To check to see whether seed is viable, Upham advises placing 10 seeds on a paper towel moistened with warm water and covering them with a second moist towel. Roll up the towels and place them inside a plastic bag with enough holes for air exchange but not so many that the towels dry quickly. Place the bag in a warm place such as the top of the refrigerator. Remoisten towels with warm water as needed. After the first week, check for germination. Remove sprouted seed and check again after another week. Add these numbers together to determine the percent germination.
Be especially on the lookout for mouse tunnels around fruit plants, Upham says. “Trunks and roots of apple trees are among the favorite meals for mice,” he says. “There is probably no damage yet. But if we receive enough snow to cover winter food supplies, mice will begin to feed on the lower area of tree trunks and roots. This feeding may be severe enough to girdle tree trunks and kill the trees.
“Mice like to hide in dead grass and weeds around the trees, especially close to the trunks. They will often tunnel near the soil surface and feed on the tree bark. You can check for mice by placing baited mouse traps in PVC or other pipe near your trees. Insert the traps far enough into the pipe so that pets are unable to reach the trap. Check the stations about once a week and reset traps if necessary. Mouse damage can be severe enough to kill trees that are old enough to bear fruit. Clear dead grass and weeds away from your trees and monitor for mice if you are using mulch around your fruit plants.”
There will be no more lunchtime lectures this year at Botanica. The first one next year will be Jan. 9.