Q: I have several questions about seed harvesting. Can most seeds from flowers and vegetables be saved and planted? Or is there a special treatment that is applied to some varieties that makes it impossible? I’ve always saved seeds with success from annuals like calendula, morning glories and four o’clock, and their seed is easy to find. How do I find the seeds on cockscomb? — Cyn Varriano, Fargo.
A: Seed saving is becoming more popular. “Saving seed” is a term sometimes used to mean storing excess, unused seed, by saving it until next year in a closed jar in the refrigerator. Usually, though, the term refers to collecting, or harvesting, seed from currently growing flowers or vegetables for use next year.
There are only a few simple tips. If it’s a hybrid flower or vegetable, created by crossing two parent plants with desirable traits, the seeds formed often don’t “come true” to the original hybrid variety, and future progeny might be inferior. Seed packs or seed catalogs usually designate if a variety is a hybrid.
Non-hybrid plants, called open-pollinated, are usually fine for collecting seeds, and will usually produce plants very similar to the original. Collect seeds only from well-matured flowers or vegetables. Each flower type is a little different in where the seeds are formed. Some types form seed pods, such as petunia. Others, like zinnia seed, are located within the dried flower head itself.
Cockscomb doesn’t produce seed pods, but instead the seeds are produced at the base of the crested flower, as the lower part dries. To harvest the seeds, run your fingers over the dried base of the flower, and the small, shiny black seeds will fall into the palm of the hand.
RELATED COLUMNS: Tree planting guidelines have changed | Kinzler: Ailing Autumn Blaze, Honeycrisp ripeness and wasps in the wall | Kinzler: Hosta heartache, squash harvest and houseplant gnats | Kinzler: Tomato troubles, dandelions, stinging nettle response | Kinzler: Groundcover ID, prolonging daylily bloom and radish bugs
Q: What do you recommend for quackgrass control in a lawn? Anything new? — John Kringler, Fargo.
A: Recommendations for quackgrass control in lawns unfortunately haven’t changed. There are no products currently available that will selectively remove quackgrass from lawns without damaging desired grass. A specific herbicide for quackgrass would be amazing.
Digging is nearly impossible, as the whitish rhizomes spread profusely. Glyphosate (original Roundup) can be applied to kill infested areas, then wait for any regrowth before applying once again, followed by reseeding.
Lawn management techniques can make the Kentucky bluegrass healthier, which can diminish the quackgrass somewhat, such as mowing at a 3-inch height, fertilizing in September and May, letting clippings filter back into the lawn and watering deeply and less frequently.
Q: I have a question regarding my apple trees. Six or seven years ago, I planted two different varieties, but can’t remember the names. Two years ago, they finally bloomed and are beautiful. One has pink flowers and the other white. They develop small, red, hard, pea-sized fruit, and I was so excited that I would finally be getting apples.
Well, no such luck, as the apples remain that small size. Do you know why this is happening? The trees are healthy and beautiful when flowering. My neighbors have an apple tree also and it produces very well. — Kim D., Fargo.
A: If the trees are producing tiny red fruit, I'm afraid they won't bear larger eating-sized apples. Your trees are most likely ornamental flowering crabs that typically have small, or no, fruit. They might have been mislabeled by the wholesale grower or at the garden center and mistakenly sold as eating-type apples. The leaves of many varieties of ornamental crabs and fruiting apples look very similar.
Apple trees are grafted, and it's possible the grafted portion died, and the below-graft rootstock took over. If the trees are bearing little fruits, that's the size and type that they will remain for the life of the trees. Your neighbor's apple tree is a regular eating-type variety. On a positive note, you have two very beautiful ornamental yard trees.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.