Tag: Seed Saving

10 Gifts for Gardeners
The Garden

10 Gifts for Gardeners

10 Gifts for GardenersChristmas is just around the corner! If you are looking for a few ideas to bring a smile to the face of that gardener in the family this year, allow us to make a few recommendations.

  1. The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal. Our garden journal is a great way for a gardener to celebrate a year of growing plants. It features 366 pages with room for to-do lists, observations, harvest records, and other notes, and it even includes a shopping list, a map, a planting table, and other useful tools for planning a garden. Makes a great keepsake. Read more.
  2. Heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are sure to delight! Choose varieties with a compelling story and an attractive appearance. If the seeds come from your own heirloom garden, that makes them even more special.
  3. The Christian Kids’ Gardening Guide. Looking for a gift for a budding green thumb? This delightful little book offers both practical growing tips and fun activities to foster a love of gardening. Read our full review.
  4. All New Square Foot GardeningAll New Square Foot Gardening. If your fellow gardener does not already have a copy of this revolutionary book on gardening, do him a favor and get him one. Even those committed to traditional row gardening can pick up many useful tips for making the garden more productive and attractive. Read our full review.
  5. Oxo Good Grips trowel. Every gardener needs a trowel. If the trowel has a comfortable handle, a sharp stainless-steel blade, and handy measuring marks, so much the better.
  6. Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Another classic work on gardening that deserves a place on every gardener’s bookshelf. This one is an indispensable reference for those who garden naturally. Read our full review.
  7. Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test KitLuster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit. Does your gardening friend know how to test his soil for pH and NPK? If not, this kit will make it easy for him. Read our full review.
  8. Gardening gloves. Even a gardener who already has a pair probably won’t mind an extra pair.
  9. Seed packets. This is another good choice for an heirloom gardener. These seed packets seal to protect their contents, and they can be used with a home inkjet or laser printer.
  10. Sweet potato beetle. This hilarious craft is a great way to use that overgrown sweet potato! Warning: The laughter will be heard for miles around!
Seeds From the Tombs
The Garden

Seeds From the Tombs

King Tut's SeedsMany gardeners know that cool, dry, dark places are ideal for long-term seed storage. Many gardeners cite the seeds found in ancient Egyptian pyramids as evidence. According to the popular story, these seeds, after lying dormant for thousands of years, sprouted when planted.

While most scientists would agree on the perfect conditions for storing seeds, most deny that seeds found in Egyptian tombs have ever germinated.

 

Mummy Seeds

The story that seeds from pyramids were sometimes viable was born sometime in mid-1800s England, a time and place definitely in the grips of mummy mania. Archeologists, both amateur and professional, were unwrapping mummies at every opportunity without compunction. In this process, they frequently uncovered small surprises rolled up with the bodies, including seeds. Seeds were important in Ancient Egyptian funeral rites because they symbolized burial and resurrection.

The first known instance of someone claiming to have sprouted ancient Egyptian seeds was published in 1843 in The Gardeners’ Chronicle of London. The Gardeners’ Chronicle reported that some wheat seeds were found in the hand of a mummy unwrapped in London. A crop was raised from one, and the next generation of seeds was available at exorbitant prices. The Lurgan, Portadown and Banbridge Advertiser and Agricultural Gazette shed some additional light on the story in 1849, reporting that the seeds were brought to England by Sir William Symonds and were then being grown by Francis Fforde of Ireland. In 1857, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine ran an article by T.E. Thorpe on wheat, noting its exceptional longevity and mentioning this incident as an example. The article also observed that the wheat tillered prolifically—“fifteen stems…sprung from a single seed.” (For comparison, note that most American farmers hope for two or three tillers per plant; British sources note that under ideal conditions up to 20 tillers are possible.) Thorpe went on to speculate:

From this great increase it is naturally suggested that wheat now grown is a degenerate class of the same species formerly common in Egypt; else, it is argued, how could the Egyptians have supplied the Assyrian, Grecian, and Roman empires from their superabundance above their own wants?

