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Jackie Clay

Q and A: planting early trees and saving tomato seeds

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Planting early trees

I was excited to get the e-mail that my new Apple Trees will be shipping this week until I realized that there is no way all of our snow will be gone before they arrive. I ordered bare root trees from Fed-Co. Can you give me some advice on how to keep them healthy until I can get them in the ground?

Justin Dinger
Barnum, Minnesota

I got the same e-mail about ours! This has happened before and the first time I about had a panic attack. But I opened the package and checked the root packing; it was moist. So I re-wrapped the plastic and put the trees back in the box and set them in our unheated basement in the dark. Two weeks later, the snow was gone and I was able to plant my trees. If you have any dirt in your garden showing up and unfrozen, you can dig a shallow trench and set the trees’ roots in it, piling the dirt back over the roots. This is called “heeling” them in and will also keep them in good shape until you can plant them. I know our snow and frost is going fast so yours must be on the way, too. Hang in there! — Jackie

Saving tomato seeds

Does your Victorio strainer work to separate out tomato seeds when you’re saving those seeds to grow? The pictures in the ads always show a hopper full of raw tomatoes, does it really work with raw or do they have to be cooked? (I had decided to start my own seed company about a week before you announced yours. Talk about timing! But last fall it took so much time to chop tomatoes by hand to extract the seeds. Since I’m expanding the garden this year, I’m hoping there’s an easier way.)
 
Also, there’s a tomato variety that I’ve been growing from cuttings taken off an indoor plant. It’s a great variety, amazingly drought-resistant, but because it was a volunteer I have no idea if it’s a hybrid, or even what the name of it might have been. How many generations of seed should I grow out before I can tell if it’s a hybrid or not. (Or, if it was a hybrid, when is it sufficiently “de-hybridized” to be safe selling the seed?)

Melanie Rehbein
Fitchburg, Wisconsin

The Victorio strainer does separate seeds and peels from raw tomatoes but I’m not sure if they are damaged so they might not germinate. I’m going to try some this year so ask again in the fall. I’ve heard that some seed savers use a blender to whiz whole tomatoes and then ferment the juice/slop/seeds (which are not supposed to be damaged. That sounds radical but maybe that would work, as well. I will also try that and let you know. For now, I cut my tomatoes in quarters and use my thumb to “milk” out the seeds and gel into a bowl. It really goes pretty fast that way.

Usually after 4-5 generations, even if you started out with a hybrid, selecting true-to-type plants/tomatoes each time you save seed, you will end up with a pretty much stabilized variety you can then name. I would mention that there could be off types and to advise folks to rogue out them if they intend to save seed. Hey, it happens… Good luck with your seed business! — Jackie

3 Responses to “Q and A: planting early trees and saving tomato seeds”

  1. Ellendra Says:

    “I’ve heard that some seed savers use a blender to whiz whole tomatoes and then ferment the juice/slop/seeds (which are not supposed to be damaged.”

    Their blenders must be slower than mine. Mine purees the seeds too quickly to save them. I tried with a standing mixer, but that just threw tomato bits all over the room. I saw a hand-cranked ice crusher that might do the trick, but the one I saw had some damage to it so I didn’t buy it.

    For tomato seeds, I use Oxyclean instead of fermenting them. About half a teaspoon of Oxyclean to 2-3 cups of tomato “slop”. Let soak for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes, then rinse. It cleans the seeds nicely, without the smelliness of fermenting them. Last fall I tried it with squash seeds, and while it didn’t do much for the strings, there was a lot less chaff after the seeds dried.

  2. jackie Says:

    Ellendra,

    Thanks for your input on using the blender. I kind of wondered about that but read it in a reputable seed-saving book. So much for that!
    The reason you ferment the tomato gel is to prevent disease spread and to neutralize the anti-sprouting gel that surrounds the seeds. Have you had good luck with your Oxyclean seeds germinating after storage?

  3. Ellendra Says:

    The only problem I’ve had with germination is once when I didn’t get them dry fast enough, and they all started sprouting then and there!

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