Concrete Jungle: Easy-Peasy Seed Saving for Next Year

I’ve been meaning to save my own tomato seeds for years.  It always felt like one of those things that was not merely a good idea but a full-on AWESOME, supremely Jay kind of thing to do.  But, probably for curious reasons that are worth me pondering further in solitude, I never found the time to learn do it.  It was proving to be a bit like learning to bend notes on the harmonica.

Except that bending notes on the harmonica is really tough, and saving your tomato seeds is shockingly easy.

All you do is…

  1. scoop seeds out of your tomatoes and cover them in a cup with maybe an inch of water,
  2. cover the opening of the cup with a paper napkin or towel to let them breath,
  3. remind yourself over the coming days that the mold soon growing across the water and your seed goop is perfectly normal,
  4. remove the seeds after a week or all of the seeds have sunk to the bottom of the glass on their own,
  5. wash them clean in running water,
  6. dry them on the counter, turning to make sure all sides dry,
  7. and pop them in the freezer wrapped safe in an envelope, stored for planting next Spring.

Like most vegetable (i.e. – fruit) seeds, tomato seeds are covered in a protective waxy coating.  In the wild (and this is all my personal deduction), this coat ensures they survive until they’re safely nestled in the ground.  Then the weather and soil wear the coating away so the seeds can sprout into new plants. Continue reading

Concrete Jungle: The Kids, Various Neighbors, Garretta’s Laugh, & a Hundred-Plus Sunflowers in a Hurricane of Enthusiasm

Two Sundays back Shannon and I followed through on an idea I cooked up last winter.  We would start seeds indoors, organize a children’s morning in our community garden across the street, and lead a hand’s-on, dirt-on-the-knees lesson in, well, all things Plant.

So I started some sunflowers inside, staggered the timing so we had one about six inches tall with its new yellow face and five just green, half-inch sprouts with plump leaves.  We armed ourselves with about a hundred seeds of sunflowers of various heights and colors, two boxes of crayons, and a big bottle of tangerine orange juice.

We had, as we explained to Garretta, our neighbor and grandmother of our first four participants, an educational program.  The explanatory exchange went something like this:

Jason & Shannon: Okay, kids, let’s talk a little about plants for a—

Garretta: You four get on over to that plot and start pulling those weeds!

(Kids shoot from the picnic bench like bees are at their butts.)

Jason & Shannon: Well, first let’s talk about roots. See—

Garretta: Pull those weeds because we aren’t gonna be here all day; we have to go to that park to play in the water.

Jason & Shannon: Damn, Garretta, we have an educational program planned here!

Garretta:  Ha-ha-ha-ha….. Continue reading

Concrete Jungle: English Peas on Eastern Parkway

If you take Brooklyn’s shuttle train south to Botanic Garden stop you’ll come on Eastern Parkway between the intersection of Franklin Avenue and the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf.  There’s a huge tree that has been propped up with a fifteen-foot-high cone of poured concrete and a great bicycle and pedestrian lane, canopied by trees, that runs almost all the way to Coney Island.

A bit to the right of that stop, you’ll find PitchKnives’ most recent installation of English Peas

Lessons Learned

vegetable summitPas de Carrotte

Conferences are not really my scene. The crowds, the terrible coffee, the frenzied schmoozing—it all makes me grumpy, even (or maybe especially) if it’s to celebrate a rather quiet and solitary pursuit like gardening. But I’d landed in an auditorium in the Bronx with thousands of other community gardening folk for 2012 GreenThumb GrowTogether, listening to the NYC Park Commissioner tell us that children needed to play with mud pies instead of Xboxes. It’s a sentiment that I don’t disagree with, but something about this preachy and half-assed pandering to the crowd sparked a flame of irascibility in me that was to burn steadily for the duration of the event. Luckily, the political speeches were broken up by a group of adorable Brooklyn dancers recreating a scene from Harlem’s Savoie in the 1930s. Everyone was too relieved to question what any of this had to do with gardening. Continue reading