House & Home

July 25, 2014

Two new books have tips on storing seeds, overwintering plants

Readers can learn how to select the best seeds to save, or understand the natural dormancy cycle of more than 100 container plants.

The ferns on Ron and Angela Mischka’s front porch in Kansas City are so big and lush that they look fake. As it turns out, they’re cuttings from a family member’s ferns that they planted several years ago in coconut baskets.

The key to their size is that the Mischkas take them inside each fall. Yes, they said, the ferns do get scraggly by the time it’s warm enough to take them back outside. But they always bounce back.

I’ve tried to overwinter ferns in the past but always gave up and threw them out in January when they started turning brown and molting, thinking they were done.

I guess I should rethink that, especially since I also received books from Storey Basics: Books for Self-Reliance called “Saving Vegetable Seeds,” by Fern Marshall Bradley ($8.95), and “Saving Container Plants,” by Alice and Brian McGowan ($9.95).

The former details how to harvest, clean, store and plant seeds from your garden, while the latter offers overwintering techniques for keeping tender plants alive year after year.

Specifically, Bradley explains how to select the best plants for saving seeds and then, crop by crop, details how to harvest, store and plant them. The list includes beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, onions and tomatoes.

The McGowans help you understand the natural dormancy cycle of more than 100 popular container plants, ranging from fig trees and flowering maples to begonias and dahlias.

They also explain precisely where and how to store them so you can enjoy them year after year. Both books seem like they’re worth their price considering how much they’ll save you in the long run on plants each summer.

| Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian, The Star

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