Garden: Amaryllis, The Gift That Keeps Giving
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, moving indoors, Brian Cruey offers tips on a lovely gift to bring to that Thanksgiving/Hannukah celebration taking place next week.
Thanksgiving is next week and I am hosting my better half’s family. This is the third year in a row that they’ve come up for the holiday and, for better or worse, it’s turning into a tradition. Matt’s family is Jewish, so dividing up the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays was a pretty easy negotiation. Honestly, I don’t mind hosting. I enjoy cooking, and having it take place at my house allows me to control the menu, which is basically what my mother has been making for as many Thanksgivings as I can remember. (Jewish readers know that Hanukkah falls over Thanksgiving this year, and despite my father in-law’s repeated suggestion, I am not making a Manischewitz-braised turkey.) If I can’t spend Thanksgiving with my mom, then I am at the very least going to spend it with her recipes.
If you’re a guest at someone’s table, you’re probably going to want to bring something. Dessert? Wine? A drunk uncle? It’s not always easy trying to decide. Like it or not, Thanksgiving kicks off the “season of giving” and if you’re in need of a great gift idea, or simply something to bring as a gift for your host, then let me offer a suggestion: Amaryllis.
While I know this is not a groundbreaking idea, I do think it’s one that is often cast aside as unoriginal. To me, this is still the perfect gift. It’s practically a care-free houseplant that is all but guaranteed to bloom, regardless of your capabilities of keeping indoor plants alive, and the show it puts on is spectacular. It is also well timed. Give someone an amaryllis at Thanksgiving, for example, and it should be in bloom just in time for the solstice. Give it at Christmas and it will be blooming as the worst of winter starts to rear its ugly head, when we need a burst of spring color the most. Pair it with a unique pot for planting and you’ve made it an even nicer gift.
You can find these bulbs just about anywhere—at the grocery store, the hardware store, even the drugstore. These types of vendors will usually sell the big, red showy flowers that we’ve all come to associate with this plant. However, if you dig a little deeper, you can find some really amazing varieties that are truly unique, such as the Amaryllis Chico (above right) or Amaryllis Picotee (below left). Mail order catalogs and nurseries will usually roll out new models each year, so the selection is always growing. I like to find these varieties, pot them, and then give them as gifts without description. It makes for quite the nice surprise when they bloom, as it’s not often what people are expecting.
Whether you’re giving an amaryllis as a gift or lucky enough to have received one, here is what you should do to take care of it: If you are given a bare bulb, find a pot that will fit the bulb comfortably both in width and depth. Fill the pot half way with a well-draining potting mix. Make sure to put something underneath the pot to catch water that may drain from the bottom. Wet the soil in the bottom of the pot and then place the amaryllis bulb on top. Fill in around the bulb with soil until only the top 1/3 of the bulb is showing above the soil, leaving about a half an inch or so from the top of the pot to allow for watering. Water lightly.
Place your potted bulb in an area with good sunlight that stays above 60 degrees. The warmer the area, the quicker the plant is likely to grow and flower. Keep the plant watered, but on the dry side. You don’t want to overwater and cause the roots to rot, especially just after potting. It can take blooms a while to form, depending on the type of bulb and growing conditions, so be patient. As long as your bulb doesn’t feel “squishy” to the touch, it’s doing just fine.
A lot of people will toss their amaryllis after blooming, but you can easily get them to bloom year after year with the right kind of care. I would tell you about that now, but I have a funny feeling someone will be writing about it when the holidays are over. (Hint: I’m going to write about this when the holidays are over.)(0) Comments
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Garden: A Rake’s Progress
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey offers sympathy for those who have to engage in the seemingly endless task of gathering fallen leaves and offers tips on how to make all the work more worthwhile in the long run.
