Posts filed under ‘seed saving’

Seed Saving: Lion’s Tail

Watch out for the spikes!

Watch out for the spikes!

Lion’s Tail, (aka Leonotis Leonurus and Wild Dagga) are one of my favorite flowers, and they are really easy to grow—it’s  saving their seeds that’s the hard part. These exotic African plants are known for their fuzzy orange flowers that hide the spikey ball-shaped thorns that can really hurt if you aren’t paying attention. So, you can imagine what getting seeds from these suckers is like, but I’ve developed a no-fail system: 

Dried Lion's Tail FlowersFirst step: Dry the flowers throughly (I  put them in a paper bag for a few months)

lionstailcanThen: Get a can and put the flower upside in it. Rattle the flower head against the can and listen for seeds to come out. The seeds are tiny, so check to make sure you’d gotten some.

Here’s what the seeds looks like:



Planting: Now’s the time to start seeds. They grow pretty fast, and are super easy to propogate by cutting. Just plant in full sun, wherever you want an exotic, 15 foot plant to grow (makes a great privacy fence). Used to hot, dry climates, these guys don’t require much water and are pretty independent. They start flowering in late July/August through frost, and branch out about 2 feet each. Hummingbirds love them, and they work well as a backdrop of flower beds.

Bonus: Besides being the most exotic looking flower you’ll grow this year, Lion’s Tail offers medicinal properties as well (they don’t call it Wild Dagga for nothing). Dry the leaves and flowers to make a calming tea (I like to brew it with a sweeter tea to cut the bitter taste). Definitely good to help get through the depths of winter.


February 28, 2009 at 10:59 pm 5 comments

Selecting Safe, Non-GMO Seeds

seed catalogues

Around this time, the catalogs have arrived and you are flooded with options. I think I received more than 20 catalogs this winter so far, and despite the current state of things, the gardening industry is thriving. I’m happy to see that some of my favorite catalogs have gotten huge (like Baker Creek) while others are still trying to look like smaller grassroots companies, although they are really owned by larger corporations (like Cook’s Garden). The homogenization of seed companies, particularly, the insidious conglomerate Monsanto is harder than ever to decipher, but here are a few seed companies that specialize in GMO-free, organic and heirloom seeds:

High Mowing Seeds: Vermont-based independent, family-owned business offers nearly 400 heirloom, organic, open-pollinated and hybrid seeds.

Baker Creek: Based in Missouri, Baker Creek offers America’s largest selection of heirloom seeds for the heritage gardener. Featuring beautiful and exotic heirloom vegetable, flower and herb seeds from 70 countries.

Seeds Savers Exchange: Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange members have passed on approximately one million samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.

Fedco: Based in Maine, this seed co-op offers non-GMO seeds for colder climates.

Seeds of Change: Offering over 600 distinct varieties of 100% organically grown seeds, potatoes, and fruit trees.

Abundant Life Seeds: Certified organic and biodynamic seeds


More and more people are starting gardens, which leads to more sustainable lifestyles (which I love) but also, there are more catalogs out there selling these GMOs. Created in a lab, and modified through gene splicing, no one really knows the long term effect these have. Recent Austrian research showed GMO corn may reduce fertility. Also, most GMO seeds are funded by Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, and they genetically alter plants that can withstand this extremely toxic pesticide. Really, Monsanto has been patenting this process: they own the Roundup, and the seeds that resist it (aptly named Roundup Ready crops). So, farmers spray everything with nasty Roundup, kill all the bugs, and pass the chemicals on to us, all while infecting our farmlands with these scientifically developed seeds that the remaining bees spread around to other plants through pollination. It’s scary stuff, but the good news is that vegetables and seeds labeled as organic cannot be GMO.

Chances are, GMO’s are already a part of your diet, so why add to it? According to the Non GMO Project, It is currently estimated that in the U.S., 61% of corn, 89% of soybeans, 83% of cotton, and 75% of canola grown are genetically modified; GMO varieties of squash and Hawaiian papaya are also grown commercially. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 70% of products in the average U.S. grocery store.

So, choose organic, grow your own, and help take Frankenfood out of the food chain.

February 13, 2009 at 4:34 am 3 comments

Saving Seeds: Amaranth

amaranth plants

Amaranth, that ancient Aztec of plants is one of my favorites for many reasons. Beside my obsession with growing things you can eat (what’s the point otherwise? I know, I know), Amaranth is a beauty to grow for its edible and aesthetic qualities. These plants can easily reach 12 or more feet tall—in one season. There are tons of varieties to grow, and it has a reputation for being an overachiever of plants, with tall billowy flowers, edible leaves (good in stir fries) and the grain they produce is a superfood in itself. It beats out quinoa and cous cous for it’s high protein value.

Also, they make great privacy fence for those unsightly neighbors, and literally grow like a weed, able to adapt to poor soils and part-shade (although they won’t be as happy). Plant as soon as frost has passed, raking these teeny, tiny seeds in, and by August, you’ll have an instant fence. Each plant produces thousands of poppy-like seeds, which you can harvest to make amaranth cereal, popped amaranth, amaranth muffins, grits, you name it.

I like to dry my seedheads in a bag for about a month, and then shake them out by threshing through a screen.

I admit, it is a little painstaking, and it makes you wonder how Bob Mills can possibly sell this stuff for 3 bucks a bag when it took me a better part of the morning to gather everything up, thresh away, and store. But, it was fun, in a garden geek out sort of way. If you need seeds, I now have plenty and would be happy to share!

February 9, 2009 at 3:30 am Leave a comment

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