Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Save Seeds from Redbud Trees

redbud tree blooming, flowersFall is a great time of the year for seed saving. Our plants have spent their time over the summer building up energy to produce seeds which will one day sprout, grow, and create new plants. Seedlings are essential to the diversity of a species. When open pollinated plants share their genetic makeup they can pass on variations in their gene code that can help the species fight off diseases and become stronger over time. One of my favorite trees to collect seeds from is the redbud or Cercis canadensis.
redbud tree with seed pods

Redbuds bloom with purple flowers in the springtime that are very attractive to pollinators. Redbuds are legumes and produce their seeds in bean-like pods. The flowers can grow on the branches and trunk of the tree and eventually produce a bumper crop of pods. Redbud trees are a small understory tree that would be a great native plant selection for small yards. They are large enough to eventually create shade and small enough that they won't overtake powerlines and create issues.

When collecting seeds from a redbud just remove a brown redbud seed pod and peal the string part of the pod. It's very similar to a string bean in structure. When you do this the pod splits open very easily, revealing the actual redbud seeds inside. Collect as many seeds as you want to save.

how to open a redbud seed pod

how to open a redbud seed pod

After you have collected the seeds check them for viability. Just place the seeds in hot (not boiling) water. Redbuds have a hard seed coat that will need broken down and the hot water will help with this. After a few hours of soaking any seeds that are floating can be discarded as they are likely to not be viable. The sinking seeds are the ones to keep. 

soaking seeds to determine viability

Save the redbud seeds in a bag of slightly moist sand and place in the back of your refrigerator. You could use any time of container that will keep them sealed until spring. Redbud seeds need cold stratification to further break down their seed coat and simulate the winter cold to help the seed germinate in spring. Once spring arrives you can sow the seeds directly in the ground where you want them or plant them in pots. 

Before planting it may be helpful to nick the seeds slightly with a knife or nail clippers so that moisture can reach the embryo easier. The cold stratification helps but the seeds may need additional help from a technique called scarification. Scarification is where the seed coat is damaged in a way that will allow moisture to reach the embryo inside. 

Cold Stratification of Dogwood Seeds

One trick I have used to speed up germination is to scarify the seeds then place them in a moist paper towel inside of a plastic bag for a couple days. I usually put the bag in a warm place like on top of the fridge. After a few days the seeds should have germinated and you can sow the seeds that have roots. It may take 7-10 days or more before all the seeds can germinate so be sure to give them plenty of time.

Redbud trees can be very hard to transplant from one that is sown in the wild. By saving the seeds you can grow a tree and plant it right where you want it to be. Special varieties of redbuds like 'Forest Pansy' or 'Lavender Twist' won't reproduce the exact same tree from seeds. Cloning or grafting is necessary for those varieties.

So go out and have fun collecting seeds this fall!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Few Observations of the Fall Garden

Fall, as I've said before, is probably my favorite time of year. I enjoy the processes involved with closing down the garden, the cooler weather, and the changes in the leaves. It's also a great time to garden with its own set of unique challenges. For planting trees, shrubs, and bulbs there is no better time than autumn. For growing the best tasting greens with high flavor content, again, there is no better time than autumn. It's a fun time of year with falling leaves raked into piles (who doesn't like jumping into one of those?), fall festivals, carving pumpkins, and delicious apple cider. It is an ideal season for so many things.

As they say, getting there is half the fun. Watching the changes take place and doing the tasks involved is all part of the process of enjoying fall. In the garden it is easy to see the changes. Beyond the changing leaves is the fall flower color display. Goldenrod and ironweed begin to color the wild fields with purple and gold. Remember goldenrod is not what causes your fall allergies, it's the wind pollinated plants like ragweed that bloom simultaneously with the goldenrod.

The coneflowers are still pumping our purple blooms but will soon be produce lots of seed for finches and other birds to enjoy this fall and winter. What they miss will become new plants next spring after a good cold winter for stratification.

The fall vegetable garden is started with seedlings of radish and kale. Fall planting of vegetables can be challenging. Often when it is the ideal time to plant it is too hot for good germination. Bugs can present a challenge as well as they voraciously devour what they can as they begin their overwintering processes. While these are challenges, overcoming them will bring you loads of delicious greens in the fall and (if protected in harsh winter climates) through the winter. In my garden I have radishes and kale that sprouted well while partially shaded by a cucumber vine. Shading you seedlings is one way to overcome the heat issue.

Fall is also about the harvest, as I'm sure this orb weaver spider would tell you. It's time to gather and store the produce we've grown over the summer so that we can enjoy it through the winter. Whatever your garden brings you this fall be sure to enjoy the process. Take time to observe the little things and harvest those as well. Store and save them in your mind to enjoy over the cold bleak days of winter.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

3 Chores to Do in Fall for Spring!

It's that time of year again, time to think about spring! Yes, I said that right. Spring! Fall is almost here but if you want to maximize the potential of your garden next year fall is the best time to get some work done. The autumn leaves will be changing soon and now is the best time to get some garden preparation accomplished in the cooler weather. What preparations can you do in fall for a good spring garden?

(All supplies pictured in this post were provided by Lowe's through Lowe's Creative Ideas!)

Mulch in the Fall

Mulching your garden beds is one of the best things you can do for your perennials and trees. Mulch insulates the soil from the cold weather can help borderline plants overwinter better. It also protects the soil from compaction and adds organic matter to the ground over time. Cover each bed with a two inch layer of the mulch of your choice for good protection.

Overseed Grass in the Fall

Fall overseeding is an essential part of lawn care. I'm not a overzealous lawn fanatic by any means but I do enjoy having a nice open space for my kids to play. I want my lawn to look good but not be overly reliant on treatments. Each fall I overseed with a new bag of grass seed. I vary what type of grass I use each year to create some diversity in the lawn. I make efforts to grow my lawn as organically as possible which means certain cultural treatments are necessary including overseeding in the fall, mowing the correct height, and accepting and allowing diversity (yes that means a few weeds!). Often weeds like clover and dandelion can be beneficial to your lawn and garden.

Plant Trees, Shrubs, and Bulbs in the Fall

Fall is an awesome time to plant. Trees and shrubs planted in the fall get a head start on building root systems for next spring. The soil stays warmer longer than the air and the roots will continue to grow for a little while until it gets too chilly. Bulbs love to be planted in the fall! Some bulbs need a certain length of time in the cold called "chill hours." Once bulbs receive the correct amount of time they will send up shoots through the soil to gather energy and eventually produce flowers. Daffodils are an excellent bulb for any garden and have always demonstrated a high degree of deer and rabbit resistance in my garden. Tulips look great but do not last nearly as well as daffodils. Often tulips need replanted each year as they are a delicacy for voles and chipmunks. Tulips need to gather enough energy through the spring to store and resprout in the following year so leave the leaves up until they begin to turn brown if you want a repeat performance!

Fall is the best time of year to do many of the garden tasks that need done. It's also my favorite time of year since the weather is cooler and it is so much more enjoyable to be outdoors. So many people dread those chores but I love the fall leaf cleanup (free mulch collection) and dreaming about the potential for spring gardening! What is you favorite season in the garden?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Easily Remove Fall Web Worms from Your Trees Without Chemicals

Fall web worms appear this time of year but it doesn't have to be a problem. You don't need chemical sprays to remove them, just one simple thing!

Check out the video to learn how to remove fall web worms without using any chemical pesticides!

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