The fall foliage has stopped being beautiful and has started being a real pain in the ass. Long woodland walks have quickly turned into endless afternoons raking leaves. It’s like this cruel Zen game where as soon as I finish, I turn around and—more leaves! Are you kidding! There aren’t even trees over there! Time to start all over again. After failing to convince myself that this is a “fun” chore, I usually just go get the lawn mower and start mowing over them—a great technique to use if you have a mulching mower and you mow frequently enough.
I always try to keep in mind that I am raking up a mini goldmine. Leaves are great for your compost pile—and more importantly, great for your WINTER compost pile. A lot of people don’t think about it, but your compost pile doesn’t stop working once the temperature drops.
It’s true that, like Amtrak, tourism, and my metabolism, the microbes that break down the organic material in your compost are sluggish during the winter months. However, there are steps that you can take to optimize the production and health of your compost. For starters, make sure that your compost is covered. This not only provides insulation, but it also helps to regulate moisture. It’s true that you want to keep your compost pile moist, but too much moisture can cause your compost to slow down and heavy snows can have a negative effect. Covering your compost also keeps the snow off, so that when you want to add new material, you can get easier access. Be sure to weigh down the edges with stones or bricks so the wind doesn’t blow it away. The real goal here is to contain the heat, which helps to facilitate decomposition. In addition to covering the pile, create a windbreak around your compost by using hay bales, logs, cinder blocks or bags of raked leaves—anything that’s going to help contain the heat in your pile.
Next, you will want to chop up your kitchen scraps and green materials to a smaller than usual size. The smaller the better, but try to get things down to under 2 inches. Even in the summer months, this is a good way to speed up compost production, but it’s critical during the winter. Because my compost pile is kind of far from my house, I have a pail that sits outside the back door in which to collect scraps. It’ll be cold, so you won’t have to worry about the waste getting too stinky and you can cut down the number of trips to the compost pile. When you do make the trek to add new green material to the compost, cover newly added waste with a nice layer of all those dead leaves you raked in the fall. Again, this helps create a layer of insulation and, once the spring rolls around, that material should break down pretty quickly.
Even though the snows are deep and the temperatures are cold, your compost pile is still hard at work—there’s no need to lapse in your efforts during the winter freeze. Your garden will thank you come spring!(0) Comments
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Garden: The How and Why of Fall Foliage
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey explains the science behind the gorgeous displays we see all over at this time of year.
Somewhere, buried deep in the depths of the memory graveyard known as my mom’s basement, there is a box marked “LEAVES.” Inside are hundreds of fall leaves that, as a kid, I collected and then forced my mom to preserve for me. Who knows how many countless hours that poor woman spent each autumn ironing dead leaves between pieces of wax paper. Not that I wasn’t selective – you had to be a pretty special leaf to make the cut, displaying either pure perfection or a flaw so awesome that it deserved eternity. Some of these treasures would be cut out and made into bookmarks, ornaments, note cards, or drink coasters that I would give out as Christmas gifts, but a lot ended up being tossed into that box because 1.) I would always make way too many and 2.) my mom couldn’t ever come to terms with throwing anything I made away. A tradition she continues even now when I’m well into my thirties.
I thought the whole thing was magic. The wax paper, for sure, but also the process of the changing of the leaves in general. Even at our youngest, the color pallet that comes with every fall resonated inside of us, stirring emotion and imagination. I think one of the reasons that the phenomenon of autumn is so captivating year after year isn’t just because it’s beautiful, which indeed it is, but because it still conjures that same spark of wonder inside of us.
Of course, it’s not magic. It’s boring old science but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. The truth is, the vibrant colors that we see dotting our hillsides have, in some part, been there all season long. Leaves don’t exactly “change” color so much as they lose a color. That color of course being the green that we see all summer long. In the summer months, trees (and most plants) use the process of photosynthesis to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into oxygen and glucose – a type of sugar that the plant uses as food. Trees use their leaves to capture those elements (light, rain, and carbon dioxoide) and the leaves contain a chemical – chlorophyll – that makes the process of photosynthesis possible. It just so happens that the chlorophyll, more often than not, has a very dominant green pigment.
