March 17 Caleb Warnock Class: Garden Planning

Heirloom Gardening Class March 17, 2012 by Caleb Warnock

Topic:  Planning your garden, what seeds you plan to save this year and next.

Additional materials:  see the Vegetable Families page as a reference.

Seed handed out:  Lincoln Peas, Amish Paste Tomatoes (little fuzzy seeds), Buttercup Squash (white) or Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash (yellow), Lettuce Blend, Cauliflower Y Improved (black round), Italian Basil (flat black).

General Notes
  • The seeds in the seed packets that were given out were: Lincoln Peas, Buttercup Squash (white seed) or Yellow Crookneck Squash (yellow seed), Amish Paste Tomatoes (self pollinating), Lettuce Mix, Cauliflower Y Improved (small round black), Italian Basil (flat black).
  • Make sure you go on the Forum which has a link on this website, to list what you have to share and find what others have available.
  • You should only save seed from what your family will want to eat!
  • The information shared in this class on the more difficult seeds to save is not to scare or confuse you, but to give you the information you need help you to create a garden plan.  You need to decide what your family’s favorites are that are more difficult to save, and plan to focus on those and decide when you will plant them.
  • You need to be open to failure, you will have failure and you will have success.  If you are willing to see failure as a learning experience, you will succeed!
  • ‘Seed to Seed’ by Suzanne Ashworth is a book you will want to own, it tells you everything you need to know about how to save seed from every species.
1. Make a family seed saving goal for 2012 - 2013
  • Suggested goal for 2012, save seed from all of the easy ones.  Lettuce, tomatoes (not potato leaf varieties), potatoes, peas, beans.
  • You should save enough seed for your family, the exchange, and the bank.  For your family, you need enough to plant in 2013, and some to put in the freezer for future use so that you don’t have to gather seed from every vegetable every year.  (If you save extra seeds each year, you could grow only one variety of crossing species each year and still save seed from each of those varieties.  That way you don’t grow crossing varieties at the same time.)
  • Figure out your family’s favorite species of vegetables, and then their favorite variety of those species.  For example, you know that your family loves to eat parsnips, then you need to narrow it down to the variety of parsnip you like the best.  You can try them by planting a different variety each year, or trading some ripe varieties with others in the exchange to be able to try them.  We will have a tasting event in the fall to help.
  • Next make a goal to grow a 2 year crop starting in 2012, or 2013 if you don’t feel ready this year.  All root vegetables take 2 years to save seed.
  • You grow them out the 1st year, then you pick out the best ones and put them in your garage or root cellar to be replanted the next spring, then they will produce seed.  You cannot leave them in the ground because most are not winter hardy, and they will be eaten by hungry animals.  Do not eat the ones you save!  You need to save your best ones to continue having plants with the best genetics.
 2. Easy seeds to save, the ones to start with that should be saved this year.
  • Lettuce, tomatoes (not potato leaf varieties), potatoes, peas, beans.
  • Easy because they self pollinate, so it is difficult for them to cross pollinate.
  • Everyone should commit to saving these seeds this year.
 3. Moderately difficult seeds to save – Squash, insect pollinated
  • Squash is insect pollinated, so it must be hand pollinated and protected from insect cross pollination.  Instructions for doing this are in Caleb’s book, also Seed to Seed, and will be demonstrated when we have some blossoms ready.
  • If you are ready, try it this year. If not, plan on trying it another year.  No rush, take it at your own pace and become comfortable with each step before moving to the next.
 4. Difficult Seeds to save – root vegetables, insect and wind pollinated
  • Includes carrots, parsnips, onions, leeks, horseradish, kale, broccoli, collards, radish, beets, swiss chard, spinach.
  • Only plant one variety of each species at a time to give you the best chance of having pure seed.  Your neighbors may be growing other types, so you will want to plant some of your seed to test it.  If the vegetable looks the same as the parent, you have good seed.  We can only do the best we can in our own garden, Caleb has successfully saved most of these, regardless of what his neighbors are doing.  The guidelines we are providing are the commercial seed guidelines and can be used as a guide in our own planting.

