Submitted by Vicki Matsumonji
Autumn has arrived with gusty winds and rain. We’ve already seen signs of freezing air at night as squash and cucumber leaves are no longer living. Time to start gleaning crops from the garden to save them from a hard freeze, which can easily occur at our elevation.
The gardeners at White Mountain Community Garden are busy harvesting and preserving produce, saving seeds for next year’s crop and amending the soil for spring planting. We’ve turned our beautiful garden from lush colors and bountiful vegetables back to bare soil.
October is a time to glean produce from the fields and pull the old plants that go into the compost. We plant Rye and Red Clover as a cover crop for the winter to fertilize the soil with “green manure”, feeding the earth nitrogen, a necessary element to stimulate plant growth and keep weeds from taking over.
It’s also a time to save seeds for the following year. This year, WMCG’s Seed Saving Garden is collecting seeds from pickling cucumbers, radishes, corn, muskmelons and beans.
To save cucumber seeds, slice the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Allow the seeds to steep in the jelly liquid and a cup of water for three to four days in a glass jar or bowl. Stir daily, as fermentation begins to form on top of the seeds.
The jelly will dissolve and good seeds sink to the bottom. Scrape the scum and unusable seeds off the top and dispose. Rinse the good seeds in a sieve or colander and spread them on a paper towel to thoroughly dry. Store the seeds in a container along with a packet of silica gel to keep seeds dry. Now you’re ready to plant new seeds in the new year. For best results, harvest seeds from organic or heirloom cucumbers. Use this same method for saving tomato seeds.
This is only one demonstration of our method of saving seeds. WMCG is building a seed inventory with the goal to become completely self sustainable. It’s our second year of an enriched learning and sharing experience.
The White Mountain Community Garden is a non-profit organization with all proceeds supporting our local food needs. It is located on 9th Place in Show Low. For more information, please visit www.wmcgarden.org.