Thrivers and Survivors

by Ken Greene

This sunny week (and our cathartic new t-shirts) have truly lifted our spirits, and it seems, the plant's moods have lifted as well.

The calendulas are reflecting the sunshine with masses of yellow and orange blooms. Thousands of lettuce seed heads are puffing up in dandelion-like fashion. Tens of thousands of broccoli seed pods are soaking up the sun, fattening up, and beginning to dry on the heavy stalks. Even some of the hardest hit plants, the tomatoes and peppers, are showing ruby red signs of strong recovery. All this  activity is giving us lots to do all at once. Here's what many Seed Library members are up to this week. Give it a try!


Dry seedhead. Dry seedhead.

Once the petals fall off, the seed heads will turn green, then brown. The curly-q seeds will practically fall off in your hand when they are ready to harvest. Dry them a bit more inside and then pack them in an airtight container to save until next spring. You can also just let them self-sow if you want them to grow willy-nilly in the same spot.


Doug bagging lettuce stalks. Doug bagging lettuce stalks.

Because of the on and off rain, we pulled up our tall lettuce plants by the roots and finished letting the seeds mature in the barn. Today we clipped the seed heads off about 6-7 inched down and will let them air-dry on screens a bit more. Then we'll thresh them by crushing them in buckets. You can simply hand pick the dry seed heads (the ones with the puff of fluff) off and crush them between your fingers, letting the seeds fall into a bowl or tray. Make sure to label varieties as you go!


Saving Tomato Seeds Saving Tomato Seeds

Our healthiest tomatoes are an oversize cherry tomato called Fox Cherry. It has survived the cold, wet, and blight better than our other tomatoes and we're happily saving seeds scheming of ways to selectively breed them to be a blight resistant open-pollinated tomato size cherry.  If we're having a salad we make sure to squeeze the seeds into a bowl as we're eating. Then we're putting them through a brief fermenting process that we'll be learning about at this weekend's seed saving workshop. Keep an eye out for these great salad tomatoes in next year's catalog.

Tomatillos and Ground Cherries

Ground Cherry Ground Cherry

These are both husked relatives of the tomato that haven't blinked an eye in the strange weather. They are both very easy to save seeds from. Just peel off the husks and put them in a blender with water. Pour out the slurry into a bucket and let it settle. The viable seeds will sink to the bottom while the pulp will float to the top. Strain off the pulp and you are left with clean seeds. Dry them in a fine sieve or on a plate.