When the days start to get shorter and sunlight becomes less available, not only do people start shutting down their vacation homes, but trees start shutting down their sugar factories. The chlorophyll in a leaf, with all of its green pigment, fades away and reveals the yellows, oranges, reds, and browns that were there all along.
The color that remains is what we see in the fall, and it is a common design tool gardeners use to add interest to a landscape. There are many things to consider when choosing a tree for your home garden, which we’ve talked about before, one of those being fall color. Put the bright yellow autumn foliage of the Gingko Biloba against the reds of the Red Maple and the oranges of Witch Hazel, and you’ll have a color display that could rival any summer garden. Some plants are even named after their fall color, like the invasive burning bush that is so prevalent in this area and simply stunning this time of year. It’s not so rare for a plant’s greatest attribute to be its fall display.
Of course, we all know that some fall “shows” are better than others and the potency of that yellow and red is dependent on external factors. In general, the best fall foliage occurs in years when we’ve had a warm, wet spring, a summer that’s not too hot or dry, and a fall that has plenty of warm sunny days and cool nights – weather we are often lucky enough to experience most years here in the Berkshires, which is why people from all over pour into the region to see the amazing colors painting our gorgeous hillsides. Like most things, it’s just better in the Berkshires!(0) Comments
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Garden: Falling for the Crocus
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey rethinks his reservations about autumn and waxes poetic about the season’s flowering beauty.
If you read this column regularly (hi mom!), you know I have been kind of whiny and down on the fall. I always have a hard time letting go of summer and admitting that it’s over, and I’ve been pretty vocal about it. However, this week has made me take back every bad thing I’ve said about autumn. If you were in the Berkshires this past weekend, there was no way you couldn’t have fallen in love with the magic that is early fall. It was one of those weekends where I found myself taking a big step back and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to live here!”
It may just be me, but the foliage seems to be exceptional this year. The trees are doing their thing in a big way and the plants in my garden are putting on a show of their own as they wind down the season and turn various shades of red, yellow, and brown. With all of those warm, earthy tones taking over, it makes it all the more shocking when, in the middle of it all, there’s a burst of spring color.
I’m talking about the bizarre little plant known as the fall crocus. I love this plant. The color and timing of Colchicum Autumnale is so shocking in contrast to the rest of the garden at this time of year that it causes most people to do a double-take and ask, “What is that??”
The fall crocus looks like a crocus, with all its beautiful pastel coloring and low-to-the-ground flowers, but it blooms in the early fall. Bulbs should be planted in early to mid September, or as soon as you receive them if you order them from a catalog or online retailer. This is an earlier planting time than your other bulbs like allium and narcissus, which you’ll want to plant in mid October. Usually, you’ll start to see blooms appear in late September on a single stem with no accompanying foliage—another attribute that makes this plant so interestingly weird. The foliage (about 3-8 leaves around a foot in length) comes up in early spring and dies back in the summer months. Like most bulbs, the Colchicum has the most impact when planted in large groupings or drifts—at least that’s my own personal opinion. Also, like most bulbs, they’ll start to naturalize and multiply over time.
This is a great plant to have in your garden when you want that unusual touch of something that is going to turn heads. It’s also a great reminder to us, on the eve of winter, of what we have to look forward to in the spring.(0) Comments
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Garden: Growing Garlic
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey tells us how easy—and necessary—it is to grow your own.
Well, it’s official—we have legitimately passed into the fall season. Yes, it happened on the calendar this past weekend (the autumnal equinox was September 22) but more importantly, it happened in my kitchen.
