all about seeds
18 May 2013, by gj
A lot of confusion surrounds GMO seeds, as the term is now used in reference to Monsanto; and there are many gardeners concerned that they might buy some by accident.
That is simply not possible.
You won’t find GMO seeds this way.
Here’s what you would have to do to get it:
1. Buy a farm. Call up Monsanto and tell them you want to sign that long intense contract that even controls you and your crop after you stop growing GMO. Buy seeds from them, buy Round-up from them. Grow the crop, but don’t save any seeds, or they will sue you.
2. Buy land down wind from a farm that is growing GMO crops that are wind pollinated, like corn. Let them cross pollinate your non-GMO crop. Save the seeds. Just don’t let Monsanto find out, or they will sue you.
3. Buy GMO veggies at the store, like corn or zucchini. Save the seeds and replant. Chances are they won’t grow, because the seed is too immature to germinate. So what if Monsanto finds out? They might sue you anyway.
Here’s the thing to remember, Monsanto doesn’t want you to have their seeds without the contract. They are not in seed packets at your local Farm and Garden. They’re just not.
So usually when someone says they only grow non-GMO, what they probably mean is they are growing heirlooms and open pollinated, not hybrids.
But a hybrid is only a cross between a plant and a similar plant, like a tomato and another, slightly different, tomato. Bees do it naturally, and growers do it on purpose.
A GMO is not plant to plant. It’s a tomato and a fish, or corn and E. Coli.
Really big difference.
The danger of foods containing GMO.
Categories: all about seeds, GMO's, you are what you eat
14 May 2013, by gj
Also known as ‘peat pots’ these seed starting units are simply mesh holding in dried peat. Peat itself is just vegetation that has partially decomposed. Pretty basic.
So why would some of my gardening friends claim they will never use them again? In fact, calling them ‘horrid’ and expressing that they cause the plants to become root bound, stunting growth.
Starting seeds in peat pellets using a re-purposed plastic container.
One of my friends suggested the mesh has been made stronger over time, and that is why the peat pellets no longer work.
Squash seedling one week old.
We found this interesting because we would swear by the pellets after starting a lot of seeds in them this year. The roots were coming out the bottom and sides, though many were still in the mesh. It was easy enough to tear open when the time came to transplant. Our tomatoes were well over 18″ tall when they went in the ground, and you can see the root growth of a pepper plant below.
Pepper plant ready to go in the garden.
Did we just get lucky and maybe get an old batch, or did we do something different that made them work? Sure wish we knew.
Of course there are so many other ways to start seeds: in pots, in bathroom tissue rolls, in handmade starts formed from newspaper, even hydroponically. Everyone has their favorite way.
For now, we’ll stick with what worked for us.
What’s your experience with peat pots, and what has worked best for you? Please share.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
3 May 2013, by gj
Carrots poking through much earlier.
Pretty much any vegetable gardener will tell you that it takes forever for carrot seeds to sprout. Parsnips take even longer.
Is it coincidence that these, two of the tiniest seeds of edible plants, are the slowest to poke through the soil?
Check out this chart prepared by Heirloom Seeds:
Click here to view the chart.
If you take a look at the best temperatures for germination, you will notice part of the problem.
Carrot seeds are planted early in the spring, long before the soil temperatures reach 75F. Parsnips can germinate at a little cooler soil temperature, but 70F is still much warmer than what the normal planting conditions are.
This year we started basil seeds, which are about the same size as carrots, indoors. They pushed through the soil much faster than they did when they were direct sown. Of course, they were in warmer soil and with even amounts of moisture.
That is the key with all seeds, but especially those that are in cooler soil than what is optimum for growing. And here I always thought it was the small size of the seed that was the connecting factor.
So what can you do? Carrots really don’t like to be transplanted, so starting them indoors is not the answer.
Part of the solution we looked at before, cloching. This simple method of covering the seeded area with plastic will help warm the soil and speed up germination. It also helps hold in moisture, with is the second factor and probably the more important one.
Give your direct sown seeds this kind of attention.
There’s an even easier way to cloche to improve seed germination times. Since you are only covering the seed until you begin to see green leaves, you can just lay the plastic on the ground and simply use some rocks or anything heavy to keep it from blowing away. Clamps will hold it on a raised bed.
