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Intro to Organic Gardening & Seed Saving for Beginners. Ben Casteel of Appalachian WildSide and VHCC. Siting an Organic Garden. Factors to keep in mind USDA Hardiness Zone : 6b (-5° to 0° F) Climate Zone : Appalachian Mountains
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Intro to Organic Gardening & Seed Saving for Beginners Ben Casteel of Appalachian WildSide and VHCC
Siting an Organic Garden Factors to keep in mind • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6b (-5° to 0° F) • Climate Zone: Appalachian Mountains • Growing season: May to late Oct. Thanks to greater elevation, summers are cooler and less humid, winters colder (0 degrees to -20 degrees F/-18 degrees to -29 degrees C) than in adjacent, lower zones. Rain comes all year (heaviest in spring). Late frosts are common. • Microclimate: N: cool, wet E: AM sun W: PM Sun S: warmer, drier • Sunlight:six-to-eight hours of direct sunlight for most vegetables, though there are exceptions. www.suncalc.net • Heat Units: development of both plants and insects is strongly temperature dependent. (Heat Units = ((Maximum Temp. + Minimum Temp.)/2) - Threshold Temp.) • Weather: Prevailing Winds, rainfall, storm protection. • Crop Rotation: Crucial to Organic Gardening
Soil Fertility • Test your Soil! • Pay attention to: • Fertility: Macro and micronutrients • pH: Most garden vegetables do best within a pH of 6 - 7 • Contaminants: Pb, As, NO4, NO3 • Drainage: Be sure that soil drains well and water does not pool up in your garden • Amend your Soil! (Lime, Compost, Minerals) • Constantly improve your soil (cover crop, rotate crops, add Organic Matter!
Indoor Seed Starting • Count backwards from the Safe Zone (last or first frost date) + germination period • Start in any container with proper potting mix (light, holds moisture) • Provide Light, heat, and water and watch seeds germinate • Keep plants well-labeled! • At appropriate size, transplant to larger container or into the garden if danger of frost has past • Pay attention to seed packets about days to flowering, and days to eating and ensure that your climate is proper! • Use season extension methods (pay attention to next slide) to get an earlier start.
Planning & Growing • Planning: • Use old fashioned pen and paper or a fancy garden planner (check out southern exposure’s) • Keep records of pests and notes on varieties and resistance to solve future problems. • Plan for Timing & Succession Sowing to get the most out of your space. Think Spring, Summer, Fall. • Plan for Seed Saving! • Keep crops weeded: • Mulching (straw, bark, newspaper) • Companion planting (beans & taters) • Season Extension • Cold Frames • Row Cover • Hotbeds • Water walls • Cloches
Why Save Seed? • Connecting to the past • Preserving heirloom and heritage varieties • Continuing a living history • Appalachia: America’s most diverse foodshed (many varieties endangered) • A window to the future • Select for traits you desire • Adaptation! • Lessen reliance on catalogs and breeders • Increase local food security • Learn: • About the life cycles of plants • More about yourself • Because it’s fun!
Why are some seeds more difficult? • Seed saving is easy (usually) • Flower structure • Selfers vs. Crossers • Pollination • Insect / Wind • Lifecycles • Annuals vs. Biennials • Genetic makeup • Open-pollinated vs. Hybrids:OP varieties: no restricion, will produce similar offspring (if everything goes as planned), genetic diversity, variation F1 Hybrids: controlled, deliberate cross-pollination, unstable, not true to type. Can happen in nature (unlike Genetic Modification) • Space Easy and difficult seeds often require more space and time
Pollination • Pollination is the process of pollen landing on the stigma and fertilizing the ovules. Flowering plants are either monoecious or dioecious. • Easy plants to save seed from are self-fertilizers (or selfers): the male pollen fertilizes the female ovule of the same plant. This is the closest possible genetic cross and makes ensuring seed purity easy. They are inbreeding plants that typically are fertilized before the flowers open. Have perfect flowers that have both female and male parts. Examples: legumes, lettuce, and nightshades. • Cross-pollination (crossers) occur when the pollen from one plant fertilizes the ovules of another plant. This increases the genetic diversity of the offspring, which means they are more difficult to save seed from. Often imperfect flowers that have separate male and female flower parts. Examples: beets, squash, corn. • Wind pollination occurs in angiosperms with small, inconspicuous flowers like grasses like corn. • The plant produces huge numbers of pollen grains, which get blown off the anthers by the wind, and occasionally end up on the female parts of another plant of the same species. Not very efficient.
Animal Pollination Animal pollination is much more efficient than wind pollination: the animal delivers the pollen directly to the female. Plants that are animal pollinated are often out-breeders. Bees, butterflies, wasps, birds, bats Plants attract animals by supplying them with food. Nectar is a sugary liquid secreted by glands at the base of the flower: the animal eats it. Animals also eat the pollen. However, some pollen gets on the animal and gets carried to the next flower, where is gets deposited on the stigma. Plants also supply guiding signals such as flower color, pattern, and scent. Many plants and insects have co-evolved to have one specific pollinator that they attract per species.
What types of Seeds to Save • Super-easy seeds to save • (self-pollinating, minimal space and time, small populations) • Peas & Beans (Legumes) • Lettuce (Asters) • Tomatoes (Nightshades) • Arugula (Brassicas) • Dill (Umbellifers) • Easy seeds to save • Beets and Chard (Spinach family) • Outcrossing Biennials, same spp. • Parsley, Parsnips, Carrots (Biennials with wild relatives) • Peppers (More Isolation) • Difficult seeds • Cucurbits • Brassicas • Corn
Seed Saving Protocol ISOLATION • The minimum distance plants of the same species must be separated in order to avoid crossing. • Distance depends on a multitude of factors. INBREEDING DEPRESSION • Loss of vigor due to low population size. • The less genetic diversity, the more chance there is for susceptibility to disease, weakness, and more • Not as important if you are saving for home use • The more seeds you have from different plants, the more assurance in case of crop failure or pest damage • Minimum population size varies, work with what you have
Super Easy Seeds to Save • Fabaceae: BEAN AND PEA FAMILY (Legumes) • • Harvesting: Allow beans and peas to dry in their pods on plants before collecting and storing. • • Phaseolus vulgaris: Common bean; Pisum sativum: Garden Pea • Solanaceae: Nightshade family (Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes) • Harvesting: Allow fruits to completely ripen, then harvest and wet process and ferment! Solanum lycopersion, Solanum melanogum, Capsicum annuum • • Cross-pollination in the super easy seed class is very low. Multiple varieties can be grown in one garden.• Population needed: 20 plants+ • • Isolation distance needed: 25 - 100’ for home use, 50’- ½ mile commercial Asteraceae : SUNFLOWER FAMILY • Common family members: Artichoke, cardoon, endive, lettuce, salsify, sunflower. • Harvesting: Let the seeds dry on the plant. Collect. • When half the lettuce flowers are fluffy white, remove stalk and place it upside down in a paper bag in a dry place. Let them mature and dry in the bag then clean.
Easy Seeds to Save Making the easy easier • Barrier 1: Life cycle • Biennials • Beets and Chard • Onions • Parsley, Parsnips, Carrots • Selection: Rogue or cull off-types • Digging: may not be necessary for hardy biennials, can also heavily mulch – carefully remove plant • Storing: in a root cellar or similar place with low humidity and little light • Re-planting: in spring • Let go to flower and save seed (may need caging, bagging or other isolation techniques) • Barrier 2: Space • Practice proper isolation • Proper populations for genetic diversity and to avoid inbreeding depression
Difficult Seeds to Save Making the impossible possible • Cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons) • Brassica oleracea (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Cabbage, etc.) • Corn and other grasses (Sorghum, grains) • These crops are not necessarily difficult to save seed from but are labeled so because of the extra steps needed to be taken to maintain purity in the seed crop. • All HIGHLY OUTCROSSING • Barriers such as Isolation distances up to 3 miles! • We must be crafty, smart gardeners to save pure seed from these crops.
Squash Family: Cucurbitaceae The Squash family contains 960 species of mostly annual vines. The most commonly grown garden species include summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), winter squash (C. argyrosperma, C. moschata) cucmbers (Cucumis sativus), melons (Cucumis melo, Citrullus lanatus), and pumpkins (Cucurbita maximus). Flowers are imperfect with male and females in different places and cross-pollinating, and thus are difficult to save seed from with major isolation necessary (in some cases up to 3 miles to maintain purity). They are insect pollinated. Male flowers typically have a longer, thin stem whereas female flowers have a shorter, swollen stem with a noticeable ovary. If not able to isolate in space or time, you must hand pollinate. Grow only one of each species to make isolation easier.
Difficult Examples:Making the impossible possible Cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons) Overcoming the isolation barrier: • Hand Pollination • Select plant • Tape or pin blossom of female flower shut to prevent insect contamination • Select male flower from plant of same variety • Open flower, rub stamen from male flower onto the stigma of the female flower (as pictured). • Tape blossom shut. • Mark fruit that you hand-pollinated with surveyor tape Overcoming the genetic diversity barrier: follow this process for 25 plants, or share responsibility with neighbors
The Seed Saving Library • What is a seed saving library? • A resource for seeds • A resource for education on seed saving • A place to share varieties • A living library that reflects what our community likes to grow and eat • How can you participate? • Check out seed • Save Seed • Return some at the end of the season to make this library self-sustaining
Seed Library Protocol • Save from healthy plants. We must also cull or remove off-types or rogues to keep the varieties uniform. • Save from a number of plants to maintain genetic diversity. • Keep varieties of the same species isolated. • Label shared varieties with as much information as you can. • Save seed that you like and that are within your ability. • Have fun and Learn!