For the first time since way back in June, I turned on the oven. I roasted a pork shoulder, baked some sweet potatoes, whipped up some dinner rolls and while the oven was nice and hot, I threw in an apple pie for good measure. I don’t have air-conditioning in my house, so when the summer is hot, the oven is off, the grill is on and the baked goods are store-bought. With temperatures dipping into the 40’s and (gasp) 30’s recently, it was time to fire up the kitchen again.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been cooking—it’s just been different. Summer is all about what comes out of the garden: lots of fresh salads, grilled vegetables, berry and fruit desserts, and all kinds of different sandwiches and side dishes that utilizes whatever’s ripening at the time. However, regardless the time of the year, if I’m cooking something that falls into the “savory” category, more than likely it’ll have one common ingredient: GARLIC.
I love the stuff. If I’m cooking from a recipe that calls for it, I’ll usually double whatever it asks for. “That was too garlic-y for my taste,” is not likely something you will ever hear me say. I always need MORE.
So you can trust me when I tell you that you need to be growing garlic. It’s so easy to grow, easy to harvest, and easy to keep through the year. And it’s worth it. Fresh garlic is one of those things where you can really taste (and smell) the difference.
Believe it or not, you need to plant your garlic soon—like in two weeks—so it’s a good idea to start planning now. Planting garlic in October (usually the first or second week) will give you a harvest the following August. You can try using store-bought heads of garlic, however, sometimes store-bought is sprayed with a sprout inhibitor that can disrupt the growth process and hinder your success. The best place to get your garlic cloves is from a friend or a neighbor in your area who has grown it that year and is willing to share.
To prepare your bed, turn the soil about eight inches deep, allowing enough room to plant your garlic about six inches apart. You want to pick a very well-drained area that will get lots of sun—at least six hours a day.
Take the heads of garlic that you’ve got and break it apart into individual cloves. Plant the cloves, pointy side up, so that the tips are about two inches from the top of the soil when covered, approximately three inches deep. Again, plant the cloves about six inches apart.
Once you have your garlic in the ground, you want to add a protective layer of mulch or straw, about 6-8 inches thick, over the entire bed. This will help keep the soil warm and will add an extra layer of protection through the winter months.
Now, pour yourself a mug of hot apple cider, enjoy the fall, and bake something. Your garlic will grow through the winter and, before you know it, you’ll be harvesting it in August.
To really learn how to grow the best garlic in town, the Berkshire Botanical Garden is offering a “Growing Garlic” class, taught by garden guru Ron Kujawski, on October 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. You’ll learn about different varieties of garlic and even a little about other allium groups including shallots, leeks, and onions. It’s certain to inspire and inform! For more info, or to register, visit the website or call 413.298.3926.
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Garden: Mum’s The Word
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey discusses the surprising longevity of a flowering plant we tend to just toss when they’ve lost their bloom.
Mums—short for chrysanthemums—are everywhere right now. Go to any garden center, grocery store or farmers’ market and you’re bound to find them on sale, tempting you with their showy fall colors in tight, mounded blooms. It’s hard to say no to them—and why should you? They’re usually reasonably priced, with tons of colors and varieties to choose from, and, let’s face it, most of our gardens could use an additional splash of color these days.
Here’s what I don’t get: it seems people buy all of these beautiful mums and then throw them out with their rotting jack-o-lanterns once the leaves are gone and winter starts to set in. It’s true that mums are a nice annual, but did you know that there are a lot of mums that are hardy to zone 5?
It’s true! Treated properly, some mum varieties are a perennial that’ll come back year after year, making it unnecessary for you to spend all your Gold Coins on them at Big Y. Here’s what to look for when buying mums and how to care for them, so they’ll keep coming back:
First of all, when you buy them, make sure to look at the tag and ask if they’re a hardy variety. For the greatest success, it’s best to plant your mums in the spring. I know, I know—no one is thinking about mums at that time. However, IF you can plan that far in advance, a spring planting will give your mums plenty of time to establish a strong root system that’ll help them survive the winter. But let’s be real—you probably won’t do this and neither will I. So let’s think about how we can get what you just bought a couple of days ago to survive.