A separate instance came to light in 1844. In this case, the story was that Thomas Pettigrew, a famous unroller of mummies, had found some wheat and pea seeds in a vase in a sarcophagus in the British Museum. The wheat all failed to germinate, as did many of the peas, but W. Grimstone of the Herbary in Highgate reportedly managed to coax some of the peas to life.

In the early 1850s, or possibly even earlier, more reports surfaced of Egyptian plants sprouting. In this case, Lord Lindsay of Britain claimed that he had found a root in the hand of a mummy he had unwrapped in Egypt. After being planted, the root grew into a dahlia.

In 1856, a Dr. Deck supposedly received part of a dried resurrection flower from a group of Arabs. These Arabs claimed to have taken the flower from a mummified priestess about ten years before. Dr. Deck found that the resurrection flower could revive when wet, albeit temporarily.

 

Science and Seeds

Scientists began experimenting with the germination and viability of seeds as early as the mid-1800s. Most researchers could keep their seeds alive for only 10 to 15 years at the most. A theory was formulated that the maximum lifespan of a seed was 30 years.

In June 1921, the New York Times ran an article on the reaction of British scientists to a claim then current in American that morning glory seeds found in the hand of a mummified girl sprouted. J.L. North, curator of the Royal Botanic Society, listed three reasons for doubting the claim before proposing an alternative theory:

In the first place, though grains were frequently buried with a mummy to provide food in case the corpse came to life, they were always baked to prevent germination. We have in our museum some such grains, burned black. Secondly, the morning glory is a convolvulus. The plant inhabits moist districts and not dry localities like Egypt. Thirdly, no seeds of the convolvulus last a very long time.

What really happened, I think, is that seeds of the morning glory happened to be in the soil in which the ancient grains were planted, and developed in normal fashion.

Many of North’s statements are can now be regarded as either doubtful or simply false:

  • There is relatively little record of pre-baked seeds found in tombs. In fact, some seeds, such as coriander, were actually planted in tombs and allowed to germinate. (It is worthy to note that some Egyptian seeds have carbonized simply from old age.)
  • A plant remarkably like a convolvulus (probably a bindweed, still a problem in Egypt today) is often portrayed in Ancient Egyptian art, sometimes in wreaths but also shown in marsh habitats, climbing up papyrus stems. The fact that a convolvulus can regenerate itself from just a small fragment of root may have been symbolic of rebirth in Ancient Egyptian culture, and its clinging habit may have been associated with femininity.
  • Most farmers and gardeners with the misfortune of being familiar with weeds in the bindweed family know that convolvulus seeds can last for incredible lengths of time, even under suboptimal conditions. Field bindweed seeds have been scientifically proven to live for a minimum of 50 years, outstripping other noxious weeds.

In 1933, a series of experiments were made on some wheat from Egyptian tombs. Every possible method of inducing germination was attempted, including an effort to use colored glass. All were in vain. The seeds merely crumbled to dust.

Scientists say that all viable seeds that come out of the tombs today are probably interlopers transported by rodents. Other instances may be hoaxes that salesmen love to market to tourists.

Unfortunately, scientific trials of seed longevity rarely last for any considerable length of time. Most experiments are abandoned after 20 or 30 years. Furthermore, no one botanist can continue the work alone, assuming the working lifespan of a botanist is 50 years at maximum.

What scientists have determined is useful, however. As a general rule, weed and agricultural seeds last the longest. Barley seeds, for instance, remained viable at 123 years of age in one study. Vegetable seeds are rarely viable for more than a few years under normal storage conditions, although when carefully sealed and stored at cold temperatures they can remain viable for at least 20 years. Some species can last 50 (beets) or even 60 years (tomatoes).

 

How Long Can a Seed Live?

