This time of year brings with it a gradual descent into a new season; autumn.  Now for me, this has always been a sad time of year; everything is dying and going silent…asleep.  It was also when school started back up and for me, for many years of my younger life, I hated school and grew to associate the falling of leaves with having to go to that dreaded place called school.  But since being liberated from such places (even after getting advanced degrees—what was I thinking???), I have slowly warmed back to the season that is this time of year.  Finally.

As the flowers and fruits and veggies planted in spring die away, they leave their old bodies to be discarded into the compost heap, which is where they go.  But many also give up a great gift; seeds.  I hear a lot of complaining about Monstanto and the whole seed issue.  I say that the more we each value and save our own seeds, the less any Monsantos will be able to thrive.  I know that for Monsanto they are focused more on the commercial farmer, but this is something that I think is a cultural phenom; change it in one place and it tends to grow into other localities (like the heads on the farmers bodies!)  We will simply value the natural biological diversity of what Mother Nature has supplied us over millions of years of her own tinkering that anything so quickly whipped up in the labs of Monsanto would be considered the horrendous gamble with the planet that they really are.  So lesson learned?  Save your seeds!

Last year I bought six raspberry plants from my local nursery.  I got a variety known as Caroline.  I prepared the bed carefully and amply.  I added compost and made sure it was well tilled.  The plants have had an interesting first year.  They have not doubled, but quadrupled in size in number of plants from just last year.   I am thrilled!  However, I am also impatient….and counting my pennies, so instead of buying new root stock in the Spring, I will be doing something that no one seems to be talking much about; starting raspberry plants from SEED!

I don’t know anyone who has done this.  But I am going to do it.  I mean, things COME from seeds, right?  It makes sense that I could grow an incredible crop of raspberries.  If I manage to get 50% germination out of the seeds I have saved from my plants, it would mean that I would have enough plants to create a patch of raspberries that in two years would be producing enough raspberries that I would be able to can preserves for the winter.  There are VERY few things that I actually like canned.  Veggies I don’t care for being canned, but fruit I like.  Perhaps its the sugar content, right?  But think of it; hundreds of new raspberry plants, growing from little sprigs in what used to be the room where I did all my writing and that also gets all of the sun during the day.  It is like a greenhouse in there.  THAT will be where the new plants will go and it is also where I start all my new plants ahead of the planting season, usually in February.

Raspberries are great because they are so easy to cultivate.  It seems they are not picky about the soil at all and they like to spread.  I try to use only my compost that I make each year for my plants but I did start the bed with a dash of 10-10-10 for good measure.  I think based on how they have grown and spread, its been something that has paid dividends.

The process of growing raspberries from seed is tricky.  With a hard outer shell, the seed is designed, it would seem, to do best in the gut of a bird prior to being shat out.  It is the acidic treatment in the gut of the bird, it has been suggested, that helps speed the germination of the seed.  That might be an old wives tale, but it sure sounds like it could be right.  This is to say that such seeds take a while to germinate.  I am told they can take several months to do so.  During that time I must keep the beds moist but not TOO moist….otherwise the seeds will ROT.  Not a good thing, it seems, for such a tender little life. So be sure to use a starting medium which often is made up of sphagnum and some other potting soil ingredients to keep the seed properly wet but supported nutritionally for when it counts.

For those who are curious, raspberries are allowed to fall apart in a dish for a few days.  If you let them sit the juice will dry up and you will have a fairly dessicated seed remaining that can be washed some to strip it of the pithy fruit around it.  This seed is then placed in growing medium and kept damp for about three months in a dark room which is the time and conditions under which raspberry seeds are said to germinate.  Fingers crossed!  If this works, I will be up to my neck in raspberries and folks will have to come help me pick them.

The compost heap is now over grown with a fall planting of mustard greens, something that I fancy for a fall garden.  It is also one of the FEW things that can handle the winter weather.  They get covered so they will overwinter some!  As those tender shoots keep coming on during the warm then cold days that are ahead of us in the yo-yo that is Fall,   I will be planting hundreds of new little raspberries in small pots indoors and hoping for the best.  Thus far the two fig twigs are on their way to becoming honest to goodness fig tree bushes (our variety that grows best is a brown turkey), and I am dreaming of what other things I can add to the panoply.  The flower bed is now being razed, dead branches go everywhere as I fill up my wheelbarrow and head for the compost heap.  I have more seeds from those flowers than I think I have room for!  Anyone want some really great seeds for spring?

Fall is shaping up nicely.  Just in time to cut some firewood for the stove.  I might have not liked autumn in my youth, but I will forgive it that for the wood fires it brings into my life.  That alone is well worth the trip around the wheel once again.