Time to Harvest Seeds from Annuals

Author: Meera, November 1, 2017

If you are like me, you hate to see anything wasted. Case in point, seeds from a summer flower garden.

 

Giant cosmos dazzle when planted as a hedge, the middle of the garden, or in a container

These cosmos show off feathery foliage and a bonanza of blooms

 

Walking around my farmette this time of year, I see many seed pods on flowers that I can take off, dry, and store. Scores of my flowering plants are perennials that come back again next year, but may others are annuals, grown throughout one season.

 

Just because they are annuals doesn’t mean that I have to buy new seed in order to grow them next year. No. I will gather their seeds (found in flower heads or seedpods or the calyx, located at the base of the flower on the plant). I can then pull the annual and toss the plant biomass into compost pile. The seeds I’ve collected will be further dried and stored in paper envelopes labeled with the date collected and the plant’s name and color.

 

 

In the plant store you’ll find hybridized plants along with those NOT MARKED as F1 hybrids. Seeds you collect from the non-hybridized plants will come back true to their parents the next year.  Non-hybrids include heirloom, open-pollinated plants that some gardeners (myself included) prefer for their gardens.

 

Zinnias are old garden favorites spanning generations of family gardens

Zinnias are old garden favorites spanning generations of family gardens

 

This year, I sowed zinnia seeds that I had collected two years ago. Tossing them into a bare area of the garden, I forgot about them. When they not only grew but bloomed profusely, I felt immensely pleased with myself for taking the time to collect that seed.

 

Zinnias are annuals. Their tiny seeds are located in the flower heads. They can be removed once the plant has finished blooming and dried.

 

Nasturtiums are annuals that drop their seeds (the size of a pinto bean) and will often re-seed where they’ve grown before. I  like to collect these into paper envelopes and label according to color and whether they grow as a vine or bush. They actually prefer poor soil and bloom well in full sun (less so, in shade). Nasturtiums are also edible flowers–just wash, dry, and toss into a salad or use as a garnish.

 

Petunias are lovely annuals that carry their seed in the calyx (just under the flower). The calyx swells with seeds so you’ll want to remove the dead flowers along with the part of the stem that includes the calyx (top of stem) . Pull off the petals. When the calyx dries and splits open, you’ll see the seeds. Save these for planting.

 

 

Marigolds come in shades of yellow, gold, red, and rust

Marigolds come in shades of yellow, gold, red, and rust

 

Marigolds add splashes of bright yellow color to your garden. Remove the dead flowers and save part of the thickened stem beneath the flower head (the calyx). Split open the calyx at the top of the stem to find the long, slender seeds. Dry and save these for your next year’s flower garden.

 

 

There are lots of other annuals that you can grow in a flower garden if you take the time to harvest and dry their seeds. Consult a gardening guide or plant grower’s catalog to learn more about the annuals you might want to grow. Then give seed harvesting a try so that you’ll get all your favorite blooms in a future garden.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening and other farming topics, check out my newest novel, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES. It contains not only an entertaining mystery but also tips for growing plants and trees, keeping chickens and bees, and making delicious farm-wholesome foods.

 

 

Click here to see more: http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

This new novel is available Sept. 26, 2017

My new novel is online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores everywhere

 

 

 

 

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A Hive of Homicides or Hive Demise

Author: Meera, June 21, 2017

The title of the third novel in my Henny Penny Farmette series suggests loss of bees and murderous intent. No beekeeper wants to lose a hive, regardless of how it happens–whether some invader wants to kill the bees, go after the honey, or use the hive as a host for proliferation of its own species.

 

 

 

A healthy hive box with lid removed

A healthy hive box with lid removed

 

I’m not one-hundred percent positive why I lost a hive this year. My best guess was that the demise was due (not to homicide but rather) to a tiny little pest, possibly a beetle that weakened it so that the bees and queen fled leading to the hive’s demise.

 

 

My beekeeper neighbor and I spotted a small beetle and treated for it. My best efforts to keep my small bee house and the area around it clean as well as doing frequent hive inspections wasn’t enough. Now, I’m considering moving my remaining hive onto a higher, drier, sunnier location.

 

 

Bee garden in June bloom

Bee garden in June bloom

 

 

I’ll do it at night which is the correct time to move bees. You just put a little strip of packing foam along the hive entrance, gently move the hive, and place it in the new location. Remove the foam strip so the bees can leave at dawn and make sure there’s a water source nearby.