Theories on the absolute maximum lifespan of seeds were shattered when a Japanese botanist uncovered lotus seeds in a layer of peat at the bottom of a dry lake bed in Manchuria. After the find, the seeds went to a museum, where they lay dormant for at least a decade. When a germination test was finally carried out, nearly all of the lotus seeds sprouted.

Scientists were astonished. The peat in the lake bed was thought to date back to the Ice Age. Evolutionists place the end of the Ice Age at 10,000 years ago at the latest. Creationists frequently suggest that the Ice Age occurred shortly after the Flood, probably about 4,000 years ago—still a very long time for a seed. Based on carbon dating results, however, scientists discounted the possibility of the seeds being thousand years old and suggested that they were more recent interlopers.

But this was not the only Ice Age discovery destined to come back to life. A cache of seeds possibly buried by an arctic ground squirrel was discovered in Siberia, 124 feet below the permafrost and surrounded by the remains of animals such as bison and woolly mammoths. Three out of over 600,000 seeds germinated and reproduced successfully. The three seeds were all narrow-leafed campion flowers (Silene stenophylla). The results came to light in 2012.

Arguably one of the most incredible resurrections of old seeds came in 2005. In 1973, archaeologists recovered seeds from the (then) extinct Judean date palm at the ancient fortress of Masada, the site of the last stand of the Jewish Zealots against invading Romans in A.D. 73. Troubled times resulting from Roman and then Arab occupation reduced the cultivation of the tree, leading to its extinction around A.D. 500.

At the time of discovery, the seeds from Masada were about 1900 years old. They went into a drawer at a university in Tel Aviv until 2004. Painstaking methods were used to revive them the following year, including a hot-water bath, a dose of seaweed-based fertilizer, and a solution of hormones. On March 18, 2005, the date palm “Methuselah” emerged from the soil, bringing the species back from extinction.

 

The Truth About Ancient Egyptian Seeds

The fact is, we may never know the truth about the viability of Ancient Egyptian seeds unless repeated attempts are made to sprout them. Remember, the seed cache in Siberia had a germination rate of three out of 600,000—a mere 0.0005%! While the vast majority of the old seeds are undoubtedly long dead, there may be a few hardy survivors that gave rise to the tales of mummy seeds.

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb
The Garden

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb

The Dirt-Cheap Green ThumbGardening on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice looks or taste!

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb: 400 Thrifty Tips for Saving Money, Time & Resources In and Around the Garden by Rhonda Massingham Hart will show you how to make the most of your gardening dollars, while still enjoying a beautiful and productive garden. These tips will improve your efficiency every step of the way, from choosing your garden site to using the harvest.

Learn how to:

  • Improve your soil without needless expense.
  • Buy tools—not toys.
  • Select plants that will thrive in your unique circumstances.
  • Keep your plants in peak health.
  • Create an attractive landscape without breaking the bank.
  • Store rainwater for when you need it most.
  • Save seeds for next year.
  • Prevent waste at harvest time.
  • And much more!

The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb is not a comprehensive how-to book on gardening—it’s more of a tool to spark your creativity. If you are struggling with ways to save either time or money around your garden, give it a try.

5 Homemade Gifts from the Farm
The Skills

5 Homemade Gifts From the Farm

5 Homemade Gifts from the FarmThere’s nothing like a homemade gift to warm someone’s heart at Christmas.  The time and love put into a handcrafted present make it special.

If you enjoy country living, you have an excellent opportunity to make and grow gifts that will touch others.  Need some inspiration?  Consider these ideas:

  1. Heirloom seeds.  If you raise and save seeds from heirloom plants, why not share that favorite variety with a gardening relative?
  2. Live plants.  Some of your family members might enjoy a sample of a perennial plant to grow.  Perhaps you can share a productive and hardy variety of berry, or maybe an herb in a pot.
  3. Herbal concoctions.  Many people have an interest in herbs, even if they don’t necessarily grow them.  Delight someone this Christmas with dried herbs for cooking or making tea.
  4. Kitchen treats.  Are you good at baking homemade bread?  Is your jelly a favorite?  Share some of that down-home goodness with friends and family this year.
  5. Country crafts.  Put your skills to work creating something for that special someone.  Build a birdhouse; knit a scarf; paint a rural scene.  The sky is the limit!

