Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

047 Part 2 Understanding Seed Packets

September 18, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 47
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
047 Part 2 Understanding Seed Packets
Chapters
00:16:26
Part 2 - Understanding Seed Packets
00:16:27
Smart Pots!
00:18:32
The Myth of Garden Drought Products
00:22:17
The "Thrill, Chill, Spill" Garden
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
047 Part 2 Understanding Seed Packets
Sep 18, 2020 Season 1 Episode 47
Fred Hoffman

Horticulture expert Debbie Flower rejoins us for Part 2 of Understanding the Language of Seed Packets. This time around, she has good planting instructions for what to do if that seed packet says things like, "darkness aids germination" or "requires light for germination". And, when it says "keep seedbed evenly moist, but how much water do you apply? And, just about every seed packet has instructions on thinning the seedlings, but don't tell you how to thin. Debbie Flower just might change the way you've been doing that. And we talk about something seed packets seldom tell you: how to save leftover seeds for best germination in the years ahead. And, how to test them to see if they are still viable.

And there's more on this edition of Garden Basics:

Across the country, many states are entering drought status. Watering restrictions might happen, again. If they do, there are a lot of suspicious characters who want to sell you drought cures for your plants. Do any of them work? Washington State Horticulture Professor Linda Chalker-Scott talks about what works, and doesn't work, to help get your garden through a drought.

And, nursery owner Julia Oldfield tells us how to combine plants to create a beautiful cool season flower garden, either in the ground, or in containers to keep the beneficial insects and pollinators happy. And to get smiles from anyone who passes by. It's the thrill, chill, spill garden.

It's all on Episode 47 of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred: Part 2 of Understanding Seed Packets.  And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Links:
 More garden seed packet terminology here.
Great books on saving your own seeds, including Suzanne Ashworth's best selling, "Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, 2nd Edition".

Linda Chalker-Scott is the author of award-winning garden books, including "The Informed Gardener," "The Informed Gardener Blooms Again,"How Plants Work," and much more.
 
Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available wherever podcasts are found.
Got a garden question? Call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
 Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook: "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
More podcast info including episodes, live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Horticulture expert Debbie Flower rejoins us for Part 2 of Understanding the Language of Seed Packets. This time around, she has good planting instructions for what to do if that seed packet says things like, "darkness aids germination" or "requires light for germination". And, when it says "keep seedbed evenly moist, but how much water do you apply? And, just about every seed packet has instructions on thinning the seedlings, but don't tell you how to thin. Debbie Flower just might change the way you've been doing that. And we talk about something seed packets seldom tell you: how to save leftover seeds for best germination in the years ahead. And, how to test them to see if they are still viable.

And there's more on this edition of Garden Basics:

Across the country, many states are entering drought status. Watering restrictions might happen, again. If they do, there are a lot of suspicious characters who want to sell you drought cures for your plants. Do any of them work? Washington State Horticulture Professor Linda Chalker-Scott talks about what works, and doesn't work, to help get your garden through a drought.

And, nursery owner Julia Oldfield tells us how to combine plants to create a beautiful cool season flower garden, either in the ground, or in containers to keep the beneficial insects and pollinators happy. And to get smiles from anyone who passes by. It's the thrill, chill, spill garden.

It's all on Episode 47 of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred: Part 2 of Understanding Seed Packets.  And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Links:
 More garden seed packet terminology here.
Great books on saving your own seeds, including Suzanne Ashworth's best selling, "Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, 2nd Edition".

Linda Chalker-Scott is the author of award-winning garden books, including "The Informed Gardener," "The Informed Gardener Blooms Again,"How Plants Work," and much more.
 
Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available wherever podcasts are found.
Got a garden question? Call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
 Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook: "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
More podcast info including episodes, live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred


Farmer Fred :

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred. Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, well, you've come to the right spot. You know, it can be very confusing is trying to figure out the terms on a packet of seeds. What do all those things mean? Well, we started talking about this with Debbie Flower in the last episode. And of course, there's a lot more terms on those seed packets than we had time for. So here's part two of understanding seed packets with Debbie Flower. I'm looking at two different seed packets here, that's the packet of nasturtiums and a packet of Snapdragon seeds and on the nasturtium seeds. It says darkness age germination. So at the recommended depth, and on the Snapdragon seeds, it says requires light for germination, press seed into the surface. Mm hmm. that's confusing.

