Soaking Seeds Before You Sow

How To Soak Seeds Before Planting And The Reasons For Soaking Seeds

By Heather Rhoades

Soaking seeds before planting is an old-time gardener’s trick that many new gardeners are not aware of. When you soak seeds before planting, you can significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for a seed to germinate. Let’s look at the reasons for soaking seeds and how to soak seeds.

Reasons for Soaking Seeds

What happens to seeds when you soak them? Why should you soak your seeds?

The short answer is because your seeds were designed to be abused. Mother Nature is not kind to a little seed. In the wild, a seed can expect to encounter harsh heat and cold, very wet or dry conditions and may even need to survive the acid-filled digestive tract of an animal. In short, seeds have developed over millions of years with defenses to survive awful conditions. But in your modern day garden, a seed is relatively pampered. Soaking seeds before planting helps you to break down the seed’s natural defenses against what it expects from Mother Nature, which then allows it to germinate faster.

Another reason is that while Mother Nature actively assaults seeds, she also gave those seeds an internal gauge to help them know when they should grow. For most seeds, moisture levels play a big role in alerting a seed to optimal grow times. By soaking the seeds, you can quickly boost the moisture content around the seeds, which signals to the seed that it is now safe to grow.

And lastly, for some types of seeds, they actually contain germination inhibitors that are designed to prevent a seed from germinating inside the fruit. These inhibitors must be leached away before a seed can germinate. In nature with natural rainfall, this process can take some time. But when you soak your seeds, this process is sped up.

How to Soak Seed Before Planting

Seed soaking, at a basic level needs two things: seeds and water.

Some methods for seed soaking may substitute the water for slightly acidic solutions, such as weak tea or coffee or even acidic chemicals. These acidic solutions are meant to imitate loosely the stomach acid of an animal. But these solutions are not necessary in most cases. For most seeds, water will work just fine.

Take a small bowl and fill it with water from your tap, as hot as your tap will allow. Some seeds can tolerate boiling water, but as the tolerance for heat can vary greatly from species to species, hot tap water is safest for seed soaking.

Once your bowl is filled with hot water, place your seeds inside the bowl, then allow the seeds to stay in the water as it cools down. Common questions at this point include “How long should seeds be soaked?” and “Can you over soak seeds?” Yes, you can over soak seeds. Too much soaking in water and a seed will drown. It is recommended that you only soak most seeds for 12 to 24 hours and no more than 48 hours. The seeds of some species of plants can survive longer soakings, but you should only do this if the specific instructions for this species recommend so.

There are things you can do to improve how well your seeds react to soaking. Large seeds or seeds with particularly hard coats can benefit from scarification before soaking. Scarification means to damage the seed coat in some way so that the water is better able to penetrate the seed. Scarification can be done through several methods. These include rubbing the seed on fine grain sand paper, nicking the seed coat with a knife and even gently tapping the seed with a hammer to help crack the seed coat.

After soaking your seeds, they can be planted as directed. The benefit of soaking seeds before planting is that your germination time will be reduced, which means you can have happy, growing plants faster.


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Plants That Don’t Like Each Other

Occasionally the Creative Garden Patch re-posts what we consider relevant information curated from other sources.  If you like what you read, please consider visiting the source site and checking it out for more useful information and another valuable resource for your successful gardening.  Like the Creative Garden Patch on Facebook to get all of our re-posts.

The following article by Kristi Waterworth is from Gardening Know How.                           

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Incompatible Garden Plants: Learn About Plants That Don’t Like Each Other

By Kristi Waterworth

Gardeners do all they can to keep their plants happy and healthy, but sometimes, no matter what you do, certain plants just don’t go together. Plants that don’t like each other may be responding to different environmental needs, could be in direct competition with one another for major resources or one may attract insects that severely harm the other. Determining plant incompatibility can be a guess and check situation since soil types also have an influence on what plants should not be planted together.

Incompatible Garden Plants

There are a few basic rules of thumb when it comes to plants to avoid near one another. First, check that your garden plants are all about the same size and have the same light requirements. Planting very tall plants like tomato [1] next to bush beans [2], for example, is a very bad idea since the tomatoes will very likely shade out the beans.

When planting taller and shorter plants together, make sure that the shorter plants are spaced far enough away and orientated [3] so the sun will shine on them during the day. Many gardeners solve this problem by putting the shortest plants in their own row on the edge of the garden or planted as a border planting.

