It's mid February and thoughts of spring are everywhere. We here in southern Kansas enjoy days of very nice weather with interspersed days of frigid air. Patches of green have started showing through the predominant browns of winter, giving a sign that spring is close at hand.
This also brings thoughts of the beginning of garden season. The seed catalogs have visited via the mail, the online sites are alluring, and dreams of bountiful produce float around. Hubby has already tilled in the "family" garden and is preparing to do some more work this weekend as the temperatures reach the middle to upper 70's (yes, in February!!)
Gardening can be a rather expensive operation, but not if you plan ahead. It doesn't have to cost a ton to have homegrown produce readily available through the growing season.
Today we are going to discuss something very simple, but definitely a money saver and frugal way of starting the garden. What is that one little tip?
Saving seeds and starters from the previous harvest.
Throughout the years, people saved seeds from previous years and planted them and reaped the harvest (most of the time). Seed catalogs weren't all over, nor seed websites, and definitely not at the local Walmart or Home Depot or Lowe's. While I learned this little money saver while living on the farm, I see it most used in the family garden. Hubby's dad is a major proponent of saving seeds and planting again in the spring. He is one who has shown me all kinds of various seeds and starters to save and the value of them.
Just day before yesterday I processed down a Cuban squash. If you've never seen a Cuban squash, it looks like a pumpkin in size and shape, with the color and texture of a butternut, and flavor of a combination of butternut and pumpkin. It can be used in exchange for a pumpkin or butternut in just about any recipe. I saved the seeds back to plant in the garden in the next few days to have another year's worth of squash. The originating seeds for the year's crop last year came from Cuba, and since we don't go to Cuba (mainly for lack of funds and also hubby and I are horrible at conversational Spanish), we want to keep the seeds going for future crops.
Also last fall I purchased some really great pie pumpkins from a local farmer. These were amazing little pumpkins--small, but the insides were so meaty and seeded that they made plenty of pumpkin pies and roasted seeds. I want to grow these myself this year. There's nothing like fresh pumpkins in pies (and soups).
Papa likes to start some of his own sweet potatoes as well. He keeps the eyes off the current potatoes and gently tends to them through the winter months until they are ready to put in the ground. He takes pride in growing from his own stock. He's also planted and grown the avocado pits into vines throughout the porch and kitchen, which adds interest to the house, but it's not the right climate to grow them outside here.
The best things we've started by saving seeds are mainly the tomatoes and bell peppers. They take a while to get going, but once they're going they take off! Most years there's still plenty to buy, as it's nothing to put out 30 to 40 plants of tomatoes alone, but if we can get some seeds going, all the better.
The seeds off flowers are great to restart for the year as well. Three years ago I planted marigolds in the yard. I haven't planted any since. I still have tons of marigolds. They reseed themselves. I've allowed mint to go to seed and seed itself (what a mistake but at least it smells nice), various other herbs go to seed and distribute themselves, and collected seeds off other flowers to start in different parts of the yard.
Something that sometimes is frowned upon but seems to help a bit...letting the grass go to seed in the yard. We have mostly low growing fescue and shade grass, and sometimes we let it go to seed in order for it to keep spreading and choke out weeds. It is cheaper to let it do its natural thing instead of buying lots of grass seed. It isn't always pretty to let it go to seed, but that's fine. The yard has grown thick and more lush in the past few years since we started letting it seed occasionally, and that makes it feel so much nicer to run around barefoot in, for the pets to roll around in, and makes a prettier yard overall.
Do you save seeds at all for your gardens? What is your favorite to keep for the following growing season?