 

Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
Consider some of these ways to share your produce this Christmas.  Read our full review.

Kids Knitting
Children will enjoy making these projects as much as friends and family will enjoy receiving them!  Read our full review.

HomeMadeHomeMade
Looking for something useful to build?  This book might provide some inspiration.  Read our full review.

Homemade Cards
Don’t buy a card this Christmas—make one!  Read our full review.

Pros and Cons of Fermenting Seeds Before Storage
The Garden

Pros and Cons of Fermenting Seeds Before Storage

Pros and Cons of Fermenting Seeds Before StorageMost guides to saving seeds from tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons recommend fermenting the seeds before storing them. However, a short perusal of the directions for this procedure is enough to convince anyone that a fermented seed culture is a nasty, smelly mess. So is it really worthwhile? Or is there a better way?

Interestingly, some gardeners don’t ferment their seeds, but simply clean them up with paper towel. These people suggest that fermenting takes more time and effort than is really necessary. On the other hand, advocates of fermentation insist that the process is essential for ensuring the best results.

So what’s the answer? Let’s find out.

 

Pros

  • Nature’s way. Yes, it’s true. Seeds from certain plants are cleaned by fermentation in nature. Just leave a tomato on the plant to ripen, rot, and fall, and you’ll see it in action. Fermenting seeds mimics the natural process.
  • Enhanced germination. Wet seeds that are embedded in soft fruit crops are often encased in protective gel coatings that keep them from sprouting while still on the plant. Fermentation ensures the removal of the gel, thus guaranteeing good germination rates.
  • Disease prevention. Some plants carry diseases that can be passed on to their seeds and then on to the new crop. During the fermentation process, yeast and beneficial bacteria destroy any diseases that might be lurking on the outside of the seed coat.
  • Bulk benefits. While fermentation may sound complicated to someone with just a few seeds to save, it is actually the easiest and most efficient way to save seeds from a large quantity of tomatoes or other fruits. More seeds means more scrubbing time and effort if you use the paper towel method; on the other hand, the size of a batch of seeds has little effect on fermentation, rinsing, and air-drying time by comparison.
  • Garden etiquette. If you share and trade seeds, you will make them more acceptable to other gardeners by fermenting them. Many gardeners are careful to avoid introducing outside diseases to their gardens, and fermentation will set their minds at ease even if you know that your plants are healthy.

 

Cons

  • Complexity. Fermenting seeds can be difficult even for the experts sometimes. There are many variables which affect the fermentation process, and the project will take close monitoring for best results. Then comes the lengthy washing process and the tricky task of drying the seeds.
  • Odor. Fermenting seeds are notorious for their smell. This is definitely not an indoor project, yet keep in mind that the mixture still has to be kept in a safe place.
  • Drying difficulties. Once the seeds have been fermented and rinsed, they must be dried. For some, this is the tricky part. Drying must take place quickly, or the seeds will absorb moisture and not keep well. On the other hand, they must be dried at cool temperatures, or some of the seeds will be injured or even killed. Seeds stay comparatively dry using the paper towel method.
  • Doubtful advantages. For quite a few gardeners, the paper towel cleaning method works just as well. Why go to needless trouble?

 

Conclusion

Perhaps the answer to the question of whether fermentation is worthwhile depends on scale. A backyard gardener saving a few seeds for personal use can simply scrub them off with a paper towel and move on without any further hassle. On the other hand, someone growing more seeds, perhaps with plans to trade or sell them to preserve the variety, will want to go the extra mile and ferment them before storage. This person will have to take particular pains to ensure that all of the gel coating is removed from the seeds for both proper storage and good germination, and the paper towel will make slow work of it.

