Friday, November 30, 2012

Over and over

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) seeds scattered on soil
It's been wet and grey outside lately. Better weather for making stews and braises than for clearing dead plants from the garden and sowing cover crops. But a few days ago we finally picked and ate the last of the cucumbers, and so during a break in the rain I pulled up the dying vines, tossed them in the compost heap, and planted crimson clover in their place. 

Crimson clover is another cover crop I grow to a) enrich the soil, and b) keep the garden from looking totally unkempt during the winter and early spring. You get the most benefit by digging the plants into the soil before they flower, but the flowers are just so pretty. And as long as you've let them flower, you may as well let the flowers dry, and collect them for their seeds.  

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) in flower

So last winter I left a few stands in place, let them flower, and then let the seed heads dry on the stalks. That may or may not actually be an officially sanctioned method of seed saving, but it's certainly easy. I stored them in a paper grocery bag in the mudroom, which is definitely not a sanctioned method, so we'll see how the germination goes.

Although my original bag of store-bought seeds was threshed, I decided that it probably wasn't necessary for me to remove the fuzzy little husks that encased each seed. Sure, there are seeds that need extra help, ones that won't sprout unless they've gone through a particular animal's digestive tract, but I'm fairly certain those ones all come wrapped in delicious fruit or something.

Locals can keep an eye out for the clover sprouts next to the path between the two veggie beds, in the areas formerly occupied by cucumbers (right bed) and slicer tomatoes (left bed). Non-locals can amuse themselves by discussing who did the best cover of "Crimson and Clover," and how they stack up against the original.