Plants that need a lot of water will cause those water haters nearby a great deal of discomfort – the same goes for fertilizer. It’s always a good idea to plant things with similar nutritional and water needs together, unless they’re fiercely competitive. Even then, you can often compensate by spacing them extra wide and providing enough fertilizer and water for both types of plants.

Last, but not least, are the plants that are allelopathic [4]. Allelopathic plants have the capability to chemically impede the vital systems of competing plants. These plants are usually weeds, but many landscape and crop plants have been observed leaving behind allelopathic chemicals. Plant scientists are using these observations to develop better methods of weed control for farms and gardens alike.

What Plants Should Not Be Planted Together?

Many plants are believed to have allelopathic behaviors, but many remain in the realm of garden lore and lack substantial scientific documentation. Research in this area is sparse, but the list of plants believed to have allelopathic properties include:

Black walnuts [14] have long been known to interfere with garden plants like tomatoes, eggplants [15] and corn [16].

When planting broccoli in your garden, make sure that you practice good crop rotation [17] since broccoli can leave behind residue that other cruciferous crops [18] can’t tolerate.

Some plants, like alfalfa [19], seem to exhibit a remarkable type of allelopathy that interferes with the germination of their own seeds.

Garlic [20] and onions [21] are believed to interfere with the growth of beans and peas, but seem to be compatible with most other garden denizens.

Other commonly believed plant incompatibilities include the following plants to avoid near one another:


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Soil – Our Organic Gardening Learning Curve Part I

We have moved in an organic direction with the vegetable gardens for the past five years. We decided that if we are going to grow vegetables it makes sense to make the effort to produce great tasting, nutritious vegetables free of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. It was a moving back to the land kind of idealism of growing and processing our own food that made the concept attractive.
We heard all the excuses about lower production, insects will prevail, and it is too hard to go organic. Our wish to have healthy great tasting food, however put us to work researching garden methods that would be productive, low maintenance, and incorporate organic production.
We decided to start with raised beds. The “upper garden” now has eight raised beds and we have started using Square Foot Gardening. Two years ago the “lower garden” was started. It is a 30’ by 75’ area and is developing as a Raised Row Garden.  A section of the lower garden is for experimenting with other techniques. An earlier post describes our summer 2015 experiments including Straw Bale Gardening.

Lower Garden
Lower Garden

Here are some things we feel are important if you are going organic.
1. Learn about your soil
2. Learn about natural organic fertilizers
3. Learn how to protect your garden and keep it healthy

 

Today’s posting, Part I of our Learning Curve addresses soil.
1. The structure of Soil is the foundation of organic gardening. It is necessary to know as much as you can about the soil’s texture, pH levels, and the eco-system.
Texture relates to the components that make up the soil. The three main components are sand, silt, and clay. The percentage of each in a soil sample will determine the texture of the soil. Soil structure can range from sandy and loose to clay and compacted. Soils high in sand content tend to drain quickly and not hold moisture needed for growth. Soils high in clay content do not drain well and hold too much moisture that can lead to root rot and kill your plants. A “feel” test can help determine your soil texture. Sandy soils will feel gritty and when moist will not clump together. Silt soils feel powdery when dry and will clump loosely when damp. Clay soils will clump tightly when squeezed and will mold together when damp.
Healthy soil also has organic matter supplied by decaying plant and animal waste. Healthy soil has that nice earthy aroma that gardeners thrive on. The organic matter is necessary for plant nutrition and feed for the living micro-organisms living in the soil. Everything from microscopic bacteria, fungi and beneficial insects make up the soils eco-system. The soil needs to be alive! Repeated use of commercial fertilizers over the years can “kill” the soil. The soils eco-system is the basis of organic gardening.

Time to recall your high school chemistry acids and bases. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14 with 7 as the mean. The pH of the soil is important as it will determine the plant’s ability to use nutrients in the soil. Most vegetables need a pH level around 6.5 in order to uptake the available nutrients in the soil. pHHome test kits are available at your garden center to test your soil pH. We test each bed and row every year and plant or adjust the pH accordingly. Adding lime to the soil will raise the pH level decreasing acidity. Adding sulphur to the soil will decrease the pH level decreasing the alkalinity. Be sure that the additive you use is approved safe for organic gardening. More on plants and the effects of pH on nutrient uptake and soil pH modification can be found here.
Soil structure is so important to the success of the organic garden that we constantly amend the soil. Successful organic gardening means making your own compost, lots of it and adding to the growing areas. It means planting cover crops as “green manure” and most importantly, testing and monitoring your growing beds. Always remember to keep records of your results.
The more you improve soil structure the healthier your garden will be. Healthy plants are disease free and less attractive to detrimental insects. The stronger your soil structure the lower the labour needed to enjoy your own nutritious, chemical free fruit and vegetables.
We are still learning and have a long way to go yet. Should you wish to dig deeper into soil structure, check out Phil Nauta at the The Smiling Gardener.

