Stretching Your Garden Dollar . . .
Four things you can do now to stretch your garden dollar are divide mature perennials; take cuttings to root before the first killing frost, which looks like this Sunday; bring outdoor plants inside for the winter before the first killing frost; and collect seeds.
This is a great time to divide your more mature perennials. I have divided my peonies and still need to divide my large hostas. I am really looking forward to having more substance in my garden by doing this. I am also excited because dividing this fall will give my garden a more cohesive look with repetition. I am also planning to divide monarda (bee balm), Autumn Joy and some of my Strawberry and Cream Lilies from White Flower Farm.
I love trying new varieties of coleus and plan to take several pieces to root inside over the winter. I also am taking stalks of basil, rosemary, wandering Jew, tradescantia (purple heart), Persian shield, and black and green sweet potato vine to root over the winter. I love, love, love propagation. This is one of my favorite aspects of gardening: creating more. It is so fun to give my Grandma a piece of something and to get pieces of plants from friends to try.
Bringing the Outdoors In
Another way to stretch your garden dollar is to bring in your favorite hanging basket or potted annual. I also take at least one cutting off it to root, for insurance. Geraniums, begonias, coleus, tradescantia and Persian shield all overwinter well as houseplants and root very easily.
My kids and I have fun doing this every year. It is fun at every stage. A really good friend taught me how to do this during a play date at her house. Our kids were 2 or 3, and she handed me an envelope and a pair of scissors and we started cutting seeds from her garden. It is really easy! My daughter and I then went home and did our garden. This is such a fun family activity, and it is so joyful to now do it with my almost-11-year-old, 7-year-old, and yes, my youngest, who is not allowed to use scissors yet but who gets the concept of pulling those dried pods.
Each plant is different so some seeds are easier to locate than others. Morning glories get little green balls that turn brown; and when you break open the shell, there are several hard black seeds. Cleome seeds come from those whisker-like pods that hang off the flower. Cosmos and zinnia seeds come from the center of the flower head. Cosmos seeds are thinner and longer, and they get hard and crunchy. The zinnia seeds are a bit smaller and softer, and they have a roundness to them. Old-fashioned vining petunia seeds are as small as sand, and they come from the little brown cone. (I see I need to post pictures of what each seed looks like.) Tithonia or Mexican sunflower seedpods hurt your hands and are very prickly, so I like to pull those off with gloves that are used for working with roses. Then I put them in a Ziploc and break them up within the Ziploc. Sunflowers seeds look just like what you eat.
Seeds are best collected when they are dry and almost ready to drop naturally onto the ground. After I collect the seeds, I like to let them dry out a bit more, but I have had good luck putting them right into envelopes. My kids love to decorate the envelopes, and the seed packets make great gifts for grandparents and teachers and all your gardening friends.