Go ahead and get them in the ground. Mums like sunny areas with well-drained soil. Don’t plant mums in a wet area. The sooner you can get those roots growing, the better and ideally you want them in the ground at least six weeks before blooming, but again let’s be realistic. Once the days and weeks start to get colder and your mums start to die back after a few hard frosts, let them be. You don’t want to cut back the dead stems. Though they might seem unsightly, leave them until spring. Next, you’ll want to put a good heaping of mulch, about 4-6 inches, on the plant, being sure to get in between all of the stems. This will help prevent heaving and keep the ground warm.
In the spring, cut back the rotting stems and remove the mulch. Hopefully, they’ll have made it through! If they did, pinch back new growth on established limbs through July. This will prevent leggy stems and keep your mums nice and rounded. It’ll also encourage a later bloom time so you’ll get those deep fall colors when you need them most.
Looking for mums? We’ll have tons of them at the Berkshire Botanical Garden Harvest Festival on October 5 and 6.(0) Comments
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Garden: Frost Warnings
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey explains how to protect your plants from impending low temperatures.
Wow—that was a close one. Of course, it’s in the 90’s this week, but last week we came really close to having our first frost of the fall. Correction, first frost of the summer—autumn doesn’t officially begin until September 22nd! I asked our Director of Horticulture, Dorthe Hviid, when we usually get the first frosts here in our area, and she said that it’s really unusual for it to come before our Harvest Festival (October 5th and 6th—fun for the whole family, tell your friends). She could only recall two or three times in her 20 years here at the Garden that it happened prior to that event. So a frost in the first week of September is early, indeed.
Even though we are back into muggy heat, don’t be fooled—the temperature is supposed to drop again and according to the world wide web, which is NEVER wrong, we could be looking at temperatures down into the mid-thirties again by next week. That means you should be prepared to protect your annuals and veggies just in case.
Usually, a frost will be forecasted by your local weather authority in the form of a frost warning. You can also tell that a frost may be on the horizon by your friends and neighbors totally freaking out—people love to talk about the weather, and an early frost is like the Miley Cyrus of atmospheric publicity stunts. If you don’t have access to either of these warning mechanisms, be on the lookout for cool, clear nights with low humidity that follow a cold front—the perfect frost recipe.
If you do suspect a frost, the best thing to do is raid your linen closet. Old bed sheets are really the perfect protection for your plants. Gently cover them or use stakes to tent the sheets over your plants. You may want to use clothespins to keep the sheets from blowing away if the wind is kicking up. Burlap and other woven materials will work just as well, however, you will want to avoid plastics or anything that isn’t going to breathe. This will only trap more moisture and could result in a harder freeze.
This is also when you are going to want to dig up your summer bulbs and take cuttings of plants that you don’t want to over-winter—things like canna lilies, begonias, and dahlias. Each plant is going to have specific requirements for winter storage, so make sure to do the proper research, as these things can be very specific. You will also want to remember to bring in any houseplants that you took outside to enjoy the warm weather. Sorry plants—your summer vacation is over!
I also use the first frost as a green flag to start some of my fall chores. It means it’s time to start cleaning out my perennial bed and start breaking down the vegetable garden. It’s also time to order mulch to provide an extra layer of protection for warmth and moisture for beds, shrubs and trees. Time to drain out and shut down my outdoor water systems to protect against winter freezing. Time to start attacking that huge pile of firewood and time to put out my bird feeders. This is also right around the time when I start dreaming of next spring.(0) Comments
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Garden: The Perrenial Divide
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey explains the importance of breaking up your perennials, at least once every few years, all for their own good.
Let’s face it—Labor Day was kind of a bust in the weather department this year. Rainy and muggy, it took all my will power not to just park myself on the couch and start a Breaking Bad marathon that would take me through to the other side of summer. Instead, I rolled up my sleeves and turned Labor Day weekend into actual days of labor. Particularly, I spent a lot of time dividing and moving my perennials.
