of potting soil then sow them one-half inch deep and 2 inches apart.

After they’ve grown to 2 to 3 inches, transplant them into their own little 4-inch pot. After a time you’ll see some roots through the hole in the bottom and know that it’s time to put your trees into something bigger. You could put them out in the ground, instead of something bigger, but you better have a lot of trust in your mower. I’d leave them in a big, deep pot for another year.

Now, get outside and enjoy the warmth before it goes away. Grab the hose and water the trees and perennials while you’re out there. It’s going to be dryer than normal this month and you want all those plants to go to bed healthy. Whew! And you thought you could relax. Not yet. Happy growing.