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Volume XVII, Issue 1 - January 1 - January 7, 2009
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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Become a Seed-Saver

To get seedlings, you have to know how to save seeds

Saving seeds is a time-honored practice. Until the mid-20th century, most food was grown from saved seeds. Home gardeners are recultivating the desire to save leftover seeds. Fine and dandy — but you’ll have to know how.

Seeds are living things; unless they are stored properly, they will deteriorate. Nor do all seeds have similar shelf lives.

The worst place to store seeds is in a drawer or closet. Seeds of onion, parsnips, peppers, beans, peas and corn have a relatively short shelf life when stored at room temperature. Under such conditions, the percent of seeds that germinate decreases rapidly, germination will be delayed and initial growth will often be distorted or dwarfed.

Store leftover seeds in their packages in an airtight container. Store the container in the back of the refrigerator. The airtight glass jar or plastic zipper bags will prevent the loss of moisture from the seeds, while the refrigeration will slow down metabolic activities within the seeds. Refrigeration does the same for seeds as it does for fruits and vegetables. Some of the best storers are tomatoes, lettuce, parsley and annual flowers.

Even so, freshly purchased seeds generally germinate earlier than stored seeds. The growth of the resulting seedlings will generally be faster, as well.

I make it a practice not to store my seeds for more than two years.

Managing Winter Compost

Q I’m interested in knowing what to do with my compost over the winter months. Two questions: I continue to have food scraps. Do I dig through the frozen pile and do as always: bury and douse with water? Or should I just wait and start again when things thaw?

Also, is clay okay to add to the compost pile as a brown ingredient? When I plant a new tree, digging deep and coming to clay, I usually replace the clay surrounding the root ball with a Leafgro-topsoil mixture.

–Melinda Zimmerman, Holland Point

A My compost pile does not freeze because I add dirty dishwater to it almost daily, and I added urea and compost when formulating my pile of leaves.

Clay is not brown composting material but a mineral, and won’t add carbon as leaves do. Furthermore, it will compact and reduce composting efficiency. 

When planting trees, I never dig a hole deeper than the depth of the root ball. And don’t waste your time or money putting good compost in the bottom the planting hole. Keep the clay beneath the root ball where it belongs. Keep your compost for improving the soil around the root ball.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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