The good news is that gardeners have two equally viable options to choose from when saving seeds. Not everyone has to deal with the messy fermentation process, while those who want to ensure good germination rates and healthy seedlings have a reliable method at hand.

 

Helpful Resource

VegetablesVegetables
Our own online guide to raising vegetables offers tips on saving seeds, including step-by-step directions for fermenting cucumber and tomato seeds.

Tomato
The Garden

Tomato

TomatoThe possibilities of a fresh, homegrown tomato are nearly endless.  The simplest uses, such as sandwich toppings and BLTs, are by far the best.  However, when you have a surplus, experiment.  Dice them and use them instead of canned tomatoes in your favorite recipes.  Cook them to make salsa or tomato sauce.  Even green tomatoes have uses.  Try slicing and frying them.

 

Preferred Conditions

  • Full sun.
  • Warm weather.
  • Ample moisture.
  • Moderate soil fertility.
  • Soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8.

 

TomatoPlanting

  1. Start tomatoes indoors about 6 weeks before the last spring frost.  March is typically best in Kansas.
  2. Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch of potting mix.
  3. Keep seeds very warm (75°F to 85°F) until germination.  Some gardeners use heating mats or strands of Christmas lights to provide a source of bottom heat.
  4. Harden the seedlings off beginning a week or two before the last spring frost (April for Kansas).
  5. Transplant as soon as all threat of frost has passed.  In Kansas, this will be sometime in May—earlier farther south, later farther north.
  6. Set bush tomatoes out about 18 to 36 inches apart and vine tomatoes about 12 inches apart.
  7. Shape the soil around each plant into a small bowl to collect moisture, and apply a light mulch.
  8. Provide the seedlings with support for future growth.  Use plant cages for bush tomatoes and a trellis for vine tomatoes.
  9. Keep the plants well watered until thoroughly established.

 

Care

Tomatoes need plenty of water to thrive.  Water them deeply and generously in hot weather, and give them a thick mulch.

To ensure the best growth and plant health, prune and train the plants.  Pinch off suckers, and use pruning shears to remove any foliage that looks dead or unhealthy.  Keep the branches up off of the ground and properly supported.

 

Pests and Diseases

 

TomatoHarvesting

Check your tomatoes every day—they will ripen quickly!  Pick them when they are red, but err on the side of bringing them in a little early if splitting or pests are a problem.  They will be ready to eat in just a day or two if set on a sunny windowsill.

If a frost threatens, you can still save many of your tomatoes.  Pick all of the green ones that are a useable size and are in good condition.  Individually wrap them in newspaper and pack them into a cardboard box to protect them from damage.  Check them frequently and use them as they ripen.

To harvest tomatoes, give them a gentle twist and a pull.  They should come right off of the plant.  Just be careful not to break the delicate skin.

 

Storage

Tomatoes are by far the best when eaten fresh off of the plant, but they will also keep for a week or so in the refrigerator.  For long-term storage, dice them, seal them in airtight plastic bags, and put them in the freezer.  Tomatoes can also be canned or dried.

 

TomatoSaving Seeds

  1. Isolate tomato varieties by 500 feet or cover plants in a screened cage.
  2. While the flowers are blooming, gently shake them each morning to help distribute pollen.
  3. As tomatoes mature, harvest them normally.
  4. Cut the tomato in half across the “equator,” not the “axis.”
  5. Squeeze the gel and seeds into a clean bowl or jar.  The rest of the tomato can be eaten or cooked.
  6. Add water until you have a mixture of about one part seeds/gel to two parts water.
  7. Allow the mixture to sit and ferment in a safe, warm place for one to three days, stirring twice a day.  (This won’t smell very good.)
  8. When a layer of mold has completely covered the top of the mixture, add as much water to the bowl as possible.
  9. Carefully pour off the water and all the debris floating on top.
  10. Repeat steps eight and nine until the seeds are clean.
  11. Pour the seeds into a strainer and press dry with a towel.
  12. Spread out on a cookie sheet or other nonstick surface to finish drying, stirring at least twice a day.
  13. When the seeds are completely dry, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  They should last for about four years.