 

 

These honeybees will visit a backyard fountain throughout the day

These honeybees will visit a backyard fountain throughout the day

 

 

The bees will likely accept the move if there is water and food in the area. I like planting perennial bee gardens and flowers and bulbs with high nectar value for bloom throughout the year.

 

 

Since hives can be compromised by wax moths, hive beetles, and other pests (as well as parasites and diseases), frequent inspections to decipher a problem and treat it before it destroys your hive is imperative.

 

With supers (smaller hive boxes with ten frames each) on the hive in June, the bees will forage on abundant flowers and produce honey that can be taken off in July. That’s also the time to inspect for mites because these populations tend to swell during summer.

 

 

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If you’re interested in beekeeping and other farmette topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries. All are available to order online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailer sites as well as traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

This third novel in the series will be released Sept. 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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French Lavender–A Favorite of Pollinators

Author: Meera, March 1, 2017

It’s bare-root season, a special time of the year for me. I like to visit local nurseries and check out the new offerings of heirloom roses, fruit trees, berries, herbs, and flowers. No matter which nursery I visit, I always seem to spot the lavender first.

 

 

Honeybees love lavender

Honeybees love lavender

 

 

After we moved to the Henny Penny Farmette, we put in lots of French lavender. But after a few years, the stalks have grown old and woody.

 

Recently, on a visit to a nearby nursery, we purchased twenty one-gallon plants of French Lavender, an upright perennial that we’ve discovered blooms almost all year long in our Bay Area climate.

 

 

Pots of lavender await planting

One-gallon pots of lavender await planting

 

 

 

 

Now, they are hardening off in my garden until I get around to planting them.

 

 

The word “dentata” means toothed and a closer examination of the foliage reveals fringed indentations.

 

 

This aromatic, shrub has been around for centuries. Valued for its ornamental and medicinal properties, it also is used for soil erosion control. Once established, the lavender is drought tolerant.

 

 

Many gardeners love this lavender for its gray-green leaves. When other flowering plants in the garden have finished their blooming cycle, this lavender keeps producing tall spikes of bright purple florets.

 

 

Not as brilliant in color as the English or Spanish lavender, the French lavender is lovely grouped together in a single area where its flower stalks can sway in the wind. Our honeybees and other pollinators love it.

 

 

 

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If you are a fan of cozy mysteries and love farmette topics like gardening of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and fruits as well as keeping chickens and bees, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing.

 

 

The first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series, Kensington Books 2015

The debut novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series sold out its first printing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides a cozy mystery to solve, these books mix in delicious recipes, farming and gardening tips, facts about keeping bees and chickens, and morsels of farm wisdom.

 

 

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017

COMING SOON– Sept. 2017, the third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the series

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Critter-proofing Your Bulbs

Author: Meera, January 5, 2017

I planted bagfuls of tulips, daffodils, crocus, and grape hyacinths over the last two years in the autumn. The daffodils are blooming now and the other bulbs in my garden have plenty of foliage.

 

 

Masses of blooming daffodils provide a focus and cheery greeting in a bleak winter garden

Masses of blooming daffodils provide a focus and cheery greeting in a bleak winter garden

 

Because voles, moles, gophers, squirrels, raccoons, and other critters will dig and eat the bulbs and deer will devour the blooms at first blush of color, a savvy gardener must figure out how to protect these beautiful flowers.

 

The bees are drawn to the sweet scent of narcissus that have naturalized in the yard

The bees are drawn to the sweet scent of narcissus that have now naturalized in my Henny Penny Farmette gardens

 

 

Throughout the Midwest of my youth, hillsides, front yards, and cemeteries were always places where daffodils grew in perfusion. Along with the arrival of robins and other songbirds, these flowering bulbs herald the coming light and warmth of spring. I’ve lost plenty of these plantings myself so have some tips to help you prevent such a loss.

 

These fragrant lilies return every year and bloom mid-summer

These fragrant lilies return every year and bloom mid-summer

 

 

Seven ways to protect flowering bulbs.

 

1. Grow them behind a double fence barrier. Deer can jump high and might go over one fence, but not a second one built near the first.

 

2.  Use mesh to deter moles, voles, gophers, groundhogs, and other digging critters.

 

3. Erect fences that are at least three feet tall and with at least a foot buried beneath the earth.

 

4. Plant in raised beds covered with mesh. The bulbs will be protected while the foliage and blooms poke through toward the light.

