Indoor Herbs

It's fall, here in Fort Nelson, BC, so I have brought in my tender herbs for the winter. Some are not necessarily tender, but they don't always come back in the spring up here. I treat the feverfew and purslane tenderly, as they are not available to forage or buy here. I grow them from seed, so I like to keep a small piece over the winter. I will start more in the early spring from seed, but I still like that safety net of having one growing indoors.

I have two south facing windows with big sills which are a good place to grow things, except in the darkest months. At that time I need additional lighting but it doesn't take much for these few plants.

I have brought in the lavender, rosemary, oregano, purslane, feverfew and one
calendula. This is the first winter I have tried calendula indoors over the winter, so I'll just have to see how it goes. If it fails, i can always grow again from seed. Those seeds are readily available just about anywhere."

Hostas - A Delicious Vegetable!

I have learned something new this year. Hostas are indeed edible and delicious! They are eaten regularly in Japan and other parts of the world. I have read that they taste just like asparagus, only better, with a very slight green onion flavour added in. 

These would be delicious in an omelet or a salad. They can be cooked gently, like you would asparagus, and eaten as a vegetable. The small leaf shoots and the flowers and stems are edible, cooked or raw. The flowers are sweeter with a flowery taste added in, similar to daylilies, also edible. 
I can't wait for my hostas to send up tender shoots to try! 

Nutritional Value

Hostas are rich in vitamin C. They can also 
boost resistance to disease, as they have polysaccharides that can increase the number of lymphocytes in the human body.

All hosta species are edible but H. montana and H. sieboldii are most popularly used for vegetables. H plantaginea is grown for its sweet flowers. 

More nutritional content (testing one leaf from 12 different varieties of hostas):

potassium (K) content ranged from 2.85 to 4.05%;
phosphorous content from 0.13 to 0.34%;
Calcium from 0.02 to 1.15%;
Magnesium from 540.00 to 794.12 ppm;
Manganese 26.93 to 133.77 ppm;
Zink 115.39 to 334.52 ppm;
Copper 1.78 to 5.95 ppm
Iron 26.43 to 251.95 ppm.

Growing Strawberries From Seed

This past December, I saved seed from some large, delicious strawberries from the grocery store. I dried the seeds and stashed them away with my other "odd" seeds. I freely admit it, I'm a seed-aholic. I must save all seeds! This does result in a rather large container of odd seeds for every occasion. The strawberry seeds are very tiny! 

A few days ago I saw a post on the Facebook "Grow Food  Not Lawns" group about successfully germinating strawberry seeds. It reminded me that I have strawberry seed and I could do this too! 

After a little research, here is the information I found re starting strawberries from seed: 

- Better germination rates are attained if the seed is refrigerated for about 4 weeks first. 
- They need to be in some small amount of light to germinate, after refrigeration or right away if not refrigerating first. 

I started some of my seed between damp paper towels and put them in a drawer in the refrigerator, out of the way in hubby's "butter" drawer at the bottom. I thought it would be the only place in the fridge where we wouldn't be tripping over them all the time. I'm not sure I will leave them there for 4 weeks. I might bring some out at 2 weeks and see how it goes. 

I also sprinkled some on a shallow tray of soil mixed with vermiculite, moistened first with very warm water. I pressed the seeds down on the soil. I did not cover them with soil, as they need the soft light to germinate, and put a clear lid on the container. 

The articles I read said that some germination is attained with the soil method, without cold first, its just that better germination is attained with the cold, so I have done both. 

We'll see how it goes! 

Walnut Substitute - Homegrown!

When someone told me that impatiens glandulifera seeds taste just like walnuts, I said, "really, really? Hmmmm....I will have to see that for myself!" and so I have!

They do taste like walnuts! They do! They do! I am so excited about this discovery! I can grow my own nuts, well, sort of...

I put some in my pumpkin muffins and they were delicious!
This opens a new door for people with nut allergies. You can now have so called "banana nut" muffins! Not only that, they are virtually free and you can grow them in your own yard. These are pink but they come in white too. 