And you don’t need to buy fancy plastic. The drop cloth kind you can get wherever house paint is sold works fine.
If for some reason you can’t cloche, at the very least keep those seeds moist until they poke through.
Cloched peas sprouted faster than uncloched.
Our carrots and other early veggies are about a week ahead this year, it would have been more if we thought to cover them earlier.
Now you’ve just learned what it took us 30 years to figure out.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season
28 April 2013, by gj
There are a number of veggies that don’t care to be transplanted and are best sown directly into the garden. These would include the root crops like parsnips and carrots, as well as all the beans and peas. Squash plants, cucumbers and melons are not fond of it, but it can be done.
Basil started indoors.
When you start seeds indoors, you have control over the conditions. How much heat and water they receive is up to you.
With direct sown seeds, it’s all in Mother Nature’s hands.
Or is it?
Here they come.
The two things you can control, at least to some extent, are moisture and heat.
Keeping your seeds moist until they poke through the soil is very important. Sure, sometimes spring rains and snows do it for you. When they don’t, it’s up to you to give them a light watering every day until you see the green. Mulching between rows can help hold that moisture longer.
A bit crooked, but it works.
Even though some seeds can take the cold, carrots, peas and parsnips for example, you will still get a faster germination if you can keep them a little warmer. For rows of seeds, a simple cover can be made by bending pvc pipes and covering with clear plastic. This is known as a ‘low tunnel’ and works great. Empty canning jars or clear soda bottles make mini cloches for smaller plantings.
Likewise, plastic can easily be clamped onto a raised bed for a temporary cloche.
Jump-started watermelon from 2012.
Not only will these techniques help you speed up your germination times, they can also give you a jump start on your season, or help towards the end of the year to keep frost off your plants.
If your growing season is at all limited, extending the time you have is worth its weight in produce.
Here’s more info on extending the growing season.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening, how to grow
27 April 2013, by gj
If you look on the back of most seed packets they will tell you and sometimes even provide you with a visual of how deep to plant that seed.
But what if you are relatively new to gardening and you save your own, or are given, saved seeds?
It’s easy, actually, just take a minute to think about it.
Small seeds: Those itty bitty ones like carrots, cabbage, basil and mint. Plant these about 1/4 inch deep. Some gardeners just scatter them about, then brush with their hands to lightly cover with soil. Watering then gets them down about as much as you need.
Medium seeds: Cantaloupe and cucumber seeds, and others about the same size, should be planted about 1/2 inch into the soil. for these just make a little row with your fingertip, plant and cover.
Larger seeds: Peas and beans have seeds even a toddler can easily handle. Plant these 1 inch or so deep. We use a trowel or dowel to make a row, or stick a finger into the soil about the first knuckle deep if we are only planting a few seeds.
Now then, do you see a pattern? The larger the seed, the deeper it goes in.
My Dad told me once “Plant your seeds twice as deep as the size of the seed.”
My brain, off on a tangent as it is so often prone to do, interpreted that as ‘Half the distance to the goal.’
Okay, I admit it’s odd my brain would choose a sports analogy.
But if the goal is how deep to plant the seed, then the size of the seed is half the distance.
Easy to remember, and you never need to read a seed packet again.
Well, I guess you do if you want to know whether that bean is a pole or bush type; or if your cabbage seed is early or late season variety.
At least you can skip over the seed planting stuff and get right to what you need to know.
There you go, now you have more time to play in the garden.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
24 March 2013, by gj
However you started your seeds inside, you will still need to get them ready for the real world in your garden.
Here’s what to consider:
- If you used a fan to help strengthen their stems, you have taken one step in the right direction.
- Likewise, if they were exposed to some real sunlight in addition to artificial lights they will be more prepared.
- If you have watered them by hand rather than wicking, the seedlings will be better able to handle nature’s method of providing moisture in an inconsistent manner.
- If you have totally pampered your seedlings don’t worry, they will just need a little more time out in the elements to get ready.
The process is simple:
- On a nice calm day when the temperatures are over 50 degrees F., set your trays outside in a protected spot; away from direct sun, rain, winds and predators. Leave them there for a few hours, then return them indoors.