In the next post, we share our learning and experiences with natural fertilizers and tips to keeping a healthy garden.
Still waiting for the snow to go!
Tom and Di

Menu Planting

One of the goals for our garden is to meet our defined needs of fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  We also wanted to meet our food likes and prepare meals from the fresh foods and stored foods from the garden.  Hence the concept of Menu Planting.   We like beet greens, so we plant beets just for the greens two to three times through the season.  We love Hodge Podge so we plant green and yellow bush beans, peas, and an early potato.  We are very fond of a Grilled Caesar Salad. so we plant Romaine Lettuce.  We like eating roasted vegetables, grilled vegetables, love Italian food, enjoy stir fry and of course need salsa.  Menu planting is simply planting for the meals you enjoy.

You can menu plant easily in any garden. A common method is to use a raised bed for specific needs, such as a salad garden, salsa garden, Italian garden, etc. We will have some special beds, but for the most part, our menu planting is throughout the garden.

  1. Salsa Garden – Some vegetables to include in the salsa garden are tomatoes, tomatillos (need two plants for cross pollination), bell peppers, chile peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro.  Your personal taste will determine choices of peppers from mild through super hot varieties.  Use colour, such as red onion, different colour tomatoes and peppers.  Remember, if you want garlic, it is planted in the fall. Here is a sample salsa garden produced with the Garden Planner.

    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)
    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)

Fresh Garden Salsa
Use a medium sized bowl to combine
• 4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
• 1/2 cup minced onion
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
• 1 jalapeno minced or bell pepper for milder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
• 1 lime (juice and zest)
Mix well,  place in the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Enjoy in your garden!

Grilled Vegetables Kosher2. Grilled vegetables – Grilled veggies accompany pretty well all our BQ meals.  Our favourites include asparagus, green beans, carrots, corn, egg plant, onions, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green tomatoes, zucchini and Romaine.  Keep it simple, slice veggies to size, toss in olive oil, add salt and pepper and place on the heated grill.  Grill time varies.  General rule is the harder the vegetable, the more time on the grill.  Check for tenderness and nice grill marks, garnish with chopped basil, oregano, or rosemary and chow down.

Here is a grilled salad that we enjoy.

Grilled Caesar Salad

Ingredients (Serves 8)
Ciabatta Bread
8 – 10 slices pancetta
3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus shaved Parmesan for serving
4 heads romaine hearts, sliced lengthwise in 1/2
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Preheat grill to high.
2. In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Drizzle in 3/4 cup olive oil to emulsify. Add the Parmesan and pulse.
3. Cut ends off bread and save for another use. Cut bread into 16 slices and lightly brush both sides with Caesar dressing.
4. Grill bread for approx. 10 sec. per side or just long enough to toast and pick up grill marks. Remove from grill.
5. Heat pancetta for 10 sec. on each side, (use a pan on the grill)
6. Cut romaine in half length wise, drizzle romaine in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes, until grill marks appear and the romaine becomes wilted.
7. On each of eight salad plates, arrange Romaine lettuce halves, pancetta, ciabatta toasts.
8. Drizzle with dressing, add pancetta, garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve.

3. The Italian Menu – Vegetables needed for our love of Italian food include tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, greens, beans, squash, zucchini, asparagus,   Required herbs are basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley.  Besides enjoying fresh ingredients in our Italian eating, we can tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and beans.  We also dry herbs and garlic for use through the winter.  If you are gardening with children, help them create a pizza garden and of course,  make a pizza from the bounty of their garden.

Here is a link to a sample Pizza Garden.

Plant and grow what your family likes to eat and plan your menus around the food you grow.

Herb garden, stir fry garden, pickling garden?