Debbie Flower :

Yeah, it's different. Seeds need different environments, most of them. We cover, we cover them with two to three times depth of media as the narrowest part of the seed. Basically, very small seeds, like lettuce don't get covered very deeply big seeds, like let's say beans, they covered more deeply. But there are the exceptions and those are the ones that need light to germinate. And so it's just again part of their evolutions. They, when they were produced in nature, they would land On the surface, and that would help them germinate. So it is worth definitely looking at the either depth of planting surface might be one of those choices or a comment on the packet that says need light to germinate. If I have something that needs like to germinate, I worry a little bit about it drying out because seeds sitting on the surface of anything, especially if they're outside in the garden are exposed to air and heat and may rent and birds. So if they need light to germinate and I will put a layer of vermiculite on top of them. vermiculite is expanded mica, it looks like sort of gold foil. It's very shiny, and it has the ability to hold moisture because it's sort of accordion like in its structure, in that there are layers of the rock and then open layers and layers of the rock and open layers and so the water gets trapped in There, but it's so shiny that light will shine down on the seed. So you can cover if you have a seed was your Snapdragon, I believe, right? Yeah. So if you have Snapdragon seeds that say plant on the surface, you can lay them on the surface of the soil and put a layer of vermiculite on top and that will allow the light to get to the seed as needed. And it will also keep moisture on the seed which is absolutely needed for the seed to germinate. If birds are an issue, then you need some netting wire, strawberry basket, something flat, maybe upside down over that area of the garden where you've put the seeds so that the birds can't get into the seed and eat them. Or squirrels, big pot plants or I've had that happen a lot around here.

Farmer Fred :

Looking at a packet for lettuce seed. It says keep soil evenly moist for better growth and sin regularly please explain evenly moist and thinning.

Debbie Flower :

well evenly moist means it's not going to dry out ever. And that can be a challenge, especially if you live in a dry environment. Again, that's where I would employ a covering on the soil surface like vermiculite. I also might use a sheet of newspaper over the top, just one sheet and and when that starts to dry out you need to to wet it again. It can be difficult, I would personally living in the dry environment I live in, I would start those seeds indoors and put the seeds in the in a container put the container either in a plastic bag or under a plastic dome which you can get with a seed starting kit so that it becomes very humid in there. And you can see water maybe dripping down the sides of the plastic bag or the sides of the dome and then you know that the air has A lot of moisture in it and that will help keep it evenly moist so it never dries out.

Farmer Fred :

And something that gardeners are loath to do and that's thinning.

Debbie Flower :

Yes, that's true. That was one of the most difficult things for me to get students to do. But I've got all these seeds, they all germinated. I want to grow them all. There are ways that you don't have to thin. If you started things in containers, you have lots of dexterity, yes. Then you can work very gently with the root ball in water and try to separate them and you can save more plants that way more baby plants, but it's a lot of work and typically if they need thinning then we've planted more than we have room for anyway. So thinning is done to give the plant room to grow and if you do not give the plant enough room to grow it will never produce it will be crowded up against the other plants. You will have increased disease problems, increased insect problems, and you will not get a satisfying crop. So you need to space the baby plants out so that they can grow and become mature plants. The beauty in in some of the vegetable crops life, even carrots and lettuces any of the greens is that you can eat, the ones that you take out of that you send. But thinning typically should be done by cutting the plant off at the soil line, not yanked, and not yanking because if they're very close to the next plant roots could be entwined in each other and you don't want to hurt the roots of the plant that you're going to keep.

Farmer Fred :

Also on seed packets, you will generally see how far apart to space the plants for their eventual growth. In the case of this lettuce, it says 12 inches, but then we'll have a number for spacing of rows and it's always different from spacing of plants. For instance, this is 12 inch plant spacing, but 15 inch row spacing, why can't it all just be 12 inches?

