Fall Asters

The lovely and talented Fall Asters.

This time of year, as you are harvesting the fruits of your labor, you may be considering saving seeds for next year.

I am not a seed saver from plants or fruits for a couple of reasons. Seeds are still fairly cheap to buy and I am busy with fall clean-up this time or year, so I’ve got no time to clean and dry seeds. Then there’s the issue of finding them again in the spring. Where did I put them?

But for those who want to, first you’ll need to identify the type of seeds you wish to save. The type you can save are only from plants that grew from seeds that are categorized as either 1) standards, 2) open pollinated, 3) heritage, 4) heirloom.

Seeds produced from these plants will produce the same crop year after year with no human intervention. If you are a seed saver, these are the kind you want. These types of seeds are considerably cheaper than hybrids.

Examples of standards would be Brandywine tomato or California Wonder pepper. Hybrid seeds create hybrid plants. Hybrids have two or more parent plants and are created/produced under human intervention. Seeds collected and planted from hybrid plants that you grow in your garden will not produce the same crop as the year before. These seeds cost more as there are several steps involved in creating different varieties.

The term hybrid should always appear on the seed packet or the plant tag of hybrid plants. An example would be Beef Master hybrid tomato. Hybrids are created by selecting the best traits of standard plants and cross pollinating to develop a superior plant or a plant with a different collection of traits. Then the seeds are collected to sell to you!

Preferred traits to select for breeding may be: excellent storage qualities, high sugar, cold or heat resistance, early harvest, disease and insect resistance, vigorous plant growth and, of course, delicious flavor.

A gardener who grows cool weather crops may appreciate spinach, lettuce or peas that can withstand warmer temps. Or perhaps they’d like winter squash with a shorter growing season so they can be harvested earlier. In the case of hybrid plants grown for flowering, the best traits may be larger blooms, colors that fade less, longer bloom period, self-cleaning (dead flower heads drop on their own), and disease and insect resistance. Personally, I would appreciate a hybrid tomato cage that would quit falling over.

What’s blooming in your garden besides the usual fall weeds? Having lost my gardener intern, C. S., after five joyous summers of help, I seem to be getting overrun. Yes, I may talk about shuffle hoeing all the time, but I don’t always get it done either. And my favorite job, mowing grass? Let’s just say I am glad sometimes to have a 600-foot driveway!

What is blooming in the desired plant group? Fall asters, sedums, grasses, Sweet Autumn clematis, coneflowers, solidago and some of my annual friends – namely zinnias. This spring I added a couple of my favorite mum plants back into the garden, Purple Waters. Chrysanthemums, even the Minnesota Mums, have seldom been hardy the past 3 years in my garden. Mums are shallow-rooted plants and are pickier about being dry going into the fall. Keep them watered twice a week, but not soggy until the ground is staying frozen which is usually around mid-November.

Don’t be in a hurry to put away the garden hose! Mums definitely benefit from a heavy layer of winter mulch for protection, and summer mulch to reduce evaporation. Years ago I grew the Minnesota Mum-Peach Centerpiece, and that hardy girl lasted about 8 years. My garden area is very exposed, so you may have better luck if you live in town or plant them near a protected area.

This Saturday, September 21, the Master Gardeners of Minnesota Valley will be at the Mankato Farmers Market giving demonstrations of how to divide and replant peony plants.

Find out what the eyes of the peony look like, the correct planting depths and seasonal care. There will be drawings for peony plant giveaways while they last. Stop by and check it out.

The Mankato Farmers’ Market is now open for 2019, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Best Buy parking lot in Mankato. The Tuesday market is held 3:30-6 p.m. at Best Buy. The Thursday market will be held 3:30-6 p.m. at the Food Hub in Old Town, 512 N. Riverfront Drive.

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