 

 

 

What we have learned about starting seeds

Depending on where you live, you have either started or getting ready to start seeds for this year’s garden. There is a lot of information available on how to start seeds indoors.  A quick Google search comes up with over 600,000 references on how to start seeds indoors.  So you can get the basics through a quick search.  Today’s blog will be about what we have learned.  What has worked and provided success for our seed starting.
Here are some things we have learned over the years about stating seeds indoors.
1. Resist starting too early  –  Use the “last frost” date as a guide.  A quick check of the Farmer’s Almanac (Canada, US) will present the last frost date for your part of the world. In our case,  around May 20th would be the ”last frost date”.  Using May 20th as our guide, we check journal entries for previous years and determine a planting date.  The planting date is when the seedlings go in the ground or other seeds are direct sown.  For seedlings, it is important to account for “hardening off” in your calculations (7-10 days).   More important than frost date is the soil temperature.  For most of the last 5 years the soil temperature becomes suitable for transplanting May 24th to June 1st.

Plant List from Garden Planer (Enlarge)
Plant List from Garden Planer (Enlarge)

If you use the Garden Planer print out the planting guide for the garden you designed. A Gantt chart showing starting dates, planting dates and harvest dates is produced to guide you through the garden season.

You can download a Seed Starting Planner from The Organic Gardener website to help in your planning.

Example: Roma Tomatoes:  Start 6-8 weeks before last frost date May 20th.  (March 25th – April 8th)  Planting date of June 1st less 8-10 days hardening off, puts us at May 23rd to May 25th.  So anytime between March 25th to April 8th works for us based on the Farmers Almanac, our set out dates of past years, and our recorded soil temperatures the last five years. 2. Keeping good records gives confidence in your planting!

3. Starting containers – Almost any container can be used to start seeds. Be sure they are clean by washing in soap and water and rinsing in a mild bleach solution. Provide some drainage to the bottom and place in waterproof trays.  This allows for bottom watering.

4.Bottom watering will increase your success in starting seeds.  We have always used biodegradable peat pots for containers and black plastic trays designed for seed starting.  If you want to make your own, here are 7 DIY Seed Pots you can make.

5. Quality Starter Mix – Use a quality seed starter mix.  A soiless mix, usually a combination of peat moss and vermiculite is best.  We avoid starting mixes that are “pre-fertilized” preferring to use organic fertilizers latter.  You can also make your own starter mix and take complete control.

6. Carefully sow seed – Sow what you need. If you plan on four pepper plants in your garden, then sow 8 seeds, two per container.  At a low 50% germination , you will have your four pepper plants and maybe some extras for your friends.  Make sure the grow mix is moist and sow seed according to the instructions on the package.  Seed depth is important. Usually the seed is sown to a depth of three times it’s size.  Place seeds carefully on the surface of the mix and sprinkle an appropriate amount of mix on top of the seed. Sow 3 to 4 seeds per pot and thin to 2 or 3 after germination if needed.   Cover the seeded tray with sheet of plastic, saran wrap or plastic dome. You will eventually move each seeding to a lager pot.  We have found that cucumbers are an exception as they do not like being disturbed too much.  We start cucumbers in larger bio-degradable pots to avoid over handling and transplant directly to the garden.

7. Warmth is ImportantBottom heat is needed for good seed germination. You can provide for warmth by using a heating pad designed for seed starting, placing trays on top of your fridge, or a space heater set up to give warmth to the bottom of the trays. If you have heated floors in your house lay your trays out and watch your step!  You will have results without the bottom warmth, but you will have better results with bottom warmth.  Once the seeds have germinated, remove from heat source.  Seedlings do not need the same warmth.  Be sure to maintain a moist soil and be careful not to over water.

8. Use artificial light – Once germinated the seedlings will need lots of light.  The seedlings will fight for light and reach out for it.  Seedlings will become weak and spindly without an adequate light source. Use an artificial light source (fluorescent) hung just above the seedlings, raise the light as the seedlings grow and provide light for about sixteen hours a day.

9. Feed the seedlings – After the seedlings have the first true leaves use a weak solution (1/4 of normal) organic fertilizer (compost tea, fish emulsion and seaweed extract)  every 1-2 weeks until they’re ready for planting out.

10. Get a Fan – After transplanting seedlings to larger pots, place a fan to blow gently over the seedlings through the day.  This will help develop a stronger and hardier plant.  You can gently brush your hand over the seedlings a couple times a day as well.

11. Be ruthless – Thin your seedlings to allow only the strongest and healthiest to continue.

12. Be patient – Check the germination trays and the seedlings each day.  Also if you do not have a heated green house to accommodate starting your own seeds, be prepared to have your home taken over. for a couple of months!