 

Helpful Resource

Tomato Diseases
A long list of fact sheets on the diseases of tomatoes.

 

Complete Series

VegetablesVegetables

 

Squash (Winter & Pumpkin)
The Garden

Squash (Winter & Pumpkin)

Squash (Winter & Pumpkin)Different gardeners have different favorite uses for winter squash, so be prepared to experiment with this unique vegetable.  Squash can be boiled, baked, or mashed.  It can be served by itself as a side or added to soups and stews.  It can be stuffed with rice or sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  Butternut squash can even be baked in pies as a substitute for pumpkin.

Pumpkin is another member of the winter squash group.  You undoubtedly know that it has diverse possibilities in baking, but have you considered eating the seeds?  When roasted with sea salt, they make a delicious snack.

 

Preferred Conditions

  • Full sun.
  • Moist but not soggy soil.
  • Soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5.

 

Squash (Winter & Pumpkin)Planting

  1. Plant outdoors about two weeks after the last spring frost date, when the soil has thoroughly warmed up.  In Kansas this will be from May to mid-June.
  2. Soak the seeds in water overnight if desired.  This is not necessary, but will ensure better germination.
  3. Form one hill for each group of plants, at least three feet apart.  A spacing of up to six feet may be necessary if you do not plan to use a trellis.
  4. Plant four to nine seeds in each hill, one inch deep.  Your goal is to ensure that you will be able to thin all but the healthiest plants in the hill.
  5. Keep the hills well watered until germination, but be careful not to wash the seeds away.
  6. When the seedlings start to grow, pinch off all but two or three of the healthiest plants.

 

Care

To save space and keep the vines in peak health, winter squash should be trained to grow up a trellis.  Carefully wrap the branches around their supports as they grow.  Check the plants periodically to see if any branches have escaped.  Also be sure to handle the plants gently to avoid crimping or breaking them.

Winter squash needs quite a bit of water to grow.  In the hottest part of summer, you may need to water it deeply every day.

Pests are a major problem with winter squash and pumpkins.  To avoid a heavy infestation, you will have to be extremely proactive in your control methods.  Check for signs of pests daily.  Keep weeds pulled and avoid heavy mulches where bugs can hide.  Cut off any wilted, yellowed, or dead foliage that you see.  If you take steps to deter garden pests before they arrive, your odds of success will be much greater.

 

Pests and Diseases

 

Squash (Winter & Pumpkin)Harvesting

Winter squash cannot be harvested until the first fall frost.  Wait for the vine to wilt, but do not leave the squash and pumpkins out in a freeze.  Cut them from the vine with a sharp knife, leaving as much stem as possible.  Be very careful not to damage this stem or to bruise the skin.  Set the squash out in the sun to cure for a few days, but bring them in at night if frost is a possibility.  When the squash is finished curing, the stem will feel dry, hard, and woody.

 

Storage

Store squash and pumpkins in a dry place, about 40°F to 50°F.  Check them often.  A tiny bruise is enough to cause an entire squash to rot.

