With Thanksgiving comes Indian corn, the Small Budget Gardener’s secret seed source. Large ears may be all one color, they may be a mixture of wide ranging hues or just lightly speckled. Small strawberry popcorn with its flint hard ruby red kernels resemble a fat strawberry fruit. Slender miniature popcorn are jewel tone decorations. All of these are two-for-one purchases because they may be enjoyed as decor, then saved over winter and planted in the summer garden to grow your own next year. This is loads of fun for the kids and teaches so much when you complete the whole cycle. So pick your ears at the market with care and be sure to plant the colors separately to prevent cross pollination so your next crop is identical to its predecessor.
All along the roadside in Virginia the tall stalks of teasel are going to seed. This invasive European weed makes an excellent autumn decoration or even natural Christmas tree ornaments that can be gathered for free. Cut with long stems to create dried arrangements or just take the little seed heads to decorate and hang on the Christmas tree or to decorate a wreath. This is just one of the many remnants of summer growth that become our most affordable craft materials the rest of the year. Fuller’s teasel is Dipsacus fullonum heads are prickly, and came to America with the fuller’s trade, which is the creation of felt from wool. The unique spines shown above were first used to raise the nap on wool felt. It was also used to card wool by pioneer women but was later replaced by manufactured wool cards which are much like a cat hair brush designed to align fibers prior to spinning. It is so vigorous it escaped early into New England wildlands and then followed settlers westward. It is unwise to plant teasel in the garden because it self sows like wildfire and spiny stems make it more difficult to pull.
In older neighborhoods all over America the hollyhocks are in bloom. Their huge flowers begin low on their very tall stalk, then move upward as it ages. This is how you know to look low on the stalk to find the first capsules of seed maturing in the midsummer heat. These are the easiest seed to collect and just as simple to grow into stately plants next year. Whenever you walk the dog or just take a stroll, reuse an opened bill envelope as seed container. It folds nicely into the pocket, and if you find a plant with seed you can pick a few of the capsules off and drop them in the envelope. Seed gathered from many plants from different locations will yield fabulous flower color variation compared to store bought. Once at home separate the seed from all the other material to ensure there are no micro-seed eating bugs in there that could destroy it in storage. Then store in a clean envelope, RX bottle or mint tin in a cool, dry place. Hollyhock is a biennial that is best in its second year from seed. Sow it directly into the soil in spring after frost. One seed matures into a HUGE plant quickly, some of them eight feet tall! Hollyhocks from seed are a real old fashioned delight that yields an incredible free floral display.
Altoid mints are a small budget gardener’s two-for-one purchase. The boxes are ideal for storing seeds. This tin lasts a long time and it doesn’t crush easily. It seals with an audible click so I know they are securely stored. A blank address sticker or piece of tape makes a perfect label on the flat top with name and date of collection. Summer is the best time to gather seeds from your garden or those that fall onto common ground around town. Right now my orchid trees and palo verdes are so heavy with seed pods I’ve filled the Altoid tins with them. Come holiday time the seed makes great gifts in-you guessed it-decorated Altoid boxes!