- Continue to do this every day, increasing the time they are out by an hour or so each time. Inch them out of the protected area and into the open, though still away from predators, a little at a time. Eventually they will be out in the sun and breezes all day.
- This process should last a week or two, depending on how ready the plants were.
- When the time is right to transplant, try to choose a mild overcast day. If you must transplant on a sunny day, cover the plants with inverted pots or shade cloth just to help them get settled in.
Here’s more specifics on Transplanting Tomatoes.
Categories: all about seeds, gardening, how to grow, techniques
16 March 2013, by gj
Previously we looked at How to Start Seeds Indoors, but knowing and doing are not always the same things.
Come to the light.
Stuff happens, so here’s what to do:
1. Damping off.
If the stems of your little seedlings start to get thin at the bottom, if you see spots on their leaves, and/or if they simply fall over and die, you may have this condition. The sight of mold as your seedlings emerge from the soil may also be a symptom. Here prevention is key. You can use sterilized seedling mix, some gardeners even bake their seedling mix as a preventative measure. Be sure all pots and tools are also sterile, and use only clean water. Keep the seeds as warm as possible and don’t over water them. As with mold below, be sure to have good air circulation.
This fungus, whether it is green or white, is not an uncommon freeloader where there are any damp conditions. When it happens to older seedlings it is less fatal. The best way to deal with it is to give the seedlings some air. If your trays are covered, uncover them. Put a fan nearby to get some air circulation, or if the weather is warm enough, put them out.
Water your seedlings less, and if possible, from below.
If the mold is spreading, separate the infected plants from the others. Treat by spraying lightly with a natural fungicide like Neem oil.
Failure to germinate.
3. Bad Germination
Failure to germinate can be a sign of damping off or it may just be you have bad seed. This year we had two sowings, 8 plants each, of one tomato and one pepper that did not sprout any seedlings. We’ll chalk that up to immature seeds being saved.
Remember also that some seeds just take longer than others, so don’t give up too soon. In the picture above, all seeds were started at the same time, including the ones that have already been transplanted. All the peppers and tomatoes we planted took longer than any of the cole crops, for example.
Seedlings slower to germinate compared to others of the same batch may not produce as well as their flat-mates. Consider this when choosing which plants to put into the garden.
Probably the most common problem faced by gardeners is seen in long, thin stemmed seedlings. This is caused by the light source being too far away from the plants. The recommended distance for starting seeds is 4 inches, so get it as close to this as you can. Here again, the fan you were using for air circulation will also help the seedlings to develop stronger stems.
If you are new to starting your own seeds, don’t sweat it if you have problems. Even more seasoned gardeners have probably dealt with all these issues at some point, and may still be doing so. Eventually you get a system that works for you, so keep at it.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
23 February 2013, by gj
Whether you prefer heirlooms to hybrids, or plant a combination of both, you may want to get the most veggies from each plant possible. Certainly if you share your produce, sell it, and/or preserve it, this will be the case.
The best place to start is at the beginning, with the variety you choose.
Prolific zucchini produces twin male flowers.
Some varieties that produce well are easy to spot; it’s generally in the name of the plant. We planted Cashflow zucchini last year, what were we thinking? Even with the attack of the bunnies we were still giving zucchinis away.
Look for names that indicate something similar, such as Provider green beans, Olympian cucumbers, and Megaton leeks from Johnny’s Select Seeds.
Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds also offers many varieties of above average producers, including Contender bush green bean, Giant of Naples cauliflower, and Prosperosa eggplant.
Terms such as early may indicate the plant has a shorter growing season, giving you a little more time to get another crop in. Watch this one though, it may also mean it produces sooner, but not necessarily more or finishes up faster. Read the body of the description. Look for terms like High Yield and Prolific.
Is there a list somewhere that clearly states Best Veggie Producing Varieties? I wish. In reality, that can’t happen.
What produces the most in your garden might be different than what happens in mine. There’s that whole weather thing we have to deal with.
Ask around the neighborhood or at your local cooperative extension if you have one. Keep notes like ‘Did well is spite of the drought’ so it will be easier to remember how each plant fared.
As for Cashflow zucchini, think long about that one.
For some tips on the subject, you can pick up our book on Kindle How to Reap the Most From What You Sow on Amazon here.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening
10 February 2013, by gj
There are about as many ways to start seeds inside as there are gardeners, with a few basics we all need to consider.