 

Squash (Winter & Pumpkin)Saving Seeds

  1. Isolate pumpkins and winter squash from other members of the squash family by half a mile, if possible.
  2. If this is not feasible, you will have to hand pollinate the flowers.  Check on them every day as soon as they appear.
  3. When the flowers are ready for pollination, they will look orange along the seams, and the tips may be just starting to open.  Immediately tape them shut with masking tape.
  4. When the dew dries the next morning, identify the male and female flowers among the ones that you have taped.  Female flowers are attached to tiny squash fruits.  Male flowers attach directly to the stem of the plant.
  5. Pick one of the male flowers and pull off its petals to make it easier to work with.
  6. Tear just the tip off of one of the female flowers.
  7. Rub pollen from the male flower onto the protruding stigma in the center of the female flower.
  8. Pick another male flower and pollinate the female flower again.
  9. Carefully tape the female flower shut again so that insects cannot bore into it.
  10. Loosely tie a plastic ribbon around the stem of the plant so that you can identify the squash that you hand pollinated.
  11. Repeat with several more flowers.  Squash plants tend to reject flowers that have been damaged, so you will have to be gentle and pollinate many flowers to ensure success.
  12. Harvest and cure the squash normally.
  13. Store the squash normally for three weeks.
  14. Cut open the squash and pick out the seeds.
  15. Rub seeds in a wire strainer under running water to separate them from any remaining pulp.
  16. Drain the seeds and let them air-dry.
  17. Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place.  They should last for up to six years.

 

Helpful Resource

Cucurbit Diseases
Winter squash diseases are described along with those of melons, cucumbers, and summer squash.

 

Complete Series

VegetablesVegetables

 

Squash (Summer)
The Garden

Squash (Summer)

Squash (Summer)Fortunately for gardeners, summer squash is almost as versatile as it is prolific.  Slices can be cooked in soup or sautéed and added to pasta.  Raw squashes can be peeled and cut into sticks to serve with dip.  Both zucchini and yellow squash can be shredded for cooking and baking purposes, as well.

 

Preferred Conditions

  • Full sun.
  • Hot temperatures.
  • Soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8.

 

Squash (Summer)Planting

  1. Start summer squash outdoors when the danger of frost has passed and the soil has thoroughly warmed up.  In Kansas, May is the best time.
  2. Consider soaking your seeds in water for a few hours before planting.  This is not essential, but will promote better germination.
  3. Make small hills of dirt, one for each plant, about three feet apart.
  4. Do not plant too many summer squash!  One hill is quite sufficient for most families.
  5. Plant three seeds, one inch deep, in each hill.
  6. Keep the hills well watered until germination.
  7. When the seedlings start to grow, thin them back to one or two of the healthiest plants per hill.

 

Care

Summer squash is not terribly demanding.  A thick mulch and generous watering will keep it producing well—maybe a little too well!

If your squash plant is stressed by drought and you need to revive it, give it a little additional TLC.  Be extra liberal with the water, check it carefully for pests, and trim off all of the diseased, dying, and dead leaves that you find.  Before long it will be thriving again.

 

Pests and Diseases

 

Squash (Summer)Harvesting

Summer squash grows rapidly, so check it every day.  Err on the side of picking the squashes a little young.  They will probably be six to nine inches long, and the blossom on the end will have wilted when they are ready.

Although summer squash can be broken away from the vine, a much better method of harvesting is to cut through the stem.  Be careful not to damage the squash’s tender skin.

 

Storage

Summer squash is best eaten fresh, but will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

For long-term storage, try peeling and shredding the squash.  Store it in airtight plastic bags in the freezer.  Let it thaw overnight before you need it, and it will work well for cooking or baking.

 

Saving Seeds

Squash (Summer)

