Save those seeds!

Plus garden to do's for August & September
By L.A. Jackson
Save those seeds!

Autumn is around the corner — so what should be done with all of those unused and half-full seed packets you have that never made it into the spring and summer gardens? Plant them? It's getting late in the growing season. Toss them away? This sounds like the only thing to do, but since you paid good money for these seeds, why not save them for next year's garden?

Although their germination rates will probably drop just a bit, most store-bought ornamental and vegetable seeds can be saved for at least another growing season, and sometimes — as in the case of non-hybrid seeds — even longer. You first need a proper storage area. It should be fairly dry and constantly cold (around 32 to 40 degrees). Where can you find such an area as this? Look no further than in your kitchen: the refrigerator!

To block moisture — a sure killer of seeds in storage — put the packs in an airtight jar or plastic bag. Also, add a small napkin with two tablespoons of a moisture-absorbent such as powdered milk, cornstarch or silica gel into the container to help keep the seeds dry.

Come next spring, break out the leftovers, sow them at a slightly thicker rate next to rows or beds of fresh seeds, then compare. If by the middle of the growing season, you can't tell the difference in quality and quantity between the plants of the newer vegetable and flower seeds from your "free" ones, well, congratulations for being such a successful, frugal gardener!

Garden To Do's

August

  • Plan and plant for the botanical fire of fall by adding such glorious, late-blooming perennials as helianthus, helenium, heliopsis and rudbeckia to the flower border.
  • 'Tis the time of the tiny terrors. Minute menaces such as aphids, flea beetles, spider mites, thrips and white flies will be at their worst during hot weather.
  • Continue harvesting mature cucumbers, squash, green beans, indeterminate tomatoes and okra plants at least once or twice a week to maximize production.
  • Root crops such as beets and carrots that are being harvested for storage should have their leafy tops cut off to prevent foliage transpiration from drying out the roots too fast.
  • Gardeners! Start your fall vegetable garden! Begin planting such cool-season favorites as lettuce, kale, turnips, radishes and spinach.

September

  • Ornamental grasses should be coming into their prettiest prime now, with many showing off dazzling inflorescences. Be sure to create a few dried indoor arrangements with the clippings of these beauties this fall.
  • Now is a good time to plant the seeds of such hardy annuals and biennials as lunaria, pinks, sweet alyssum, Johnny jump-ups and sweet peas.
  • Before you bring houseplants inside for the winter, let the light shine in first. Thoroughly clean any windows that will host these plants to get the most light — meaning energy — from the weak winter sun.
  • Saving any planting pots from this growing season for next year? Before you put them in storage, properly prepare the containers by wiping off any dirt or grime, and then soaking them overnight in a solution of one part bleach and ten parts water.

About the Author

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. If you would like to ask him a question about your garden, contact L.A. at: lajackson1@gmail.com

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