Niagara Falls gardener shares tips on starting tomatoes from seed

front yard in Niagara Falls NY 2011First you notice the color, then you notice the fragrance when you visit the gardens surrounding the home of Barbara and Howard Sperry on Ashland Ave. in Niagara Falls.

Sometimes Barbara likes to shake the lavender and other plants to better enjoy the aroma.

The Sperrys shared their garden, along with many gardening tips, during the Historic Niagara Falls Garden Walk on Saturday, July 16.

The event was presented by the Main Street Business and Professionals Association. Arts in the Park, a multi-art celebration with gardening-related activities, was held in Schoellkopf Park the same day.

Barbara starts many of her plants, including tomatoes, from seed. Starting tomatoes from seed is something many gardeners feel is too difficult to do without a greenhouse, but backyard in Niagara Falls NY 2011Barbara doesn’t even use grow lights.

She says the trick to starting to tomatoes from seed is to let the seeds ferment. Here are her instructions:

  • When you’re eating a tomato and find one that’s especially delicious, scoop out some of the seeds.
  • Wash the seeds in a colander.
  • Put the seeds in a Mason jar with just enough water to cover them. Close the lid tightly.
  • Shake the jar every so often to prevent the seeds from floating to the top.
  • Mold will form on the seeds, which is what you want.
  • Let the seeds dry.

“That’s a Kentucky thing,” Barbara said. She often spent time with relatives there in hollers where there was no TV, so there was plenty of time to learn about growing plants.

garden seating in Niagara Falls NYThe Sperrys have many spots from which to enjoy their gardens. The front porch, seen in the first photo, offers a view of the lovely garden that takes up the entire front yard.

The Sperrys’ backyard is long and narrow. In the photo above right, you can see the wonderful path through the garden full of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Beyond it is a grassy lawn with a swing, which in early summer is covered with wisteria blooms.

Another lovely spot is above left, amidst the flowers. The table beside the chair is a tree stump topped with a stone slab. witch's hat in garden in Niagara Falls NY

Barbara spends enough time weeding the garden that her pointer finger on her right hand gets stained. Here’s another of her tips: use a toothbrush to scrub the stain off.

Displayed throughout the garden are witches’ hats, such as the one at right, and other garden decorations with a witch theme. Barbara uses them to express her religious beliefs– she’s Wiccan.

She hesitated before explaining the significance of her ornaments because not everyone understands her beliefs.

“We’re very nice people– we really are!” she said.

toy to scare rabbits in Niagara Falls NY“Basically, this is what it’s all about,” Barbara said, gesturing to take in her whole garden. “Give back to Mother Earth what she gives to you.”

Hers is a very peaceful and nature-loving religion, with its major teaching being “harm none,” she explained. It also has a belief, similar to karma, that what you do, positive or negative, will come back to you. butterfly in Niagara Falls NY

Scattered throughout the garden are small plastic animals that are placed there for a a very practical purpose– to scare away the rabbits. Barbara says the rabbits seem to be afraid of the toys and stay clear of her garden. Above left, a dinosaur guards the territory between some purple alyssum and sedum.

Other visitors to the garden, such as bees and the butterfly on the lavender at right, are more welcome. Barbara loves sitting in the garden with the bees buzzing around and the smell of the dirt rising up to her.

“I don’t know how anyone couldn’t love it,” she said.





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