Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Junior Urban Land Scouts!

This text comes from the field book of one of the campers this summer.

It is fall-ish now: cooler, crisper skies, shriveled leaves, and more rain. It is a fine time to be an Urban Land Scout-- there's still so much ripening and dropping these days. This week also marks the start of Junior Urban Land Scouts at the Boys and Girls Club. I am thrilled to get to work with them and eager to see what lessons come out of our time together. More on that project as it progresses.

On the subject of progress: one of my goals for the ULS (and now JULS) is to get the levels and actions refined, well documented, and more modular (i.e. in a pdf) so that other groups may confidently start their own Urban Land Scout tribe, junior or otherwise. Likewise, I hope to host a foraging tour in November akin to the earlier "gleaning tours" and "Tour de Plants." Both the Junior Urban Land Scout curriculum and the tours are simple and easily adapted to locale. Would you like to host one in your city? Send me a message and I'll set you up with all you need...which is not much at all once you have the dee-sire.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seeds, Glorious Seeds

Hallelujah, it's cooled off a little. If August is the month when novice gardeners fall off the wagon and let things go to seed, wither, and generally get out of control, let September be our month to creep back, prune, remove, and restore. It's also a good time to save seeds.

Since most seeds need three things to grow (water, soil, sunlight/warmth) you'll want to store them in such a way as to avoid those conditions. That is somewhere dry, clean, and dark. Make sure your seeds are totally dry before you tuck them away in a drawer. Similarly, if you're going to store seeds in the freezer, be sure they're dry beforehand. Otherwise they might rot and lose viability. I like to dry goopy seeds like melon or tomato seeds on a sheet of newspaper on the porch. It's outside, but out of direct sunlight. Give the seeds a couple of stirs to separate them from the newsprint as they dry and pick of the dried bits of vegetable or fruit pulp before you store them.

Saving seeds is the first half of the chore. The second half is labeling them and storing them and knowing what you've got so you can use them next spring and summer. I like to label my seeds with the plant name, the year the seeds were harvested, and any other information like "From Gerry Moll" or "Did well in partial shade." Tracking provenance points towards the generations before us who "genetically modified" through careful selection year after year.

John shows "leather britches" to Urban Land Scouts in the Beardsley greenhouse.

As famed bean collector and garden master John Coykendall said when he visited Beardsley Farm last year, "[We are] going to be the future of seed saving...people like [us]. People with such interests." (Thanks to Kat for her notes.) Like so many things, the success of seed saving is not grand or sexy, but rather incremental and ordinary. A good metaphor to carry into fall.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Plants in Portland

These are photos of plants in a wooded park in Portland, OR. I had the privilege to walk there with an intrepid land scout, Romana Cohen, who introduced me to many new plants. Romana tells me the second and third photo are of Thimble Berry, which has a rich woody taste. Does anyone recognize the other plants shown here?