    Questions and Answers

    Q:  Which fruits on my plants do I save?
    A:  The first fruits.  If you save later ripening fruits, they will ripen later and later each year.  The first fruits are the most vigorous and your fruit will ripen earlier.

    Q:  Do you have any advice for those of us that don’t have a garage for storing or space for a garden?
    A:  We should have all things in common and share.  Find a neighbor with a garage and say “I have a box of onions, you have a garage, if you will share your garage, I will share my onions.”  For garden space, find a neighbor that will not be using their garden space because of elderly age or any other reason, and offer to share your produce in exchange for use of their space.

    Q:  How do you start your garden space?
    A:  If you want to eliminate 95% of your weeds, save non shiny newspaper and cardboard boxes and build some raised beds (they only need to be 4” tall).  You can put them on top of anything that currently exists there.  You can find old or scrap wood, do not use concrete, or anything that contains toxic substances that you don’t want in your food.  Build your box, put a couple of layers of newspaper or cardboard on the bottom, fill with leaves or old straw (hay) and put ½-1” of soil on top. 

    The soil should be compost, if you don’t have your own compost, get organic soil.  The cheapest I’ve found is at ACE Hardware.  Do not ever till, the more you till, the less fertile your soil is.  If you till, you have to add inputs to get the nutrients back in your soil.  Each fall add compost on top, do not mix it in.

    Q:  How can I get nitrogen into my soil?
    A:  Plant lots of peas and beans, they put nitrogen into the soil.

    Q:  What is the best way to raise the acidy of my soil?
    A:  Spray vinegar, it will kill your weeds and increase the soil acidity.  Vinegar will kill any living plant you spray it on.  You can plant right after spraying.

    Q:  Can I get my compost from the cities?
    A:  Most use humanure, ask what is in it, and make sure that there is no human waste.

    Q:  I don’t want to use my neighbor’s horse manure because I’m concerned that it has hookworm in it.
    A:  Don’t worry, when it composts, it will kill the hookworm, or other parasidic worms.

    Q:  Should I put black plastic over my compost to increase the heat and kill bad microbes?
    A:  There are more good than bad microbes in your compost and you will kill all of them.

    Q:  When I can use manure on my garden?
    A:  After 180 days, you can use it directly on your garden.

    Q:  What seed do you save from potatoes?
    A:  We don’t use seeds, we use clone roots.  So you save your best potatoes, do not clean the dirt off of your potatoes.  Plant them the next year and they will root and grow.

    Q:  Can we leave our roots in our garage or cellar for more than one year?
    A:  No, they will rot.  Only save what you want to plant and share, eat the rest.

    Q:  Where can I find recipes for these less common vegetables?
    A:  If you have good vegetable recipes, email them to Allaire and we will get them on the blog.

    Q:  How can I tell if tomatoes have tomato leaves or potato leaves?
    A:  If you aren’t comfortable with a species, don’t plant it this year.  Only do what you feel comfortable with.  Or you can plant it, and if you are not sure, then don’t save the seeds this year.

    Q:  How do you make your own vinegar?
    A:  Put apples in a bucket, leave for 4 weeks, drain off vinegar.  You can put the leftover apples in your compost.  Don’t dilute the vinegar, use it full strength.

    Q:  Should I get a compost tumbler?
    A:  Only if you want only 1 shovel full of compost.  Get about 6-8’ of rabbit wire, make it into a circle, throw your compost material in until full.  One year later it will be ready.  You can have a couple of them and rotate using them.  You can put any organic, biological thing in your compost except meat, don’t worry about dry to wet ratio, just put in some of both.  Cardboard and non-shiny newspaper is great.  Weeds that haven’t gone to seed are good too.  Grass clipping are good if you haven’t sprayed broad leaf weed killer on it.

    Q:  If you don’t use broad leaf weed killer on your lawn, what can you use to get rid of it?
    A:  Can you just get over it?  You can keep the dandelions for the kids to play with, and you can eat them in dandelion ravioli. 

    Q:  If you use wood chips in your compost will it absorb all of your nitrogen?
    A:  No it does not.

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