They grow wild here in the Fort Nelson area in fields and road sides. The ones here are white. They are invasive and considered by many to be a weed. I think they are beautiful! 

Mine get about 4-6' ! They like moist shade. It's an impatiens, but not the little ones that you buy cheap in every garden center in the spring. This is closer to the jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, with the same "touch-me-not" seed pods. If you grow them, you will learn to close your entire hand over the ripe seed pod before touching it. Spread them out to dry well before saving them for baking.

To plant the seeds, just sprinkle on the ground in the fall. They need a cold, moist winter and sunlight to germinate. They are prolific reseeders! If you buy them now, just sprinkle on the ground, on top of the snow, where you want them to grow. When the snow melts they will come in contact with the soil and grow.

Warning: these can be very invasive! Mine are controlled by collecting most of the seeds.

They are also beautiful flowers for the back of the shade garden.

The big, fuzzy yellow bumblebees like them - and so do I!

Lasagna Gardening

Contents of this very long article on starting a garden: 

- Lasagna gardening - an explanation
- How to make a no till garden on your lawn
- Raised gardens
- Organic Mulch Layers
- How to plant in a lasagna garden
- Weeding
- Going Vertical

Lasagna gardening is a no-dig, no-till organic gardening method that results in rich soil with very little work from the gardener. The name "lasagna gardening" refers to the buildup of layers of organic material on top of cardboard or thick newspaper, also known as “sheet composting."

One of the best things about lasagna gardening is how easy it is. You don't have to remove existing sod and weeds or dig at all. The first layer consists of either brown corrugated cardboard or at least six layers of newspaper laid directly on top of the grass or weeds in the area you've selected for your garden. Cover the garden areas with cardboard as soon as the snow is gone. Corrugated cardboard, that used for brown boxes, is best for the food areas. Worms love it! You can use other types of cardboard for the paths and open areas, i.e. soda can cases, cereal boxes, magazines. While you don't need to remove the grass and weeds, I would remove rocks. They are great for holding cardboard in place or using for stepping stones through the growing plants.

Wet the cardboard/paper area down to keep everything in place and layer with organic materials. The grass and/or weeds underneath will break down fairly quickly because they will be smothered by the newspaper or cardboard, as well as by the materials you're going to layer on top of them. Overlay the edges, or the grass will grow through! This layer also provides a dark, moist area to attract earthworms that will loosen up the soil as they tunnel through it. If you don't yet have organic layers, you can keep the cardboard down with rocks, bricks, logs or anything else you have that will keep it from blowing away. 

If you already have larger plants in place, layer the cardboard around them, giving them an inch or so of space to keep the wet cardboard from touching the stems. Layer organic mulch on top of this. Do this as the summer wears on and the initial paper/cardboard starts to break down. Continue to layer around the mature plants to keep the grass and weeds from growing. When making a garden on a lawn, grass will be a more insidious problem than weeds. 

It's a great way to get rid of your lawn. If you're on a reasonably small city lot, what do you need grass for anyway? It has no practical value and takes a lot of chemicals poured on it to keep it looking nice. (Why anyone would pour deadly, noxious chemicals in the earth for a useless lawn is beyond me.) If you have soft lawn, you don't need it tilled first. If you have hard clay, gravel, etc and are adding top soil/manure, I would till it first if you want to use it right away or make raised gardens. (See below.) If you are going to wait until the following year, let the worms do it for you under the cardboard. 

Raised Gardens: 

If your ground is very hard clay, gravel, sand or rock, I would recommend making raised gardens. They don't have to be deep but higher sides makes gardening easy for people with bad backs or physical limitations. Also keep it narrow enough to reach across from one side. Three feet is the widest across I would build one. It can be any length or even U-shaped. Build boxes to contain soil on top of the lawn. You will still need to do the layering with cardboard/paper inside the box. You would be surprised how far some grass and weeds will grow to survive! 