Doing this to your plants has a lot of benefits. For one, it’s good for the health of the plant. Depending on the type, perennials should be divided anywhere from every other to every four years. Often, those that don’t get this treatment routinely won’t flower as profusely, or they’ll start to have bare spots in the centers and start looking like a doughnut. Some perennials will also start overtaking other plants by growing too large for their designated spot. All of these things can end up making your garden look tired and monochromatic. Not only is dividing necessary to keep your garden healthy and attractive–-it’s also essential in helping your garden grow in size.
For example; this weekend I seperated a lot of my hosta lilies. (Hostas can be a real bear to get out of the ground if they’re large–-be ready to sweat and curse.) One in particular was getting so large that it was encroaching on neighboring plants and crowding them out. I dug up the plant and split it into five, yes FIVE, smaller plants. I had about four hostas that were similar in size, and after dividing those as well, had almost 20 hosta plants and a desperate need for a beer. This is how you garden grows over time. You can plant the divisions in new beds or extend existing ones. It can also be fun to take split up plants and trade them with friends or family. This adds variety to your garden and is a very cost-efficient way to acquire new cultivars. OR (wait for it—here comes the plug) you can donate some of your divided plant material to the Berkshire Botanical Harvest Festival Plant Sale, which will happen this year on October 5th and 6th, with donations already being accepted.
No matter what you decide to do with your plants, routine division is an important part of your garden’s life cycle. I find that fall is the perfect time of year for dividing and planting new plants. Temperatures are cooler, days are shorter, rain is more abundant, and your plants are all getting ready to put themselves to bed for the winter anyway. Though necessary, plant division is a shock to a plant, so you want to be prepared to get your new plants into either the ground or a pot with soil as quickly as possible. For most plants, division can be done with spades of garden forks (put two garden forks in together and then pry the plant material apart). However, for things with much denser root systems, like ornamental grasses or those hostas I dug up, you need to be more aggressive. Use an axe or, my preferred method, an electric Saw Zaw. Of course, use extreme caution.
Exposing the plant’s roots by taking it out of the ground causes dehydration, so be sure to give your newly planted divisions plenty of water. Also, for things like day lilies, irises, and ornamental grasses, cut back the leaves by about a third. This reduces the amount of foliage that the plant is working to maintain, but still leaves plenty for energy production to get that new plant on its way.(0) Comments
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Garden: Going To (Tomato) Seed
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey of the BBG explains how to store your tomato seeds, so that next year’s crop will be as juicy and delicious as this year’s.
You’ve done it. After a summer’s long search, you have finally found it—the perfect tomato. The color is so unlike anything you have ever seen and its shape is so imperfect that it is just PERFECT. You’ve never tasted anything like it—it’s buttery, sweet and, wait—is that actually sunshine you’re tasting? This is the tomato you want to eat on every sandwich for the rest of your life. If only there were a way to recreate this moment year after year…
Good news! There is. By properly saving seeds, you can ensure that your favorite heirloom tomatoes pass their perfect genes from one summer’s BLTs to the next. My family has a beefsteak tomato that my grandma gives us seeds for every year and it’s become a tradition to see who can get the first one to ripen on the vine. (Given that she lives in Kentucky and we are practically in the North Pole (her words), I’ll give you one guess as to who wins every year.) Here’s the best way to save your tomato seeds:
You’ve probably noticed that tomato seeds have a gelatinous coating surrounding each one. In nature, that protects the seed as the tomato slowly rots and breaks down. To get the best results, you are going to remove that coating through fermentation. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds—though it is kind of disgusting, but that just makes it fun.
Get a glass container with a wide mouth on it, like a Mason jar or drinking glass and squeeze your tomato seeds into it, juice and all (try to keep out the meat of the tomato—go ahead and eat that.) Add a little water—a quarter to a half of a cup. You can do more than one tomato if you’re saving seeds of the same kind.
Put your jar somewhere you aren’t going to mind a little bit of a stink. Now walk away and let the fermentation process begin. This usually takes about 1-2 days. A layer of white mold will more than likely form on the top, so don’t freak out,that’s just nature doing its thing. You’ll know when the seeds are properly fermented when the gelatinous coating separates and floats to the top.
