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Autumn seed-saving: a thrifty gardener's guide: Suzann Roalman unearths the thrifty joys of fall gardening.

Call it a change-of-life thing. As I enter my sixth decade of life, with the turmoil of childrearing and menopause behind me, I've experienced a shifting awareness, reflected in a newly-emerging interest in autumn's primary gift: seeds and seed-gathering. Whereas spring and the sensory delights of flowers' fragrance and color will always captivate, I now find myself engaged in more urgent activity than mere sniffing mid admiring entails: that of gathering seeds from favorite flowers and herbs for future propagation.

It's a different way of looking at flowers, to examine the withered stalks and crisp, brown leaves, and to locate the seedpods within. An excellent book, for those who are unfamiliar with the sexual parts of plants and would like some guidelines is The Metamorphosis of Flowers by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou, which photographs in delicate and sensuous detail the changes occurring in plants as they morph from vibrant flower to seed-bearing pod or stalk.

The novice seed-gatherer, such as I was a few years back, can begin by simply examining the flowers and herbs closely. Virtually all plants, including vegetables and herbs, will propagate from seeds or berries, unless they're from sterile, hybrid stock. Start with some of your favorite garden flowers: echinacea, which I value as a medicinal herb, can easily be propagated from the dried seed-heads, clearly visible ms a black, spiny crown on the dried flower stalk. When the seeds are fully ripe, usually after a few good rains, and when all the petals have dropped away, you can cut off the seed head, and dry it further on a plate or in a paper bag. The individual seeds can he separated from the spiny crown by rubbing with your thumb, though it may be good to wear gloves if your hands are tender. Then, you can sow your seeds in a prepared bed this autumn, or next spring.

I find myself engaging in conversation with strangers whose gardens I admire and often coming away with a handful of seeds to propagate myself: cleome, or cat's whiskers; rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susan; salvia, both red and blue; gallardia, the gorgeous purple daisy-like flowers; clary sage and garden sage; basil and calendula and pot marigold; all sorts of minds and lambsears and poppies and hollyhocks and lemon balm ... the list is endless, limited only by one's own interest in learning and propagating.

In Georgia, one can engage in an informal seed swap with like-minded gardeners, through the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. There's a whole section on buying and selling seed, in small quantifies for a dollar or so, with other readers. The Market Bulletin, published by the state Department of Agriculture, is free for Georgia residents, and offers a wealth of information on seed-swapping and other topics.

One caveat: if you're saving seed to propagate next spring, be sure it is thoroughly dried before storing in paper bags over winter. Rot and mildew will be a persistent problem for most seed-savers, given the wet summer and fall we've experienced this year. Be sure your seeds are dry and crumbly to the touch before consigning to storage. I keep mine on sheets of newspaper in a pantry near the hot water heater, which generates enough dry heat to condition my seeds for storage.

Growing plants from seed requires patience, thrift and faith, attributes that were slow to germinate in my own consciousness, but which now seem to inform virtually all my activities. I hope that you, too, may enjoy the abundance of nature's harvest at this time of year. Blessed be! Suzann Roalman is an herbalist, massage therapist and educator, with homes in Brevard, N.C. and Athens, Georgia. She is seeking a second housemate for her Brevard home, and welcomes inquiries from all with an interest in gardening. In Athens, she can be reached at 706-546-0114. Books for Seed Savers

Ashworth, Suzanne. Seed to Seed (ISBN 0-9613977-7-2), Seed Saver Publications, RR 3 Box 239. Decorah, Iowa 52101, 1991

Seeds of Texas' Vegetable Seed-Savers Handbook.

Seeds of Change Gardening for the future of the Earth- Changing the World from Your Backyard available from Banatam, New Year 2000.

Turner, Carole B.: Seed Sowing and Saving, published at $28.95, is available for $7.24 from Gardener's Book Club at www.booksonline.com/bgc

Deppe: Carol (1993) Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: Popbeans, purple peas, and other innovations from the backyard garden. Little. Brown and Co. Publishers

Bubel, Nancy (1988): The New Seed-Starters Handbook. Rodale Press.

Weaver. William Ways: Heirloom Vegetable Gardening--A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving and Cultural History. Henry Holt & Co.

Gardner, Jo Ann: The Heirloom Garden. Storey Books. 800-441-5700.

Starting from Seed by Brooklyn Botanic Garden. 718-622-4433. ext. 274.

Male, Carolyn (1999): 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden.

Dirr, Michael & Heuser. Charles (1987): The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture, Varsity Press, Athens, GA

Cutler, Karan Davis (1998): Starting from Seed: The Natural Gardener's Guide to Propagating Plants. Handbook #157, Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Ausubel, Kenny: Seeds of Change: The Living Treasure

Nabhan, Gary Paul (1989): Enduring Seeds: Native American agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation. North Point Press. San Francisco.

Resources excerpted with thanks from http://homepage.eircom.net/-merlyn/seedsaving.html

American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation. North Point Press, San Francisco.

Resources excerpted with thanks from http:/homepage.eircom.net/-merlyrdseedsaving.html
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Title Annotation:Garden Magic
Author:Roalman, Suzann
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:895
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