Filling the raised boxes: "Hugel Culture" (Hugelkulture) is making beds on top of log piles. Its quickly catching on as a way to make raised garden beds, letting the old logs feed the soil and plants. Fill those raised beds with natural branches and logs on top of the cardboard, before you fill it with soil. You will need less soil. Put several inches of soil on top of the wood. Layer this with mulch to keep the weeds down. They will grow on any open dirt spots, even in raised beds. The wood will decompose and feed the soil, gradually. The plant roots will grow into it. In three years the logs will be gone, making rich soil. 

If building tall boxes, fill the bottom with something to take up the space, something inert, nontoxic that the plant roots can grow around so you will need less soil. Top soil is hard to find here. Suggestions are: natural branches and logs (NOT railway ties, landscaping ties or pressure treated!), styrofoam packing pieces broken up small and styrofoam peanuts, small water bottles, crushed milk jugs, soda cans. Leave enough space for about 1.5 feet of soil on top, after it filters down through the space fillers at the bottom. Don't leave air pockets. Make sure the spaces are filled with soil all the way down. Mix in a little well composted manure in the bottom soil. 

You can make raised beds out of anything that will hold the soil in. Square straw (not hay!) bales are becoming popular for raised bed sides. Its not ideal to use pressure treated wood, but if you line the boxes all the way around and over the top with heavy plastic, it will be fine. You can use metal roofing or panels for sides.

Large logs make good raised garden sides. Cement blocks can be used if they have been outside for a couple of years so the strong lime has been leached out of them. Otherwise, I would line a cement block garden with heavy plastic. 

Raised bed are also easy to cover. Use 1" pvc for the arches, cover with plastic for a mini greenhouse, or curtain sheers for protection from deer, cabbage moths, etc. 

Organic Mulch Layers

Anything that does not contain meat, dairy, egg products of any kind, or sprayed can be used as mulch on the cardboard/paper. Meat products, eggs, dairy will stink terribly and attract wildlife that you don't want in your garden (bears!). Its also not a good idea to use processed food/ grains/ cereals in your compost pile. Never put cereal in it that has had milk on it! If you use something that has been sprayed with weed killer or herbicide, it will kill your plants. 

Some choices for organic mulch layers:

1. Manure! I would recommend using well composted ** (See Note below) manure around the growing areas directly on top of the cardboard/paper. If your lawn has been growing grass and/or weeds, the soil will be depleted. Also any wood based layers you have will use up the nitrogen in the soil as they break down. The manure will fix that and replace any other needs in the depleted soil.  
2. Grass clipping after mowing, if not sprayed, 
3. Fall leaves, mowed to chop them up, 
4. Shredded computer paper. Ask offices for it. Its wood based,
5. Wood chips * (See Note below on wood based mulch in the garden),
6. Straw,
7. Hay, only if going on top of cardboard. Don't put it directly on the ground or you will be growing grass there,

*NOTE: Wood based products are fine in the garden, as long as you add some well composted manure for extra nitrogen. Wood uses up the nitrogen in the soil to decompose. 

**NOTE: Make sure any cow/sheep manure you use has been properly composted: piled for a season so it gets really hot, hot enough to kill the weed seeds, or you will be growing grass and weeds. If you are not sure how hot it has been composted, put it underneath the cardboard. If it has not aged enough, the high nitrogen content will kill your plants. Chicken manure needs to age for two years before you can safely put it on your plants. Store bought manure is fine. 

Planting: For the seed rows, 

Option #1: Put down a layer of fine soil or compost on top of the mulch for the seed rows and plant in it. Top the seeds with soil and press down lightly. A rule of thumb for how deep to plant seeds: Soil on top of seed should only be as tall as the length of the seed. So something like carrot seed should only have a light sprinkle of soil on top. The roots will grow down through the layers and eventually through the cardboard. 