Some thoughts

Starting your own seeds is not difficult, but requires planning, a methodical approach, patience and TLC.  Remember to make journal entries of your seed starting experiences.

Share the magic with others in your household.  Involve children is the garden cycle from the beginning.  Allow them to start their own seeds for their own garden and provide the care needed.

The rewards are well worth the effort when you bite into a sun drenched Big Beef Tomato that you started as a tiny seed in April.  You also know the source of the food you eat and know how it was grown.

Time to prepare the soil mix and fill some pots.

Tom and Di

 

 

Garden Experiments for 2015

Today we are experiencing a late winter snow storm and is a good time to do some more thinking and planning for the garden.  Each year we try new things.  If they work, we will continue to use them.  This year the plan is to try two new vegetables and three different growing methods.

We have chosen five gardening experiments for the 2015 season.

  1. Asparagus bed – We have put off this for about three years, so this year it is time.  Roots are already ordered so no turning back.  Two varieties we selected are, Jersey Giant and Purple Passion.  The roots are sent to us in the spring for planting time in our growing zone.
  2. Sweet Potatoes – We have chosen Covington, an early variety that will mature in short season areas. Unrooted vines are shipped in the late spring.  With proper care we will be enjoying sweet potato fries this fall.
  3. Straw Bale Garden – Plan to experiment with about four bales and try to grow a variety of vegetables. A wood crate structure will confine the sides of the four bales. The plan is to then use the Square Foot Garden Method to plant.  More information on Straw Bale Gardens can be found here.

    Vertical potatoes
    Vertical potatoes
  4. Vertical Potatoes Have always been intrigued by this method to grow potatoes.  If successful, we plan to build more towers and eliminate the rows of potatoes from the garden to free up space.
  5. Sawdust bed – We were traveling in south-west Nova Scotia when first observed huge vegetables growing in sawdust.  The key as we found out, was old sawdust.  Old was very old, like 25 years or more!  Well near the homestead are the remains of an old mill.  There has been no production for over 40 years and there is also a huge deposit of old sawdust.  Our plan is to check it out and seek permission from the land owner (if we can find them) and see if we can make our sawdust gardening experiment a reality.  We will build a raised bed and again use the SFG method to grow a variety of vegetables and flowers.  We are also going to use a mixture of sawdust and compost for our experiment.

You are invited to follow us as we update our experiments through the growing season.  We also welcome any advice you have on any of our gardening experiments. Please use the comment section on Facebook or on WordPress.

Come on spring!

Tom and Di

A Comfort Food Day

Monday was what I call a “comfort food” day and one of our favorite comfort food lunches is Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.  Keeping with our gardening goals we like to grow food that can be preserved for use later.  We make our own tomato soup base and freeze for use on days like yesterday.  Here is the recipe for the soup base.

Tomato Soup Base
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 sliced onion
4 whole cloves
2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best!)

In a stockpot, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and gently boil for about 20 minutes to blend all of the flavors. Remove from heat and run the mixture through a food mill into a large bowl, or pan. Discard any stuff left over in the food mill.
Proportion into freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible and seal bag. Soup base can now be frozen for use later.
To make Tomato soup, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a stockpot using medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to make a roux. Continue cooking until the roux is medium brown. Gradually whisk in a bit of the tomato mixture, so no lumps form, then stir in the rest. Season with sugar and salt to taste. Serve with your favorite grated cheese on top and some fresh basil.
Use your favorite flavourful tomatoes. We have used Brandywine, Scotia, and Lemon Boy. Lemon Boy provides for different colour and less acid taste.

Make your favourite grilled cheese to accompany the tomato soup. We use 5 year aged cheddar, sliced baked ham, and tomato jam.  (I add an extra tablespoon of tomato jam to the plate for dipping.) The tomato jam is made from our own tomatoes and “put up” for later use. It is great with burgers, sausage, almost anything you can spread it on! Here is the recipe for the Tomato Jam.

Sweet Tomato Jam
6 fresh tomatoes
1 “thumb” (2.5 cm) ginger root grated
4 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup brown sugar (125 ml)
½ cup cider vinegar (125 ml)
½ cup water (125 ml)
1 pod Star Anise

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and cook at medium heat until water evaporates. Usually takes 1 to 1½ hours. Continue to cook until jam stage, about another 20 minutes Do a drop test. Put a bit of jam onto a plate and place in refrigerator for two minutes. If the jam sets than the jam is ready. Place in jars and process for 15 minutes.

One small way to enjoy your garden all year around.

Cheers

Tom