  1. Isolate summer squash from other members of the squash family by half a mile, if possible.
  2. If this is not feasible, you will have to hand pollinate the flowers.  Check on them every day as soon as they appear.
  3. When the flowers are ready for pollination, they will look orange along the seams, and the tips may be just starting to open.  Immediately tape them shut with masking tape.
  4. When the dew dries the next morning, identify the male and female flowers among the ones that you have taped.  Female flowers have a tiny squash attached to the base of the flower.  Male flowers attach directly to the stem of the plant.
  5. Pick one of the male flowers and pull off its petals to make it easier to work with.
  6. Tear just the tip off of one of the female flowers.
  7. Rub pollen from the male flower onto the protruding stigma in the center of the female flower.
  8. Pick another male flower and pollinate the female flower again.
  9. Carefully tape the female flower shut again so that insects cannot bore into it.
  10. Loosely tie a plastic ribbon around the stem of the plant so that you can identify the squash that you hand pollinated.
  11. Repeat with several more flowers.  Squash plants tend to reject flowers that have been damaged, so you will have to be gentle and pollinate many flowers to ensure success.
  12. Let the squash grow until their skins become leathery and so hard that they cannot be dented with a fingernail.
  13. Cut the squash from the plant and let them sit in a sheltered place for about three weeks.
  14. Break the squash open with an ax or shovel.
  15. Pick out the seeds.
  16. Rub seeds in a wire strainer under running water to separate them from any remaining pulp.
  17. Drain the seeds and let them air-dry.
  18. Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place.  They should last for up to six years.

 

Helpful Resource

Cucurbit Diseases
Summer squash diseases are described along with those of melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and winter squash.

 

Complete Series

VegetablesVegetables

 

Radish
The Garden

Radish

RadishIf you have never enjoyed the fresh taste of a well-grown radish, you really ought to give it a try.  Radishes are delicious to eat raw, either by themselves or with vegetable dip.  But they can also be sliced to increase their versatility.  Use them to top a lettuce salad, or make radish salad.

Even those tiny sprouts that you had to pinch off while thinning the row can be useful.  Some people enjoy them in salads.

 

Preferred Conditions

  • Full sun in cool weather, partial shade in warm weather.
  • Loose, warm (not hot) soil full of organic matter.
  • Soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8.

 

RadishPlanting

  1. Plant radishes outdoors any time that the soil is warm and dry enough to be thoroughly tilled.  In Kansas, this will usually occur between mid-March and mid-April.
  2. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and two or three inches apart.
  3. Keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout, but be careful not to wash them away.  A light mulch helps.
  4. For a continuous harvest, plant more radishes every other week until the weather becomes very warm.
  5. For a fall crop, plant more radishes a month or two before the first fall frost, depending on the variety and on the temperatures.  In Kansas, try mid-August through mid-September.  With winter storage varieties, err on the side of planting a little early.

 

RadishCare

Radishes are very easy to grow if treated with reasonable consideration.  The key to top-notch flavor and texture is to keep them growing fast.  Any time that radishes start to slow down, they begin to toughen and become unpleasantly spicy.  Attempts to revive them later on will probably just cause them to split.

As long as your soil is fertile, the radishes need only two things to keep them growing quickly and well.  The first is proper thinning.  Do not let them crowd each other at any stage of growth.  The second thing is a steady supply of moisture.  The ground should always be damp, but not muddy.  It is better to water radishes a little at a time every day than to water them deeply every few days.  As the weather warms up, mulch can help regulate the moisture in the soil.

 

Pests and Diseases

  • Flea beetle.
  • Root maggot.
  • Mouse.

 

Harvesting

Radishes are ready to pull when they are anywhere from the size of a marble to that of a Ping-Pong ball.  Grasp the stems near the root and work the plant up and out of the ground.

 

RadishStorage

Radishes are best eaten fresh.  If you must keep them for a short time, leave the tops on and store them in a plastic shopping bag in the refrigerator.

Winter storage radishes were made to keep in the root cellar.  Twist or cut off their tops and store in damp sand or peat moss.

 

Saving Seeds

  1. Separate radish varieties by half a mile or protect them from cross-pollination in a screened cage.
  2. Let the stalks and seed pods dry naturally.
  3. When the pods are completely dry, pick them by hand.
  4. Rub the pods to open them.  If you have trouble, you might try carefully breaking them open with a hammer.
  5. Screen the seeds or pour them from bucket to bucket in a gentle breeze until all debris is removed.
  6. Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place.  Radish seeds should last four or five years.

 

Complete Series

VegetablesVegetables