 

5. Clean up the area in the fall after planting the bulbs. That way, critters won’t be attracted to your bulb beds.

 

6. Consider using deer-repellent sprays on tulips and growing deer-resistant bulbs.

 

7. Use ammonia-soaked rags in coffee cans or old planting buckets around the garden to repel pests with a keen sense of smell such as rabbits and opossums.

 

 

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Enjoy reading about farming topics? Check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE  (both in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing). Kobo Books has A BEELINE TO MURDER on sale. Check out this incredible deal on https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?Query=Meera+Lester

 

 

My farmette and bee-based novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. For more info, click on the links under the pictures.

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, BAM, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

A Beeline to Murder is the debut novel that launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries. Initially released as a hardcover novel and in e-book format, it is now available as a mass market paperback.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

NEWLY RELEASED! This, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gather Dry Seedpods Now for Next Year’s Garden

Author: Meera, September 15, 2016

When I notice the seedpods of my favorite flowers beginning to dry, I start carrying a felt-tip pen and paper bags around the garden for collection and labeling. Also when my favorite varieties of heirloom pumpkins and squash are ripe, I’ll cut open the plants, collect the seeds, clean and dry them, and store in paper envelopes or glass jars.

 

 

Throughout the summer, I do the same with the best specimens of my heritage tomatoes and beans.

 

 

Pumpkin

 

 

 

Gather the seeds of your favorite plants when the flowering (or production) is over and the pods are drying. On my patio harvest table, a long metal table with a tiled top, I place giant sunflower heads to finish drying. I then save some seed for replanting, the rest for eating. But I always share some with the squirrels and birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The florets are falling off and the seeds have formed on this giant sunflower head

The florets are falling off and the seeds have formed on this giant sunflower head

 

 

There are multiple bowls, buckets, and glass jars on the table, too. These hold the papery pods of lobelia’s tiny seeds and the onion seed heads that only need a good shaking onto a paper towel to remove the tiny black seeds. I’ve got containers of cosmos and also zinnia seeds, too, collected during early morning walks around my farmette.

 

 

 

 

 

Shake dry seed heads of onions onto white paper and transfer to paper envelopes to label and store

Shake dry seed heads of onions onto white paper and transfer to paper envelopes to label and store

 

 

When you plant open-pollinated heritage plants, it’s easy to keep a steady supply of seeds for next year’s garden. You can get an early jump on spring by sowing these seeds into seed flats or wait until the danger of frost has passed to sow them directly into prepared beds. The process of collecting, saving, and replanting seeds is how our ancestors did it, and it still works.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing). These novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, and sayings as well as a charming cozy mystery.

 

 

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

This debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run. It’s now available in mass market paperback and other formats.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

Release date is September 27 for this, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series. It’s available free on Net Galley (netgalley.com) for readers, bloggers, and other professionals who write reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bees Won’t Wait

Author: Meera, March 1, 2016

With so many flowers in bloom now, it’s time to add supers to the hives.

 

 

Search for the tubular circles and you've found the queen houses

The tubular circles are queen houses; a queen lays the eggs that become bee babies.

 

 

 

I can hear the buzzing from my patio, about twenty to thirty feet from the hives. My bees want to make honey, raise babies, and swarm . . . I know it.

 

My neighbor and I are opening hives tomorrow, but I worked out in the apiary today getting extensions (known as supers) ready. These have shorter frames and the bees use them to build wax cells and store honey.

 

I’ve got two active hives and extras. And I have several supers, complete with the shorter frames ready to go.

 

There are about ten frames I can use in a super that are being housed in the outdoor freezer. It’s where I put frames to kill anything that could live over on them that I don’t want in a hive, like a wax moth. The cold kills.

 

I also cleaned the bee glue off another hive box with larger frames in the event the bees decide to swarm sooner rather than later. The bees won’t wait. They’ll need a new house ready when they swarm or they’ll fly away and find one elsewhere.

 

 

 

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I opened my hives this past Sunday with the help of my world-class beekeeper neighbor. We checked on the the condition of eggs, the number of new queens, the growth of baby bees, the presence of mites (none detected), and the amount of honey (lots).

 

 

The male bees (the drones) over the last weeks have been engaged in some crazy flight patterns in front of the hive as the mating of the queen takes place. The old queen has done her egg laying and the hives have lots of babies with nurse maids and other worker bees. From the hives comes the clearly audible sound of humming and the fragrant scent of honey.

 

 

The drone (male bees) are vital for mating with the queen; after that, they are unnecessary and are elminated

The drone (male bees) are vital for mating with the queen; after that, they are unnecessary and are eliminated

 

 

The drones are not now needed and the workers in the colony are doing away with them. I found a stack of drones at the front door of the hive this morning. Strange sight to see, indeed. But no more so than the many queen houses (formed from honeycomb by the worker bees). These houses are where the new queens are nourished; each contains royal jelly.

 

 

Search for the tubular circles and you've found the queen houses

The tubular circles are the houses where the baby queens will be cared for by the workers. The houses contain royal jelly for the feeding of the new queens

 

 

My neighbor told me to wait three more weeks to take honey, but since I didn’t take any honey during the fall/winter and there were huge stores of it in my hives and coupled with the fact that there’s a plethora of flowers now to provide pollen for the bees, we decided it would be okay to remove some frames. So, I took six frames (weighing roughly ten pounds each) from the hives.

 

 

The honey I harvested has a pale lemony color–significant for the wildflowers and almond and fruit tree blossoms from which the bees collected the pollen to make that honey. In the fall, the honey is darker and earthier tasting, thanks to pollen from the star thistle and eucalyptus blooms.

 

 

When we had finished with my hives and walked back to my neighbor’s house, we spotted a swarm overhead. We grabbed the pots and wooden spoons and started banging. The bees took refuge in the tall pepper tree and that’s where my neighbor rescued them. In all, it was quite a spectacular Sunday!

 

 

 

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Have You Planned Your Garden Yet?

Author: Meera, March 5, 2014

 

 

Convergent Lady Beetle hunts for aphids on a blood orange tree leaf

A Convergent Lady Beetle hunts for aphids on a citrus leaf

 

Ladybugs and honeybees occasionally meet on the same leaf when both forage for food. The ladybugs dine on aphids while the honeybees seek the sweet nectar of blossoms; orange, tangerine, and lime trees are favorites.

 

Hive with frames and bees

Styrofoam super with wood frames and bees

 

 

The bug and bee traffic has been steadily increasing now that showers and warm weather have triggered blossoms opening on the fruit and citrus trees around the farmette.

 

 

Spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20, but with the weather forecasters predicting upper 70′s Fahrenheit later this week and nighttime temperatures in the 50′s, it is time to consider options for your garden. Many DIY centers are already offering vegetable seedlings, herbs, and berries for planting. Some have markedly discounted their bare-root fruit trees and roses.

 

 

 

Sunflowers can be planted now in Bay Area gardens

Sunflowers can be planted now in Bay Area gardens

 

 

I’ve already planted seeds in flats for germination and scattered flower seed (collected from last summer’s flower garden) around prepared beds. When the outside temperatures start to climb, I’ll be rewarded with blooms from nasturtiums, petunias, zinnias, and sunflowers.

 

 

 

Handel climbs along a trellis made special to support its upright growth habit

Handel climbs on a support, providing color from spring to fall.

 

 

 

The climbing roses are already past the red-leaf stage and are producing the first flush of blooms for spring. The wisteria vines have plump pods ready to unfurl with gorgeous tracts of purple blossoms. And the first green tips of leaves are beginning to sprout on my apples even as the early peaches and apricots already have fruit  forming.

 

 

The white blooms herald tender pods of peas to follow

White blooms herald tender pods of sweet spring peas

 

 

This time of year holds the promise of new beginnings, and you see that in every step you take in a garden. Because I prefer to grow plants from varieties of heirloom, open-pollinated seed, I save it from the best specimens grown in the previous season. Of course, some plants freely re-seed themselves. That’s why I now find lettuce and onions and even sweet peas coming up in expected places on the property.

 

 

Have you figured out what veggies, flowers, fruits, and berries you’ll plant and grow in your garden this year? If not, now’s a good time to get started. For ideas, check out, http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/plan-beautiful-vegetable-garden.

 

If you prefer, as I do, the non-GMO and organic seeds, there are many excellent sources for them. For heirloom and rare seed, check out http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/. Also see, http://www.victoryseeds.com/aboutus.html and http://www.anniesheirloomseeds.com/

 

 

 

 

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