by Charlene Burgi
I am notorious for saving almost everything. Being an adult child of a mother that lived through a depression, I learned my lessons well. My middle name should have been Frugal. Excitement for me is finding ways to make a dollar stretch.
Water conservation falls easily into my way of thinking. Cardboard or Compost Queen are names I carry with pride. Why pay for tasteless hothouse tomatoes when the garden provides mouth-watering heirlooms? The savings are huge! It comes as no surprise that seed collecting fits naturally with my repurposing and dollar-saving ways.
Knowing this, you can imagine what autumn does for me. Almost all the flowering plants have exposed their seed heads. I can hardly contain my delight as the columbine proudly carry their brown, paper-like heads full of tiny black seeds, or the peonies sport their rather large seeds from the spent flowers of spring. I haven’t even walked into the vegetable garden yet. The possibilities of seed collecting are limited only by the variety of plants in the garden. Exchanging seeds with your neighbor can also be fun. Seed collecting can even expand into the wilds, but please ask permission of the person or agency that governs those lands first. (To protect the beauty and biological diversity of our watershed lands, MMWD land-use regulations prohibit seed collecting on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.)
Seed collecting can be an adventure. Knowing what to do with them after is another journey into the unknown. Each type of plant potentially needs a different method of treatment. Some seeds, like columbine, require cold stratification—meaning the seeds must be kept in the refrigerator for a minimum of six weeks before planting. Other seeds such as morning glory germinate better if you scrape the seeds over a file to break into the thick hull. Still other seeds need intense heat to break through the seed hull and require overnight soaking in hot water. And those expensive peonies require double germination before even seeing a sprout! To list the methods of germination for each plant would require that I publish a book. However, there are great writings already out there for your reading pleasure. One general rule of thumb I can pass along for germination is that most seeds need constant heat and moisture once they are planted up. Typically the seeds must be planted at a depth of 2-3 times the seed diameter. Use horticultural sand or vermiculite to cover for easy sprouting. Enjoy experimenting with what you have collected!
I just learned another exciting way to save water and money, both indoors and out. MMWD has re-launched its popular “Save Your Green, Save Our Blue” program in partnership with fifteen local retailers and plumbers, who are offering huge savings with coupons from their businesses. Is there a home or garden task you are putting off or about to embark on? See if any of these coupons can help make your dollar stretch.
One last tidbit I wanted to share with you: As I walked around the garden viewing the potential seed heads, I noticed the volume was greatly dimmed compared to the usual droning of insects. The hummingbird feeder remained full, yet no hummers have been in sight for over a week. These indicators tell me dormancy and migrations are here. A friend shared a YouTube link that captures the moments I cherish in the garden. As the winter draws nearer, I can recall the joy found with these pollinators. The filmmaker provides a gift for the forthcoming bleak winter days. Instead of a to-do list this week, please sit back with the beverage of your choice, relax and enjoy this short clip. You might also want to save it for those long rainy days ahead.