Tuesday, May 27, 2008

seed saving novice-style...

It was a soggy, humid Memorial Day weekend around my place, but I still managed to do my transplant surgery on the zucchini and two cucumbers, laid out more hay on the gardens, trimmed a hedge (actually, my lovely neighbor did the whole thing and she just had me hold the leaf guard), and clipped back some trees. It was nice to check off so many things!

I am definitely not getting enough sun on the tomatoes and peppers in the summer garden (pics in last post). Compared to the tomatoes out front, which are getting 10 hours or so, these guys are small. That's why I decided to plant in the front yard, but hopefully I'll still get something out of the back garden. All of the peppers are there!

I also took some pictures of my radish and spinach plants that are bolting. I recently bought Seed to Seed and have been planning to save some of my own this year. I've harvested easy seed-things, like zinnias, marigolds, black-eyed susans, tomatoes, and peppers, but somewhere between the harvesting, drying, and storing, they have typically ended up on a dusty shelf somewhere as food for the scavenger bugs. So that means that this year a prime goal will be organization and thoughtful storage. What's the point, otherwise but a lot of wasted work??

I also want to try saving some seeds that are slightly more difficult. For instance, I learned from Seed to Seed that in order to get spinach seeds you need a male and a female plant. So I went out to the backyard, and what do you know?


The seeds will form along the stem. There are clusters of small white hairs that are lustily waiting for pollen from this guy:

This picture didn't turn out as well, but you can see the male flower stalk sticking up in front - my camera didn't want to focus on it but hopefully you get the idea. It looks sort of like a goldenrod spike.

I also noticed that some of my radishes, which have been flowering for some time, are finally developing their seed pods! Yippee!

I'm not sure that I'll be able to save viable seed this time, but I have a much better start than I did before (no book, just some curiosity and an envelope!).

I think most of the cabbage is a wash. I've been pulling cabbage loopers for weeks now and didn't seem to make a dent. I tried diatomaceous earth (nada), hot pepper spray (nope), and the manual pull-and-remove method (huh-uh). I may try bt (bacillus thuringiensis) but couldn't find any at Lowe's. I'd be interested in reviews if anyone's used it.

In my (uber-)brief research, I see that "in a purified form, some of the proteins produced by Bt are acutely toxic to mammals. However, in their natural form, acute toxicity of commonly-used Bt varieties is limited to caterpillars, mosquito larvae, and beetle larvae." (http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Bacillus-thuringiensis-Bt.htm)

Which I guess means the pretty butterflies and useful lady-bugs, too. I could be careful and just spot spray the problem crops, though, maybe?

I also found this: "The beauty of this popular control is it only attacks caterpillars in the Lepidoptera family and doesn't harm other insects, bees, pets, and humans. The downside is that all butterfly and moth larvae are susceptible to this pesticide, so use it sparingly and avoid it on butterfly larva plants, such as parsley.

There are also strains of Bt that attack Colorado potato beetle larvae (Bt 'San Diego') and mosquito larvae (Bt israelensis)." (http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=10steps-organic)

I noticed that now it's not just the cabbage loopers but these guys, too:

The white powder you see is leftover residue from the diatomaceous earth. So if this isn't blatant caterpillar scoffing at my attempts at playing god with their lives, I don't know what is.

Sadly several of my cabbage are now in the compost (notice the volunteer squash!).

Live and learn, right? Once I've identified my latest interloper, I'll be back with results. I suspect it is a the fore-bears of something beautiful. Quelle conflict! Beautiful but deadly to my food!

No comments: