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.





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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Grow Seasonal Greens Now

Author: Meera, April 6, 2017

The cool season of spring is the optimum time to grow seasonal greens for salads and healthy blended shakes. In my kitchen garden, I’ve planted a variety of lettuces, spinach, kale, and chard. Most salad greens are easy to grow also in containers, raised beds, and window boxes when gardening space is limited.



Newly planted Swiss chard is a valuable source for Vitamins A, C, and K

The newly planted Swiss chard shown here is a valuable source of Vitamins A, C, and K




Add compost and aged chicken manure to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Plant heirloom seeds about 1/2 inch in the soil, cover, and water. Within a week or 10 days, you should see the seedlings pop up. The greens will be ready to pick in about 25 days.





Water the plants to keep them hydrated but don’t drown the plants. When you are ready to make a salad, snip the leaves you want with kitchen scissors. New leaves will soon form if the roots are not disturbed and the plant continues to get nutrients and water.



Spinach can be started in seed cell flats and then transplanted into your garden when all danger of frost has passed

Spinach can be started in seed cell flats and then transplanted into your garden when all danger of frost has passed







1. Snip a variety of greens in the early morning. Wash and thoroughly dry the leaves.


2. Place them in a bowl and crumble on some sharp cheese such as your favorite goat cheese or a Gargonzola (blue-veined, sharp tasting, and crumbly).


3.  Add 1/2 cup sugared or candied walnuts.


4. Add some slice red onion and a handful of dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots.


5. Drop into the bowl some slices of a pear such as Bosc (considered the prince of pears).


6. Gently toss the salad and then spritz with red wine vinaigrette prior to plating on pretty salad serving dishes.


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If you love reading about gardening and other farming topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries that include A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.



Coming Sept. 2017

The newest mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series




  • Delicious recipes

  • Farm quips and quotes

  • Tips for gardening and keeping chickens and bees

  • An exciting whodunnit mystery









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What’s Not to Love about Edible Figs?

Author: Meera, September 8, 2016

Many backyard gardeners start checking their fig trees this time of year for ripe fruit. Most figs grown for their fruit bear two crops a year (spring and fall). When figs are ripe, the globular fruit becomes soft and hangs downward from the branch. This fruit will not ripen on the windowsill or in a paper bag, so picking fruit while it is still firm is not advised.


ripe figs sm web


I grow White Genoa, Adriatic, and Brown Turkey figs on my farmette. One of my nearest neighbors grows the Mission fig, which is a very large tree taking up most of his backyard. This time of year, his tree is heavily laden with purple-black fruit. Throughout the fall, that Mission fig tree is frequently visited by the birds, squirrels, and raccoons that eat the fruit.


Cooks appreciate the versatility of figs for cooking. There are many ways to prepare them. Grilled figs are delicious when served on a crostini with a dollop of goat cheese and drizzled with honey. The pulp can be used to make fig bars and other types of cookies. Luscious, juicy figs may be made into chutney or jam, baked in cakes, paired with almonds in a tart, sliced into salads, grilled with lamb, or served simply with port.


Fig trees are easy to grow, too. They need full sun and good drainage; many cultivars are drought tolerant. Lightly prune as necessary in winter. Enjoy.


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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 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

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.





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

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 27, 2016, is now available on Net Galley (netgalley.com) for professionals and readers who write reviews.







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Can You Say Duck?

Author: Meera, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! What are you planning for your New Year’s Day dinner? Here on our Northern California farmette, we love a New Year’s meal of cracked crab, sourdough bread, and a crisp winter salad, but this year I think we’ll have duck instead.


Crab season in Northern California has been put on hold thanks to an unprecedented algae season. Our local Dungeness crab has become infected with domaic acid, a neurotoxin produced by the microscopic algae that can cause human illness and death. Testing continues until the crab is safe to eat.


In the meantime, crab is being imported to local stores and restaurants, but it is expensive. With other issues with salmon, sardines, shrimp, and tuna, a seafood shopper might turn to Safeway. The store now offers Fair Trade Certified seafood, in an effort to reduce the seafood/fishing industry’s human rights abuses. But if there’s crab, it’s not local.


There are many other options, but I wouldn’t mind a farm-raised (mind you, I don’t mean “factory-farm raised,” which I’m against), free-range duck for dinner. I was raised on a farm and my grandparents (who raised me for a period in my life) kept chickens, cows, pigs, and horses. Meat (like Boone County ham and, yes, pickled pigs feet) was part of our diet along with all the delicious vegetables and fruits my grandmother grew and in her various gardens and preserved in myriad ways.


Maybe the rest of our duck meal could include a winter salad with citrus, pears, goat cheese, and sugared pecans; roast potatoes, green beans, and a chocolate sheet cake. We’ve got sparkling cider and wine. That sounds pretty good, but it isn’t crab, which is really the meal with which we wanted to start 2016. So, I guess duck will have to do.



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Rain, Russian Poetry, Rugelach, and Longfellow

Author: Meera, December 2, 2014



High wind and rain make for a slick road in front of our farmette

High wind and rain make for a slick road in front of our farmette



It’s been raining for hours. It’s the kind of day I love to listen to classical music, read Russian poetry, and dine on tea and apricot/walnut rugelach. The rugelach recipe is not mine, but I did use my Henny Penny Farmette apricot jam in the making of it. For the recipe, see, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/rugelach-recipe.html



I could be doing a lot of other things like writing on my novel (but I’ve already put in four hours today on that, having arisen at 4:00 a.m., so a break is in order). I could be doing laundry, mopping the floors, decorating the house for the holidays, or changing the bedding. But I’m not.



I’ve missed the rain that brings the smell of decay and greens the moss.



California has been in a terrible drought for three long years. We’re going to get a week of wet stuff, say our weather forecasters. I want to enjoy these blessed, wet moments.



I let the chickens out of the hen house to forage, but they’ve remained in a huddle beneath it. A cold, unstable air mass will bring thunderstorms this afternoon. I doubt the chickens will even leave the run today, but that’s okay, too.



It’s a perfect day for me to stay inside. Maybe I’ll make bread. There’s enough time still for two risings. I’ll form it into a braid and bake it for dinner. Perhaps I’ll make a hearty soup–one from Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s Twelve Months of Monastery Soup  book. A citrus salad would be the perfect accompaniment.



What was it Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said about rain, “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”




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