You’re trying to fool your seeds into thinking it is spring, when the sun is closer and the days are longer. You can do this with any ‘cool’ light bulb such as a fluorescent light, supplemented with natural light if possible. Some gardeners leave the light on 24 hours/day, but we personally prefer to turn them off at night. Place your light as close to the seedlings as possible, about 2-4″ is best. If they have to stretch towards it they may get leggy which is indicated by long thin stems. This can cause your seedlings to fall over and die.
Adjustable lighting works well for us, as we can raise the fixture up as the seedlings progress.
You’ll need the most warmth when the seeds are germinating. Up to a point, the warmer the seeds are the faster they will sprout. We don’t use supplemental heat personally, but rather germinate in an area of the house where there is a heater. You can buy heating mats, or check out some of the homemade set ups using strings of lights or heating pads. Always use necessary precautions of course.
Seed Starting Medium
Again there are a few options to choose from. You can buy Jiffy Pellets, we have found them to be inexpensive and work well. You can also buy prepared seed starting mix, and use anything from homemade paper pots to 1/2 toilet tissue rolls turned into pots. Some people prefer to make their own mix, most often by combining peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. This is light enough for the seeds to push through, while also holding in some moisture. You can also add a small amount of fertilizer if you wish.
Homemade seed starting tray
We have killed more seedlings by forgetting to water them than anything else. Once they are established plants they can take some neglect, until then these little babies are like any othera and need attention.
Many gardeners either cover the seed trays with a plastic lid or plastic wrap, thus creating a greenhouse effect and holding the moisture in longer. You can also keep them moist by using a clean spray bottle to mist them.
Whatever you do, just don’t let them dry out.
So here’s what to do:
1. Determine what, how, where and when to start seeds.
2. Place in growing medium and moisten.
3. Cover and keep warm, moist and close to the light.
One last tip I was given: Having a fan blowing nearby can help your seedlings develop stronger stems.
Here’s a guide for when to start seeds. Just mark your last spring frost date on your calender, and count backwards.
Here in Zone 5/6 and with the use of a cold frame and mini greenhouse to help extend our season, we will be starting seeds next week.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
8 February 2013, by gj
Part of the fun of growing edibles is trying new things, whether it’s a new variety of an old stand by, or something completely different.
Here are a few of things we’ll be trying when the weather breaks:
A lot of nutrition in little packets.
Wheatgrass is well known for his high nutrient content. Not only is it used for juicing, it’s also quite decorative as an indoor or outdoor plant.
Since it’s grass, it’s probably also quite easy to grow, right?
We first heard of sorrel in the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers when the female lead Jane Powell exclaims “Sorrel… it makes real nourishin’ soup.” Sorrel is high in Vitamins A, C and B9. Although it has a similar nutritional content to spinach, sorrel does not like the cold. It is a good summer crop to follow your cool weather greens.
Three new varieties of beans.
The Blue Speckled Tepary Beans are a dry bean that is wonderfully drought tolerant. We use much more dry beans than green beans in the Jones household, as they are a tasty and easy to store source of protein. To be honest, the name of this particular variety caught my eye. There is not nearly enough ‘blue’ in the garden.
One of my favorite cartoon characters as a kid used to love the expression ‘suffering succotash.’ Are you old enough to remember? I was well into adulthood before I found out what he was referring to.
Alabama Blackeyed Butter Beans are a productive variety of Lima bean that we’re hoping likes corn as much as we do.
Can you have too many dry black beans?
That’s a rhetorical question.
This year we’re trying Mike the Gardener’s Black Valentine bean… the name reminded me of a Billy Idol song. I’m not sure why, exactly.
When peas are beans.
Cowpeas are beans? Who knew? And… what’s a cowpea?
A plant more common in southern gardens, cowpeas can add fabulous variety to your homemade dishes.
They are bit scary when described as ‘a good cover crop to kill off weeds’ by Baker Creek Seeds, but as I understand it, that is when they are planted closer together.
They can be eaten like snap beans when the pods are young and still tender, or harvested later like a dry bean.
This should be interesting!
Have you even grown any of these? We would love to hear about it!
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow