Don’t forget to save this year’s seeds for next

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Well, tomorrow brings the end of the Dog Days of August and as far as I know, no one melted.
The dogs toughed it out by exploring the creek, regularly. Spanky couldn’t care less whether it’s hot or cold, as long as she’s outside. Tiller is all about just keeping an eye on me and finding shade wherever we go. Now, if I could just get them to drag the hoses around for me.
I still have several projects to get done this summer, but the next one on my list is a lawn spigot down by the bottom fields. Every year I try and do something that will make my gardening life easier and this is a biggie. Hauling water is no fun and it takes time that I don’t have. I’m also going to build some more raised beds.
This is a great time to think about ways to improve your gardening methods for next year. Think about what was tough and how to fix it. Perhaps those of you who have been tiptoeing through your cucumber patch may want to design a trellis for next year. It’s the little things that eat up your time and energy, so take some time to design improvements now.
I don’t normally do a fall garden, but this year is different. I like to eat good food and the grocery prices just keep going up. So, I’m planting broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, carrots, spinach and lettuce. I have a raised bed that I used for spring crops and now I’m going to plant a fall one in it.
Lawn labors multiply this time of year. Besides mowing, it’s time to renovate. Rent a de-thatching machine and run over the lawn several times (criss cross it) to pull up the dead grasses and weeds. Then, you’ll need to re-seed and water regularly with a sprinkler. If you just have a few bare spots, sprinkle some seed, water and lay down a wet burlap bag to cover it. The bag keeps the soil moist and prevents the birds from eating your seeds.
Speaking of seeds, I just started harvesting some for next year. Seeds are expensive so I save my own from this year’s crops. Since I use heirloom seeds they’ll produce the same plants next year. You can’t save hybrid seed and expect to get the same plant.
I let my bean seeds dry in the husk for a few days, then shuck them out and lay them on a paper plate to finish drying in the kitchen. I use a lot of paper plates when saving my seeds.
I slice my squash in half and harvest the seeds into a colander to get all the slimy stuff off. I do the same with tomatoes. Then they’re laid out on the paper plate to dry in the kitchen. Be sure to write the name of the seeds on the paper plate so you’ll remember what you have.
I read an interesting article from an organic gardening magazine the other day. It seems that a few public libraries on the west coast are starting up seed libraries. Gardeners can “check out” seeds to grow in their own gardens, in exchange for returning some of the seeds at the end of the season. I think that sounds like a great idea. What do you think? I have a few folks to talk to at the library about this one, but I’d sure like to know how many people would be interested in starting something like this.
We’d need to have a few seed saving classes and some volunteers to help with the collection and cataloging. You can call me at the library, 839-6420, between 12:30 and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Now, get out there and weed, harvest and eat. Mother Nature’s clock is ticking.
We’re losing daylight fast and fall will be upon us before we know it. For now, we can just dream about sleeping in and wearing sweatshirts, or beaches. I like beaches. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.