A GardeNER’ DIARY: Tips for saving seeds

Gardening expert Jocelyne Sewell has some fool-proof methods for keeping seeds from one year to the next

Happy New Year to everyone. Hope you have a wonderful 2016 filled with health, happiness and peace. Cannot believe that we already have turned a new page and January is almost gone.

I have been working on my seeds and germinating some old ones. I have tomato seedlings on the windowsill. They have been there for a few weeks now and I want to see how they do without artificial light. I had an envelope of old tomato seeds from 2003 to 2004. I was to put them in the compost but I decided to try them first. So far I have potted 24 little seeds with a root. When your seeds are kept in a cool dry place in the dark, some of them can last a long time. This is over 10 years. I never store my seeds in plastic envelopes and when I use plastic containers like vitamin containers, I put the silica gel packs in them. This way it keeps them dry. I read on the Rodale Organic site that you can wrap two heaping tablespoons of powdered milk in four layers of facial tissue, then put the milk packet inside the storage container (shoe boxes or whatever) with the seed packets. Replace every six months.

Christmas time has a lot of baking going on and the use of vanilla is in many recipes. I happened to find an old article from 2012 about vanilla beans which was very interesting. I don’t know who wrote it, but I did not. There are many sites on the internet relating to the vanilla bean. The vanilla bean comes from an orchid. It is used in the food and cosmetic industries.

The Mexican Aztecs discovered the plant in the early 16th century and used the pods against poisons, to aid their digestion and also for flavouring. Around 1518, Cortes took some vanilla back to Europe and created vanilla- flavoured chocolate. This soon became popular and although the plants were grown indoors, the flowers never produced pods. Charles Morren discovered why in 1836 when he determined that the pollinators were not available in Europe and that the flowers had to be individually hand-pollinated, which was not an easy task.

It wasn’t until a former slave on an island off Madagascar perfected an easier way to hand-pollinate the flowers that the industry took off. Edmond Albius’s method of hand-pollination is still used to this day.

The vanilla orchid exhibits vine-like growth, forming long thin stems with lengths of more than 35 metres. The climbing vines produce bright green fleshy stems with flat leaves that grow alternately on either side of the length of the vine at regular intervals. Flowers are not produced until the vines are approximately two to three years of age. The flowers only last one day and if their pollinator is not around, no seed pods are formed. The flowers are presumed to be pollinated by a stingless bee and certain hummingbirds.

One vanilla orchid vine can grow for about 10 years and will produce approximately 1,000 flowers.

The Okanagan Gardens and Roses club will resume its meetings Feb. 8 at the Schubert Centre starting at 7 p.m.

For more information: 250-558-4556 or plantlady1@shaw.ca

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.