Sunday, January 27, 2013

Milk Jug Mania! Winter Sown and Maple Syrup

I had a friend visit last night, and the poor dear had to wade through a sea of milk jugs in my kitchen to even sit down for a cup of tea! Myself, my family and friends have been saving milk jugs for some projects, and I am in the middle of trying to get them all cleaned out and sterilized. I have plans for them!

milk jugs ( a FRACTION of collected milk jugs… seriously, this is just a few)

My sweet soul sister Rita, gave me a link for a method of germinating seeds called Winter Sown. Perhaps you already know about this, but it was new to me. I plan on trying it this year! I have been spending part of the day writing down and determining the germination needs for the seeds that I do have. Some of these plants are already in the garden and I just want to increase their numbers, some are new. I have a confession… I have a horrible track record with medicinal seeds! There is absolutely no way to germinate here in the house. Lack of space and too many kitties being the main reasons. I bought a little outdoor greenhouse for cheap at a flea market a couple years back, and did so so with that method… I would love to have some cold frames outdoors, but until we finish taking down the pine tree on the south side of the house, again no real good space for that idea. So this year, I think the Winter Sown idea using milk jugs is an option to try…

Now, not all of these seeds will break germination with cold temperatures, and some require the cold stratification, but then warmth… so determining which to plant up now, which to wait till early or mid spring is taking a bit of research and time to plot out….

seed list

So far, it looks like I can start now with the Winter Sown method.

Cowslip-Primula veris

Sweet Cicely  - Myrrhis odorata

Cascade Huckleberry – Viccinium deliciosum,

American licorice – Glycyrrhiza lepidota

On the Winter Sown site, they give clues, or key words that might be on your seed packets or catalogue, that might indicate the seeds are appropriate for this method. These lists are taken from the Winter Sown site:

Reseeds or Reseeding
Will Colonize
Hardy, Hardy Seeds
Can be direct sown early.
Seedlings can withstand frost.
Sow outdoors in late autumn or early winter.
Sow outdoors in early spring while nights are still cold or cool.
Sow outdoors in late winter.
Sow outdoors in early spring while nights are still cold or cool.
Sow outdoors in early spring while frosts may still occur.
Name includes 'weed', like butterfly weed, joe pye weed, jewel weed, milkweed.
Needs pre-chilling, freeze seeds, refrigerate seeds, stratify for x amount of days.
Stratify, Needs Stratification

Look for names that indicate origin in temperate climate

Siberia or Siberian
China or Chinese
Polar, Arctic or Artica
Alpine, Alpina or Alpinus
Oriental or Orientale
Caucasian or Caucasica
Canadian or Canadensis
Russian or Camschatcensis, etc. (indicating Soviet origin)
American or Americana
European or Europa

More ideas to think about when considering whether the seed is a candidate

Think about your own garden, think about your neighborhood gardens too.

Do you find plants that have volunteered each spring and shown up as seedlings that you didn't sow? These are all good choices for Winter Sowing. (Let's say that your orange marigolds have returned in spring as volunteer seedlings. You can be pretty well assured that gold, lemon or mahogany, African or French varieties will also reseed. When it comes down to it, a marigold is a marigold is a marigold.

Go to a local Botanical Garden and ask the gardeners which plants reseed there. Any plants they mention would be a good choices for Winter Sowing because the nearby botanical garden has a climate similar to your own garden.

Take a walk at a nearby Nature Preserve to observe the wildflowers, young seedling trees, bushes, vines, etc. All of these plants germinate and thrive outdoors with only Mother Nature to assist them. All of these plants are excellent choices for Winter Sowing.

Following those tips about cold stratification, I add Gaura – Bee Blossom which a friend sent me as a gift for the bees and butterflies to enjoy.

Also these native plants

Prairie Lockspur Violet – Viola pedatifida

Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis

Monkey Flower – Mimulus ringens

Prairie Alumroot – Heuchera richardsonii

Cardinal flower – Lobelia cardinalis

Hibiscus militaris – rose mallow.

And with the tip about country of origin being Europe or Russia, I might plant out half of my Wood Betony – Stachys officinalis seeds and save half for when spring is here.. I don’t have that many of those, so won’t put all my seeds in one basket, or milk jug!

wintersown seeds (the skullcaps will have to wait a bit, I think. I grow lateriflora, but want to try my hand at the other ones too)

So I need to prepare 13 jugs for now. Others I will plant out a little closer to spring. Some in the jugs and some directly in the soil.

spring seeds

The other milk jugs are for a project starting soon.. Maple Tree tapping, also known as Sugarin’ to make our own maple syrup. I adore maple syrup, and sometimes use it for herb cordial making, besides it being awesome on pancakes and cornbread!

In the book, Backyard Sugarin’, by Rink Mann, he suggests there is no need for special containers to catch the sap flow, just use your milk jugs. I like that idea or repurposing. After I am through with them, then they can go into the recycle container.

sugarin book (forgive the glare! My cat Earl Jr. keeps bugging me and I just had to take the picture without worrying about it looking pretty!)

Tap My Trees in a good website to learn more about tree tapping.

Here is a video that shows you how to determine the trees to tap, etc. and shows how easy it is to use the jugs

I will share pictures as I do each of these projects, so stayed tuned! Now I have to get busy stripping bark off these Elder branches I wild harvested yesterday. I am about out of bruise salve, and klutz that I am, I turned my ankle and whacked my arm yesterday, so I need it!


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


Anke said...

Leslie, I used the milk jug method for my green onion seeds and it worked out very well! I didn't even sterilize the jugs, just washed them well and then set them outside. I kept them close to the house to "catch" any extra heat and sort of keep out of the elements and can only recommend it. Good luck, looks like you have lots of seeds to get started. :-)

Comfrey Cottages said...

Thank you for sharing, Anke! that was the encouragement I need ;) Thanks for the luck too xx

Sarah Head said...

Fascinating post, Leslie. Let us know how you get on. I really envy you your ability to make maple syrup. It is one of Chris' favourite things and it's sad we can't grow sugar maples over here.

wildcraft diva said...

Busy, busy. Thanks for sharing. I feel so lazy. That's why I like wild plants - much less work! I am tempted to try however, even if I haven't got very green fingers or thumbs(as they say here).

Comfrey Cottages said...

I plan on keeping up with the blog better this year, Sarah. With that in mind, I will post as I do the seed plantings in the jugs and take pictures as they progress. Do you have other types of maples? They don't have to be sugar maples! The sugar maples just have a higher sugar content to their sap, so I think they boil down quicker. Not sure about that bit, but I do know you do not have to use exclusively sugar maples! If I do good with it, I will send Chris a jar :) xx
Oh WD, I like wild plants better too! I am a dismal failure at herb seed starting, as I confessed to.. hopefully this improves my chances. I also confess that some of my herb gardens plants were bought plants and the rest, seeds that just are easy to plop in the ground like so many veg seeds:) lol!! xx