Once you’re done fermenting, scrape off the mold that has formed on top and throw it away. Now add water to the jar with the seeds. Swirl it around. Seeds that are floating on the top are duds and you can get rid of them along with all of the other pulpy stuff, saving the good seeds that’ll be resting on the bottom. Pour the seeds into a strainer and rinse.
Spread the seeds out on a paper plate and let dry. Allow up to four weeks and keep them out of direct sunlight. If you’re doing more than one type of seed, it’s a good idea to label the plate. Once the seeds are fully dried, store them in a cool, dark, and dry place until springtime rolls around.
That’s one way to do it. If you don’t want to go to all that fuss, you’ll probably have a pretty good success rate just laying thoroughly rinsed seeds out on newspaper, a coffee filter, or a paper towel to dry. If you go that route, make sure to spread your seeds out. Once dried, they’re going to be pretty stuck to whatever you dry them on, which isn’t a problem. Just store them in a cool, dark, and dry place and cut out the seeds in the spring to plant them, paper and all.(0) Comments
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Garden: The Bee-Bee Tree
The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey waxes arboreal about one his favorite trees, named after the buzzing, beneficial insects that are so drawn to them.
One of my most favorite trees that we have here at the Berkshire Botanical Garden (which is currently at the top of my “I WANT IT!” list for my own, personal garden) is a tree commonly referred to as the Bee bee tree.
Why is it called the Bee bee tree you ask? Two reasons: For one, it is currently COVERED in bees. Bumble bees, honey bees, you name it, they are swarming this tree. It should really be called the Bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee (you get the idea) tree. It is alive with sound and activity—standing underneath it, you can almost feel the buzzing. Also, if that weren’t appropriate enough, the seeds that the tree produces look like the tiny black buckshot used in BB guns.
I just started my first hive this spring, so as a new bee-person, I’m always on the lookout for plants that are going to feed my precious pollinators. However, I don’t just add big plants like trees to my yard for one, good attribute. When selecting new plants for your garden, especially ones like trees and woody shrubs that are going to take up a lot of room, it’s nice when there is more than one characteristic that makes the plant appealing. When taking trees into consideration, here are some things to look for:
Growth Habit: Is this a climbing tree? A nice shade tree? Do the limbs grow out horizontally from the trunk? Do they bend towards the ground? How big will it get? Sometimes a plant’s best attribute can be its shape and the way you use that shape in your landscape.
Bark texture and color: We all recognize the beauty of the birch tree’s white bark. There are a wide variety of trees where the bark can provide interest both in the summer and in the winter once the leaves have fallen. It’s always good to think about those long Berkshire winters when planting and how to add a little color here and there.
Flower and Fruit: Flowering trees and shrubs are great, however, keep in mind that while some trees may not have the big flower show, their fruit might be the attribute that makes it worthwhile. Not only can fruit feed wildlife like birds, deer or you yourself, but they can also be beautiful.
Foliage: Not all trees are created equal in this department. Leaves come in all different shapes and sizes and will start as one color in the spring, take on another in the summer, and become something totally different in the fall. Foliage is one of the most prominent and showy features of most trees and can offer a lot in terms of interest throughout the seasons.
So here’s why I like the Bee bee tree: A member of the Rutaceae family, Tetradium Daniellii has a couple of other good things going for it beyond its subtle, bee-attracting blossoms. Its umbrella-shaped growth habit makes it a great shade tree that’s perfect for climbing. The bark is a nice, smooth texture with a light, gray color. Though it doesn’t have much in terms of fall color, the pinnate, compound leaves usually have a consistent, glossy, dark green hue throughout the growing season and birds love those little black “BB” seeds that fall from reddish-purple seed pods that will stay on the tree from late August through November.
Want to see one in action? Stop by the Garden where one is currently in bloom between the Visitor’s Center and the Tool Shed.(0) Comments