Gardening Tips from Septembers Past

What to do this week

The Spectator‘s gardening columnist will be back to her regular schedule next week. (Full disclosure: the Spectator forgot to tell her we were resuming the weekly publication schedule as of September 11. Sorry Michelle!)

Luckily, she has written oodles of advice for September gardeners, and it’s just as applicable this fall as it was in falls past.

Michelle Smith at Mabou Farmers' Market (Photo via Mabou Farmers' Market website) http://www.maboufarmersmarket.ca/

Michelle Smith at Mabou Farmers’ Market (Photo via Mabou Farmers’ Market website)

So check out her treatise on seed-saving from 12 September 2018. Sample content:

Let’s talk about tomatoes first. They are starting to ripen now (or have been, depending on your microclimate and the varieties you planted). Ideally, leave them on the vine as long as possible but if our weather doesn’t cooperate, you may end up ripening your chosen seed tomatoes indoors. This can work, although your germination rate will drop. The best situation is that the tomatoes are fully ripe before you pick them. A little over ripe is actually good when it comes to seed saving.

Select one or two tomatoes from each plant and mark them to leave for seed saving. Don’t pick all of your samples from the same plant. You are looking for diversity within the plants that did well in your yard. Once these tomatoes are very ripe and picked, you cut them along the equator line and squoosh* the seeds into a little jar (you can, of course, use the rest of the tomato for a sandwich or sauce).

Or, if you are really on top of things this year and have time for a longer-form read, pour a cup of coffee and read Michelle’s ruminations on what she termed the “locavore’s dilemma”:

As an unabashed social democrat (the Red Menace, that’s me), I do not think that good food should be the sole province of the well-to-do. Farmers’ Markets and other tools for direct and niche marketing are all fine and good, and since I earn my living through them, I cannot complain. Yet, they do have a tendency to attract a certain demographic, usually with sufficient income to indulge their tastes for fine food and good wine. A subset of these local food patrons take it a step further, cultivating a desire for unusual, so-small-scale-as to-be-actually-rare specialties.

Actually, if you have time for long-form reads, any of the wonderful pieces Michelle has written for the Spectator will fit the bill, but I’m going to plump for one of my own favorites: “Comparing Apples to Apples.” I defy you to resist a piece that starts like this:

I have something to confess. For someone in my position it is, well, more than a little embarrassing. An affront, if you will, to my public persona. I have spent money I could ill afford pursuing this, this interest, to the chagrin of my long-suffering children. To this strange compulsion I have devoted long hours when I could and should have been concentrating on the work I am known and respected for. I know this.

And yet … I really, truly, cannot help myself. There is something so absolutely compelling about collecting and growing rare, heirloom apple trees that I will brook no intervention — even though I, a noted vegetable gardener and seed saver (here comes the embarrassing part), am really not very good at it. At all.

Michelle’s regular column will return to this space next week.

Featured image: McIntosh apple by User:MarkusHagenlocher, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.