Archive for the ‘September’ Category

September Guerilla Gardener
How to Save Tomato Seeds

Most plant seeds can be saved simply by collecting the seed pods as they dry, but saving tomato seeds is a little trickier. The tomato seeds are enclosed in a gelatin like covering that has growth inhibitors to prevent the seeds from sprouting inside the tomato. Mother Nature being the genius that she is, also uses the gel to glue the seed to the soil until it has a chance to grow roots. In nature this gel covering is removed when the fruit falls off the plant and it starts to rot. As a Guerilla Gardener who is always looking for free seeds (potential seed bomb material) and who is currently the proud owner of 3 delicious heirloom Hawaiian Current tomato plants I feel the need to embark on a Tomato Seed Saving Adventure!
The itinerary is as follows:

Step 1: Choose your Tomatoes

• It is recommended that you save seeds from open-pollinated tomato varieties as they will grow up to be exactly like the parent plant. Hint-the original plant tag or seed packet will usually have “heirloom” written somewhere on it. Hybrid tomatoes are the offspring of 2 different tomato varieties and as it turns out are not the best choice for saving seeds. The hybrid seeds may not germinate and if they do manage to sprout its a crap shoot on what your going to get. The plant could exhibit traits of one or both parent plants or be something totally different.
• Remember to choose only the best! When selecting tomatoes to save seeds from, you want to only select the ones that are of the very best quality. They should be fully ripe, but not over-ripe, no cracks, no bugs, no disease and no mutant shapes..

Step 2: Extract the Seeds

• Wash the tomatoes.
•Slice large tomatoes in half and using your finger scoop out the seeds into a bowl, cup or jar. If you are using cherry or current tomatoes just squish the seeds out of them directly into container. Note-most children are only too happy to help with this!
• Cover the seed gunk with two to three inches of water.
• And most importantly if you are saving seeds from more than 1 variety be sure to label your containers! Trust me on this- you will never remember which variety of seed is which and even if you do SOMEONE (no names mentioned) will have most likely moved the containers around.

Step 3: Ferment the Seeds

• Allow mixture of tomato gel and water to sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours. This will help breakdown the gelatin like coating on the seeds.

Note: Old school gardeners have been known to use the fermentation process in which tomato seeds are allowed to ferment in a glass of water until a smelly/moldy scum forms on the surface, then the seeds are rinsed and dried. However, several recent studies  have shown that tomato seed germination works best when seeds are soaked for only one to two days before they are rinsed and dried. It turns out that if you ferment tomato seeds longer than three days it has a negative effect on germination.
This is great news for someone like me who doesn’t want a glass of smelly/moldy seeds sitting around.
So here’s kicking it to new school garden rules that are backed by science!

Step 4: Rinse the Seeds

• Add a little water to the container, stir the mixture several times and then wait about 10 seconds. Tomato seeds that float are bad seeds and are not viable. The tomato seeds you want to save are the seeds sitting at the bottom. When it comes to seeds the bottom feeders rule!
• Pour off the liquid and scoop out the floaters (bad seeds).
• Repeat the rinsing process as needed until all the gunk is rinsed from the seeds, the water is clear, and no seeds float to the top of the cup.
• When seeds are thoroughly rinsed pour them into a fine wire mesh sieve to strain out the remaining water.

Step 5: Dry the Seeds

• Spread the rinsed seeds in a single layer on a paper plate, a coffee filter or a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and protect the seeds from direct sunlight by placing a paper towel loosely on top.
• I can not stress this enough…if you have saved seeds from more than one tomato variety be sure to label them!
• Shake the plate or stir seeds daily to prevent clumping and then spread seeds back into a single layer after stirring. This will assist in even drying.
• Allow seeds to dry for 1-3 weeks until they feel dry and papery and crack when broken in half or crushed. Don’t feel bad about this…when guerilla gardening there are always a few casualties! Adequately dried seeds will make a faint snapping noise when broken in half or crushed. Seeds that bend or still seem flexible rather than snap will need to be dried longer.

Step 6: Store the Seeds

• Store dry seeds in either paper envelopes or zipped plastic bags. Glass jars and pill bottles are also good storage options.
• Make sure seeds are 100% dry before storing them, especially if using plastic bags. Otherwise, you will just end up with a bag of mildew and rot that will ruin your seed collection.
• Label seeds with variety and date. This is important! When cleaning out your junk drawer several years later you will want to know what kind of tomato seeds they are and how long they have been in there for.
• Store seeds in a cool, dry place. Many gardeners store tomato seeds in the refrigerator or freezer. Note-you can also add silica gel packets to saved seed bags as an additional moisture deterrent and to increase shelf life but it is not necessary.

Conclusion:

When tomato seeds are handled this way and are given cool, dry storage conditions, they can stay viable for 4 to 6 years, and sometimes longer. If it seems like too much work to do or if you happen to be saving a large volume of seeds and are short on time you can skip steps 3 and 4. The shelf life of tomato seeds that are dried without fermentation and rinsing may only be viable for 1-2 years, but that is usually plenty of time for any guerilla gardeners who might be thinking of some targets for Hawaiian Current Tomato Seed Bombs.

Veggie Bombs Away!

Brenda Dyck

A Guerilla Gardener on an Adventure!

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September Guerilla Gardener

September To Do List

Despite what others may think, fall is an exciting time in the Guerrilla Garden.
It’s a great opportunity to evaluate this season’s garden, reap the accomplishments, compost the defeats and start planning next season’s Guerilla Garden Adventures.

Guerilla Gardener’s know there is no better time for transplanting, planting or shopping for new plants. Garden centers don’t want to be stuck with inventory for the winter, and although there may not be as good of a selection of plants, they will most likely be on sale. Almost all the trees, shrubs and perennials will have stopped producing leaves and flowers and will be entering a period of vigorous root growth. Whether they’re a new addition to your own garden or being used as plant graffiti in an empty lot they will welcome the idea of a new home- especially if there’s some fresh topsoil or compost (not fertilizer) involved.

Master Gardener’s who write monthly gardening articles will have a “to do list” of things you’re supposed to get done in September. As a Guerrilla Gardener, I have made up my own list of Guerilla Gardening tactics to be deployed in the month of September.

Divide and trade perennials with fellow Guerrilla Gardeners –some accomplices say this is best done with Bellini’s in hand.

Plant peonies this month or next month– don’t sweat it if you don’t get a round to it, you can always plant them in the spring if this time frame just doesn’t fit into your schedule.

Lift and sun dry gladiolas for 10 days after leaves turn brown then store in cool, ventilated, frost free place-or if you don’t get around to it just buy new ones for the following year and justify it by telling yourself you wanted to try a new color scheme anyways.

Plant new lawns or repair old lawns by sowing new seed on bare patches-or just plan to dig it up completely and make another garden bed. You’re going to need room for all the stuff you’re going to be ordering on the Internet anyways and as a Guerilla Gardener I believe grass is just a waste of time and space.

Annuals– Keep deadheading and collect seed pods to make seed bombs for your Guerilla Garden Adventures and if you have extra you can use them as gifts to for all your gardening and non-gardening friends alike.

Plant sweet peas, poppies and cornflowers now for early summer blooming next year– you’re going to be ordering new seeds over the winter anyways so if you have some of these seeds lying around scope out some vacant plot of dirt and plant them.

I’m sure there is a lot of things I’m leaving out of the “to do list” but let’s face it – Guerilla Gardening is all about enhancing your life, not consuming it!