Category: Seeds

Microgreen seeds

When my pea crops stopped producing, I allowed those pods that had become to mature to dry on the vine. When shelled, this yielded 3 lbs of snow pea seeds and 2 lbs of shelling pea seeds. I will use these to produce microgreen pea shoots over the winter. This amount of seeds purchased commercially would cost $80-$100 including shipping.

Late Blight – Myths and Misinformation

Allegory-of-immortality-1179

Late blight is the nemesis of tomato growers, especially in the damp climate of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Many sources of gardening advice include a lot of misinformation about managing late blight.  For authoritative sources of good information, I recommend:
Managing Late Blight.
Managing Late Blight in Organically-Produced Tomatoes

Myths –

  • Crop rotation is essential because late blight spores survive in the soil over winter. False. Currently, in the US, the late blight pathogen can only survive on living host plant tissue. This is because blight fungi have two different modes of reproduction, only one of which is presently observed in the US. Late blight can reproduce either sexually, or asexually. Sexual reproduction requires the presence of both A1 and A2 mating types (equivalent to male and female sexes). Sexual reproduction produces oospores, which can survive over the winter, in soil for example.  However only the A2 mating type (sex) exists in most of the US.  Therefore, late blight can only reproduce asexually. Asexual reproduction produces zoospores, which are much less hardy than oospores, and can only survive for a few hours outside of living host (tomato or potato) tissue.
  • Seeds from late blight infected tomatoes will produce infected plantsFalse. Late blight zoospores do not survive on tomato seeds.
  • Stakes used for tomatoes must be disinfected before re-use to prevent spread of late blight. False. Zoospores cannot survive for more than a few hours on solid surfaces such as stakes.
  • Late blight infection is caused by spores present in the soil, so contact of tomato plant leaves with the soil must be prevented. False. Zoospores cannot survive in soil. Zoospores are spread almost entirely by air-born dispersal of spores released by living infected plants.

Saving tomato seeds

This is my setup for collecting and drying tomato seeds.  I cut tomatoes in half and squeeze juice and seeds into a small jars or bottles.  These are allowed to sit for 2 or 3 days.  The resulting fermentation releases the seeds from the gel in which they reside in the fruit. It is not unusual for shocking mold growth to occur during the fermentation, but this does not cause any problem.  After fermentation I fill the bottles or jars with water, shake a couple times and allow the seeds to settle.  I pour off most of the liquid, add water and repeat the shaking/settling process. After several cycles of washing in this manner the seeds are completely clean. They are poured into a sieve to remove the water, and then transferred onto a piece of tempered glass, where they are allowed to dry. Drying takes from 1 to 3 days, depending on the temperature and humidity. Usually 1 day is enough if the drying seeds are left outside in the shade on a warm sunny day.

And might I mention, the germination rate for tomato seeds I buy from various commercial sources ranges from 80% to 0% (and I won’t name any names) whereas the seeds I produce myself using the method described invariably have a germination rate of 95%-100%.

Seed dryingOne last piece of advice – tomatoes are self-fertile, so they tend to breed true even if different varieties of tomatoes are grown close together.  My experience with different tomato varieties grown spaced only 3 feet apart is that cross-breeding occurs about 5% of the time, with the seeds faithfully maintaining the characteristics of the plant from which the fruit was picked the remaining 95% of the time.  If you need to be absolutely sure that cross-breeding never occurs (as is necessary for commercial seed production) plants either need to be spaced far apart, or manual artificial pollinization needs to be performed.  A 5% failure rate is perfectly acceptable for home growers – the occasional accidental cross-breeding may even yield an interesting new variety!

 

Merry Seed Day

This is the time of year when our mailbox becomes clogged with seed catalogs.  It is a trap.  The seed merchants clearly share mailing lists.  Purchasing seeds from one merchant will cause catalogs from 5 merchants to show up in the mail. I exercised some self-restraint, and didn’t make purchases from any of these merchants. However, I did go on-line to take advantage of sales prices to purchase a few packages of seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Territorial Seeds.

Seedy Merchants
Seedy Merchants