Option #2: Lay the initial layer of cardboard, leaving 1.5" - 2" inch rows open on the ground for planting seeds. Cover the cardboard with organic layers. On top of the organic layers, keeping it visible, cover your open seeding rows with cardboard you have weighed down with rocks or bricks to hold it in place temporarily. When planting time comes, most grass and weeds will be dead and smothered under the cardboard. Remove the top cardboard over the planting rows. Plant seeds directly in the ground in these very narrow rows and cover lightly with a layer of compost. Water very gently and press down lightly. 

For myself, I usually use a shovel and dig up just these narrow rows and remove grass clods, roots and any perennial weeds before laying down the cardboard. However, I don't believe its entirely necessary. I just like to spend a little time in the spring digging in the dirt :) . 

For transplants, simply pull back the layers of mulch, drop in the plant and pull some mulching materials back over the roots. Leave a little space around the plant for air circulation.

Weeding:  As you watch these rows grow, carefully leaving only the sprouting vegetables, pull up or cut off any weeds/grass that grows. If not sure, just leave it to grow awhile and then pull up or dig out any weeds that grow in this row with the vegetables. If left to grow, grass will become a more insidious problem than the weeds. As long as the weeds don't go to seed or interfere with the growth of the baby vegetables, they can be left to grow until its safe to remove them without damaging your tender, baby vegetable plants. There won't be much to weed out and once it's gone, weeding these very narrow rows will be easy. When the vegetable plants are tall enough and you have thinned them, place cardboard and mulch between the plants to keep the weeds/grass down. Keep placing cardboard and inches of mulch wherever grass and weeds begin to grow.

I recommend setting aside one day every week for weeding. Using a hoe for larger seedlings or by hand with smaller ones, weed the entire garden, covering with cardboard those areas where the grass and weeds are growing. If you have been using the cardboard everywhere around the plants and in the open areas, there won't be much to do. One morning a week, weeding needs to be your focus, everything else waits. If you do this, you won't have a weeding problem and gardening will be fun and easy. Pull baby weeds as you do your daily walk through your garden to see the changes and just to enjoy your garden growing. Pull any grass and weeds you see when they are little. Don't let the work get ahead of you or it will take time to catch it back up. Note: Control the grass. Grass is hard to control once it takes over.

Going Vertical

If you only have a little space, grow vertical! Make tall plants trellises over the pathways. If you are growing something like squash or 
melons vertically, you will need strong supports to hold the vine up and something extra to hold the fruit. 
We used cardboard and neighborhood grass clippings to make the front bed last fall. 

Lasagna gardening is definitely the way to build vegetable or flower beds! We use this method for both. Because it uses no power tools, heavy equipment or expensive commercial additives, lasagna gardening is an easy way for anyone to maintain garden productivity.

If you have deer or large dogs roaming around the neighborhood, you might want to put a fence around it. It will keep out the dogs, anyway...

Winter Sewing

Russel Lipins
The lupins are coming up! These are Russel Lupins. They come in various colours but purple is the most dominate. Since these are from open pollinated seeds, they are probably purple, but I'm ok with that. The odd one might be a different colour. I'm hoping to get one red one.

These seeds were planted in December and put outside for the remaining winter months. I lost track of them outside when the snow was deep, but found them again a few days ago. I brought them inside and put them under lights in the warm house. Now they are coming up! I planted with them with several other perennial seeds but these are the only ones up, so far. It has only been three days. I'm sure the others will start sprouting in the coming weeks. 


We love rhubarb, especially rhubarb pie!

My rhubarb grows in the lasagna garden with my salad things, herbs and berry collection. Most of that garden is perennial so it makes sense to grow it there, since it is perennial. I like to till up the vegetable gardens in the fall and spring.

I am adding to my rhubarb this year, since we have discovered rhubarb pies. I originally planted it for wine making, which I still plan to do. I will only make one gallon this year, just to see if we like it and because I don't have a lot of rhubarb right now.

The rest will go into the freezer or be canned for winter pie filling storage. I like to make the pie fillings ahead of time and freeze them. I also make pastry ahead and freeze it, so pie making is simple and quick. 

Rhubarb should be picked when the entire stalk is red. The green parts are not that good to eat since they are not ripe yet. If you pick it when it is green at the top and add that to the rhubarb you use, it will be extremely tart. The secret to good rhubarb is to use it only when it is ripe enough. Your rhubarb is going to be very tart, that's its nature. You will just need to add more sugar to it.

The bottom of the stalk should be a dark wine colour.

The peel of the rhubarb cooks to a very tender state. When the rhubarb is cooked you won't be able to tell the peel from the rest of it, so it doesn't need to be peeled first. Its not like celery, where the peel stays tough and stringy. You will waste a lot of good fruit if you peel it first. Do cut any brown or black spots off, however.
These have a bit of green at the top that will need to be cut off.

Chop it up into little pieces before you cook it and it will be more tender and cook faster. 

This is my pie filling recipe for Rhubarb pie:
4 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour

Combine well in pot and simmer on low, stirring well. Cook on low until slightly thick and bubbly, stirring more or less continually. Pour into prepared pie crust, put the top on and bake immediately at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is well done, top and bottom. You don't need to cook the filling while baking the pie, since you did most of that before you put the pie in the oven.

If you are adding the hot filling to a pie crust, you have to bake it right away. The hot filling will melt the fat in the crust and it won't be the same if you wait.
If you are not baking it right away, store the filling separately in another container until you are ready to bake the pie.

To freeze the filling: let it cool completely then spoon into a freezer bag. Get out all the air and flatten it. Flat bags stack in the freezer and take up less space.

Just an important note: Rhubarb leaves are very poisonous. You can make insecticide out of them that will kill anythin

Saving Vegetable Seeds

If you are an intense gardener, like me, you will see the benefits of saving seeds from your own garden to plant the next spring. 
- Its cheaper, of course, (seed packets get more and more expensive every year!), 
- There's no doubt what it will grow, as long as you kept the seed pure on varieties that easily cross pollinate, 
- You know it will grow in your climate, 
- If its heirloom seed, then its not GMO, 
- Its rewarding. Being self sufficient is always rewarding! 

Donating seed to a community seed library is a great idea too. Share those seeds with your community!

While there are differences in seed collecting, depending on the fruit/veggie from which you are collecting them, there are some seed collecting rules that are a constant for all seeds. 

Rule #1 - Keep the Seed Pure: If you are saving seed for next year or giving it to a seed bank or a friend, you will need to know that what you plant is what you get. Some seeds will cross, not affecting that same year's fruit, but will affect what grows from that seed planted the following spring. What grows from crossed seed will not be the same as the vegetable the seed came out of. Sometimes this is easy with things that self pollinate, like tomatoes and peppers. If you plant them touching, they will cross but it doesn't take much space to keep them from doing so. Squash-pumpkins, on the other hand, are pollinated by bees and will cross if planted within 500 meters of another one in the same family. 

Squash-pumpkins come in four families: maxima, moschata, pepo, mixta. Two squash plants from different families will not cross. If you plant two squash plants from the same family, you can bet they will cross pollinate unless you take steps to prevent it. You can see how to prevent squash/pumpkins from crossing in a post called "Hand Pollinating Squash". Maximas are the buttercup, turbin, kobocha, hubbard. Moschata is the butternut, mostly, also the Hopi black and the sweet-potato squash. Pepos are the pumpkins, zucchini, acorn, pepper squash, sweet dumpling squash, spaghetti squash and gourds. Mixtas are the cushaws, which don't grow up here due to the long season needed. If your squash is not mentioned here, you can usually look it up on the package or the internet and see what family it belongs to.

Please be aware: if you grow zucchini and pumpkins together on your small town lot, you cannot give your zucchini seeds to the seed bank, unless you have taken sure steps to keep the seed pure. What grows from that seed the following year will not be zucchini. Usually what grows from a squash-pumpkin cross is not very good for eating, either. Please don't give seed to a seed bank that will not grow true!

Corn is pollinated by the wind and will cross with a different corn across the highway from you. There's nothing you can do about that, but what will grow from that seed will still be edible corn, of a type. Popcorn is an exception. Crossed seed will not likely "pop". 

Beans will cross with other beans if they are very close together, especially if they are touching, as will peas. They are safe if grown in separate rows or sections. 

The brassicas will cross with each other if you grow them in close proximity. The brassica family consist of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, turnip, kale, mustard and collard greens and rutabaga. The result may possibly be edible, as in rutabagas, a cabbage-turnip cross or it may be something entire unusable. If you are going to let them flower and go to seed, separate them to different areas of the garden.That wild mustard with the yellow flowers that grows everywhere, will cross with brassicas you grow on purpose. Keep it out of the garden area! 

Rule #2 -  Collect Only Mature Seed: Wait until the fruit/veggie is fully ripe before picking and cutting it to save the seeds. Leave that veggie on the bush/vine until it rots or dries out hard. Immature seed will not germinate. If you are collecting flower seeds, you have to leave those finished, brown, dead flowers on the plant in the garden or they won't grow seed pods with seeds. Rose hips are seed pods. 

A good example of this is green bell pepper seeds. Green bell peppers are coloured peppers that are picked unripe and they won't often ripen off the plant. Seeds from a green bell pepper will not germinate. If you want to save bell pepper seeds, you have to save them from very ripe coloured peppers, any colour. Any coloured pepper seed will grow green peppers. They are all green on the bush before they ripen. You can buy a very ripe red pepper from the grocery store and grow green bell peppers. In our short season up here, even started early, we only get green peppers from the garden, since there is just not time for them to ripen,  unless they are in a heated greenhouse. I'm ok with that, as we like green bell peppers and eat a lot of them!

Another good example are green beans and peas. If you want the beans for seed, leave those pods on the plant until the pods are paper brown and the beans or peas inside are hard. I know its a hard thing to do when you could be eating them. You have to set aside a certain amount of your garden produce for collecting seed and not for eating. Plant enough seeds for both. 

Let the cabbage or broccoli or kohlrabi flower and go to seed. Let the lettuce and spinach bolt, flower and go to seed. I have left spinach too long and had baby spinach volunteers all over the garden.  I have had baby green onions and cilantro seedlings all over the garden too! I like garden volunteers! Leave those plants alone in the garden. Let them flower and they will reward you with seed.

Corn has to be left on the stalk until its hard. Far too hard to eat, if you want it for seed. 

Most root vegetables won't go to seed the same season they are planted. They usually have to be left in the ground until the next season, when they will flower and go to seed. 

Rule #3 -  Seed Drying: Once you have collected the seed, make sure it is thoroughly dry before storing it. I like to keep large screens to use as shelves for drying seeds and herbs, either indoors with a little ventilation or outdoors in an enclosed porch. If the seeds are too fine for screens, use curtain sheers on the screens for drying. (NOTE:  Solid curtain sheers also make good row covers.) 
If you just have a few seeds, you can spread them out on paper towels to dry. You can dry larger seed with a paper towel before putting on a screen to dry, if they are very wet. 

Once you think those seeds are very dry, store them in paper envelopes, not plastic. Write the seed info on the envelope and put it away in storage with your other paper envelopes of saved and dried seed. Write all the information you have for that seed on the envelope, i.e. name, variety, where you got the seeds, year grown and saved, date started and date harvested, etc. I couldn't possibly remember that information when planting time comes around again. I put them in alphabetical order so I can find them easily next year. At one point I had an entire eight drawer dresser devoted to nothing but seed storage, drawers full of envelopes in alphabetical order, labelled on the outside of the drawer. I had an online seed store that was busy in the spring, so I had an excuse. 

Rule #4: Keep Your Seed Cool and Dry in Storage. This means you cannot keep them over the fridge or in the freezer or outside where it freezes in the winter. Some seeds will be fine frozen and others will have a lower germination rate if you freeze them. Dark is good too. The basement or a bathroom/kitchen is too humid. The top of a bedroom closet where its cool is a good place or a hall linen closet. Store them in a cardboard box in envelopes. They don't need to be stored in plastic if kept in a cool, dry, and dark place. That way you know they will not mold or rot. After a few months it will be safe to put them in plastic or glass for long term, safe storage. Keep in mind that seeds are a good meal for a mouse. Keep them out of rodent reach. A good thing to keep in mind when drying them too. I have lost good seed to mice, squirrels and chipmunks before! 

How to Save Seed: 

Saving seeds from tomatoes and cucumbers: Pick only very ripe fruits from the vine for seed
saving. Honestly, wait until the tomato is soft and over ripe. Wait until the cucumbers have gone from green to yellow to red. Cucumbers are orange or red when fully ripe. We just usually pick them before they get there. Cut and remove the seeds into a container with the juice and maybe a bit of water. Leave it at room temp to ferment and mold. (I put mine outside. It stinks and attract fruit flies.) After a week, go through this stinky, disgusting mess and remove the seeds, usually on the bottom under the mold. Wash them with cold water in a fine sieve, like a tea strainer. Spread out to dry. NOTE: I have read that you can remove this need to ferment by washing the seeds with Comet cleanser in a tea strainer. I do both: ferment for a week or two, then wash gently with Comet cleanser in a tea strainer before drying, just to make sure. My tomato seeds always grow. :)

Saving seeds from berries: Remove the seeds from the berries, wash by rubbing gently in cold water and spread out on a paper towel to dry. Its important to wash them first, as some berries have a substance on the seeds that will prevent the seeds from germinating until it ferments. These can also benefit by washing with Comet cleanser in a tea strainer. 

Saving seeds from squash-pumpkins is easy! Wait until it is fully ripe to pick if you want to save the seeds for planting. Sometimes a squash will ripen even more over the next few months after it is picked, which will make for more mature seed. When its ready, cut it open and remove the seeds. Give them a quick rinse in cold water, dry them off with paper towels immediately and spread out on dry paper towels or screen. Do not leave them wet very long. I label the paper towels they are drying on with the variety. Squash-pumpkin seeds all look very similar. These seeds can be roasted and eaten for a snack, if you have more saved than you will need for next year's garden. 

Saving seeds from brassicas (cabbage family): Cabbages have to be left in the ground until they bolt, flower and then they go to seed. Broccoli florets have to be left to bloom and then go to seed. Turnips/rutabagas have to be left in the ground until they flower and go to seed. (Rutabagas are a cabbage/turnip cross.) Kohlrabi has to grow until it flowers and goes to seed. These are easy if you have the time in the season for them to flower and produce mature seed. 

Saving seeds from peppers: Let the peppers get completely, fully ripe on the plant before you pick them. Cut open and remove seeds. Dry seeds on screen or paper towel. Place into envelope. Easy! 

Not if they are hot peppers! I have grown peppers so hot I had to wear a veil over my entire face, safety glasses and gloves to keep my skin and eyes from burning. I don't grow hot peppers anymore. We don't eat them. They were just for the seed store. Bell peppers are the only peppers we grow now. 

Saving seed from root vegetables: Most root vegetables, i.e. carrots, beets, turnips, onions, garlic, have to be left in the ground over the winter before they will flower and go to seed. This usually happens in their second season of growth, or they can be replanted in the spring. Try planting an onion from the store in the spring. It will grow, flower and make seeds. It will take another two seasons for those onion seeds to make harvest size onions. They will make the little baby onions, like the "sets" you can buy, the first year. Dig those up, dry and replant in spring for the big onions. You can try leaving them in the ground over the winter. I don't know if they will survive and return for their second year of growth up here. 

If you grow carrots for seed, keep in mind that Queen's Annes Lace is wild carrot and will cross with the carrots you grow for seed. Keep it pulled near the garden.