- Author: Sharon L. Rico
Now that planting the Solano County Fair gardens is history, we can begin focusing on the upcoming Plant Exchange. This will be held on Saturday, September 8th at the Cooperative Extension office, 501 Texas Street, 1st floor conference room, Fairfield, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The plant exchange is open to the public and is a busy, enthusiastic time where everything is FREE. We ask participants to bring a plant to share. Some do and some don’t, but we let everyone join in the fun.
If you haven’t been to the plant exchange in the past, this is the time to come. Many of the Master Gardeners are busy planting seeds, dividing plants, propagating and collecting unwanted or unneeded garden paraphernalia. Anything you want to clean or clear out will work. In the past, I have asked my friends to check for unused items and some have contributed containers, yard art, books and other “hot” items. Remember the saying, “One persons trash is another's treasure”?
You may be good at growing herbs that can be shared. Pot up a few. Do you have winter vegetables started yet? Set some aside for the plant exchange. My yard is getting full of ‘garden art’, so I plan to downsize and bring a few metal fence hangings. My sweet peas were a huge hit this year, so the harvested sweet pea seeds will be placed in envelopes to share. Our two Hibiscus syriacus have volunteer baby trees underneath. These have been potted and labels will be added . It helps if you can provide photos or information on the items you donate. As Master Gardeners, we are there to share and to educate.
Just had to add this, too. Some of my favorite items from previous plant exchanges? The magnificent Ginkgo biloba bonsai (a real treasure), a small green ceramic pot with a frog, reference books and some goofy, unique garden books. Oh, almost forgot; a funky little fork that I use to groom bonsai and succulents planted in small containers. You can find the unusual and the ordinary. So mark your calendar before you forget. See you there!
- Author: Erin Mahaney
When it recently rained for days in a row, I stood at the window and watched my weeds grow. I have quite the variety of weeds, as I suspect we all do, but some I don’t really mind. For example, Oxalis is extremely invasive, but it is somewhat pretty and is almost enjoyably easy to pull up from the soil. Even if I don’t always get all of the bulbs like I should, at least I can hold some hope that I’m weakening the bulbs by pulling up the rest of the plant. Plus, Oxalis goes dormant with the summer heat. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
But my least favorite? The wild onion, Allium triquetrum, which is also known as the three-cornered leek. It’s not an ugly weed—in fact, it is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental. It has flower stems of about 1 foot tall, with nodding clusters of small, bell-shaped, white flowers. Not surprisingly, it has a strong onion smell.
The wild onion multiplies quickly, spreading by bulbs and seeds, and it is very hard to remove once established. Like Oxalis, it can be controlled by digging up the entire plant, including the bulbs. But unlike Oxalis, which pulls up easily (thus giving me a false, yet satisfying, sense of accomplishment), wild onion snaps at the soil level every time I try to pull it up. So the entire plant must be dug up, which is difficult to do given the extent of its spread throughout the yard, its proximity to other more desirable plants, and the depth to which I must to dig. And I think that’s what I find so aggravating about the wild onion. I could quit work and dig wild onions for the rest of my days, but I’m still fairly sure that I will not prevail. It spreads so quickly and so thoroughly! So at best, I try to content myself with digging a few plants and snapping off the flower stalks so that the plants don’t spread even more via seed. I know there are worse weeds, but this wild onion is the one onion that makes me want to cry.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
On Saturday, March 10th, the Master Gardeners held a class on Plant Propagation in the Horticultural Building at Solano College. The class was divided into four sections: layering, dividing, cuttings and seeds. This presentation was open to the public and 25 people signed up and about 45 showed up. The morning went extremely well as the Master Gardeners came loaded with garden plants and cuttings to support and supply each of the four “stations”. The participants divided into 9 or 10 at each section and we began demonstrating and planting. Every 20 minutes or so, the group then rotated to the next section to learn specific techniques. It did not take long before everyone was engaged, planting, asking questions and just having a grand time.
My Master Gardener partner Kris Moore, and I hosted the seed table. We talked about the benefits of planting with seeds, starting seeds, saving seeds, seed catalogs, seed tapes, reading seed packets, seed varieties, different ways to start hard outer-shell seeds and how a seed germinates. We demonstrated planting a plastic flat (lined with newspaper) with vegetable seeds, placed in rows and marked with plastic labels (name and harvest date from the seed packet). We provided peat pots, soil, seeds and water for those who wanted to plant seeds to take home.
During our presentation, we mentioned how much fun it is to collect seeds from friends and family to plant in your garden. It is an economical way to grow plants and seeing the results will remind you of the person who shared. My yard contains many plants that have come from other gardens. The photo with this article is a double hollyhock discovered close to our house, that we collected seeds from then planted in our backyard.
The Master Gardeners taught 45 people the joy of creating plants by layering, cuttings, dividing roots, and rhizomes and sharing seeds. It will be a busy spring for all who participated.
- Author: Betty Homer
I recently had the pleasure of attending two local seed saving workshops in which the lecturers gave basic information on how to do seed saving. How seed is saved, depends on what type of seed is being saved, as certain seeds require special handling and processes. But, in general, the concepts of saving seeds for edible plants (i.e., vegetable seeds), are consistent across the board and discussed below.
Although you may want to harvest the ripest, choicest, best-looking vegetables for your own consumption, if your goal is to save seeds, you should reserve the best of your harvest for that purpose.
After you have selected your vegetables, depending on what type of vegetable you are handling, you will need to extract the seed, making sure that it is a good size. no deformities, and that there are no signs of disease or pest infestation. You will need a way to clean off any debris attached to your seeds and dry your seeds thoroughly; otherwise, mold may develop, rendering your seeds unusable. You may dry seeds by placing them on a screen in a dry, protected area. Even setting seeds in an oven on low heat (approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit) may do.
Frequently, some amount of debris will be attached or mixed in with the dried seeds. A simple mesh screen attached to a wooden frame will often do the trick. You place the seed and debris on the screen and shake it over a box or a large container or surface, much the way you would pan for gold, and depending on the size of the seed or debris, one or the other will be left on the screen. You may have to make several passes to clean your seed sufficiently for storage.
At one workshop I attended, I observed a unique method, where the lecturer took a handful of seeds which was mixed in with debris, tossed the seeds in the air over a box, and used a hairdryer to separate the “wheat from the chaff.”
After the seeds have been dried and separated from the debris, they are ready to be stored. They can be placed in small paper envelopes, labeled, and set in the freezer. Seeds are alive and respire; the freezer will minimize the rate of respiration and will keep seeds fresher, longer (although how long seeds keep, depends on the variety of seed).
You can find a lot more information about saving specific seeds either in books or on-line. Also, you may consider participating in seed swaps, which occur all over the Bay Area.
- Author: Jennifer Baumbach
Good Saturday morning all. Just a bonus blog here. I wanted to include this photo in Sharon Rico's sweet pea article, but I didn't have it at the time the blog was posted. I wanted to share this with you if you were planning on planting sweet peas for your yard.
I too grow sweet peas and have taken Sharon's advice in pre-sprouting or 'chitting' sweet peas. I use the paper towel method. However, there are other methods of preparing sweet pea seeds for growing: soaking the seed in hot water, using sandpaper to scratch the surface of the seed or also nipping a tiny bit out of the seed coat.
In this picture are the dry sweet peas, the smaller darker colored seeds in the middle of the group. There are also the plumped up seeds. This happens just before they put out their first little root, which is the other seed you see here in this photo below.
My sweet pea seeds are planted and the seedlings are already breaking through the soil!