Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Season of the Volunteers

Pinching lettuce seeds from the dried flower umbels, Batavian Black Nevada lettuce

This is the time of year when you find out just how many seeds you forgot to save, or which seeds have scattered hither, thither, and yon. I saved lettuce, nasturtium, and coriander (cilantro) seed, but I might not have bothered-- dozens of nasturtiums and hundreds of cilantro plants are coming up all over the paths between the new garden beds. Volunteer lettuce lurks by the grapevine where I let the Batavian Black Nevada go to seed. Would that I'd actually gotten out there and planted radishes, carrots, and beets again, a second sowing, during the winter holidays. Ditto for peas, as the peas I sprouted and planted sometime after Thanksgiving are now a foot-plus tall, waving a few inches over the little bit of wire fence scrap I set out for them. I took a section of coated-wire fencing and a pair of stakes out today on my way to work, and gave them another few feet to climb-- should keep them happy!

Today's picture shows how to harvest lettuce seeds from a bolted lettuce that you've let dry out. Did you know that lettuce seeds travel on tiny bits of fluff, like dandelion seeds? I had thought that my dried lettuce flowers, having been rained on a few times and been out in bad weather, would have no seeds left. However I hadn't realized that the plant was sheltered from the wind by the neighbor's utility shed, and that being so close to their driveway seemed to keep the birds away from it. So when I started pinching little flower umbels over a white plate, I had lots and lots of seed to reward my efforts. If your lettuce has tan or light cream colored seeds, you might find a sheet of colored construction paper, or a colored plate, more helpful.


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