Debbie Flower :

Well, that's true and lettuce, I probably would, but 12 inches, because lettuce can be harvested from the outside in, meaning I can, as the plant matures, the leaves on the outer side outside of the plant can be taken off and eaten, it will continue to make leaves in the center. In another kind of plant, I might say I would do it to 16 by 16. I always find that so confusing. I find two things confusing in the spacing of the plants. The one is they say plant them with like two inches apart. And then they say thin them to 12 inches apart was wonder what's the point of that? If I'm using fresh seed packed for the year that I am planting in, so that would be 2020 this year. By law germination has to be very high. I don't know the number off the top of my head or they have to put it on the packet. I think it's In the 90%, so I would expect that nearly every seed I put in the ground, assuming I planted at the correct depth at the right season, and keep it moist, evenly moist, will germinate. So why am I planting them every two inches if I've got to thin them to every foot, I'm a rebel in that department, I won't do it. I will plant them every 12 inches, but I might put two or three seeds fairly close together at that 12 inch spacing. And then my thinning is in that one location. Sending that down to just one plant.

Farmer Fred :

Well, as long as you make the Seed Company happy and keep buying their seed, they'd probably agree with you on that.

Debbie Flower :

Another point is that seed packets typically have way more seeds in them than we're going to use. Unless your whole yard, Fred, is a garden. Yeah, but for for those of us who are just planting For our regular consumption as a hobby, we typically are only going to use a few things. So we can share seeds with other people. There are actually places, they might be libraries that are seed libraries. Basically, that's a formal setup, but talk to your neighbors and see what they might want to grow and go in together and buy the seeds together. Or you save seeds from year to year. And in that case, you need to store them correctly, which is in that in a dry cool place, which we were talking about in the refrigerator.

Farmer Fred :

And generally speaking seeds will keep it really depends on the seed but I think a ballpark figure might be three to five years.

Debbie Flower :

Right. And typically, the smaller the seed the shorter it lives, the bigger the seeds, the longer it lives, for subsequent years. I would choose to plant the bigger seeds and as you pour them out, let's say squash seeds, into your hand and some are bigger and some are smaller. So we're using older seed I would always use the bigger seed because it's got a better chance of having lived longer and I would plant more I would up the density of what I'm planting. Assuming that some may not have survived from year to year. I used to do a seed germination experiment with my students. When we took a paper towel, just a plain white paper towel, folded it in half, then unfolded it put 10 seeds along that central crease, folded it in half again, and roll it up like a cigar so that the seeds are all at the top end of the cigar. moisten the whole thing. Put it in a plastic bag and and try to stand it up so that the seats at the fold are up in the air. And, and the rest of the paper towel is down below in a jar let's say and and then cap it somehow. You can just put another class put a plastic bag over the whole thing or put the lid on the jar. If it's a Big enough jar, and then wait. And it says on the package that days to emerge, so we would check it periodically. And if it was seven days, take that paper towel cigar out, unroll it, unfold it and count the number of seeds that have germinated. And I had a whole collection of old seeds. And I had some bean seeds that were more than 10 years old, and they continued to germinate at very high rates. So different seeds, other seeds, students would get no results at all. So very much depends on the different species.

Farmer Fred :

Here's a pro tip for you if you are germinating seeds and there are a lot of recommendations about germinating seeds ahead of time to make sure of doing exactly what you're suggesting is to determine the viability of a seed. Let's say you find this old seed packet. You take a portion of the seeds in that packet, you put it on a moist paper towel, you close it up, you keep it moist, and you see how many seeds germinate. the problem with paper towels is it's a fibrous material and that new root that has developed could easily get tangled in those fibers. And so your choices are trying to remove it carefully or plant it, paper towel and all. The other option would be to use a non fibrous substance to germinate seeds and a perfect example would be a coffee filter.

Debbie Flower :

Hmm, good advice. Yes, we did have some we had those sort of industrial paper towels at school that were somewhat less fibrous than the bumpy ones that we use at home. But students would often want to try to grow on the ones that had germinated and so if they were stuck to the paper towel, we would just cut the ones out that had germinated and stick the paper towel and all into the medium, but nice to know that a coffee filter makes that much easier.

Farmer Fred :

I would like to reassure beginning gardeners when you have that new full seed packet and you start planting the entire packet. That's a habit that you never lose, that no matter how many years you garden you're going to be trying to plant an entire packet of seeds. I just did that yesterday with a packet of snow peas. So I just went around looking for new places to plant snow pea seeds.

Debbie Flower :

Well and the other thing is that many gardeners do and I'm one of those is buy way more packets of seeds than than they ever get around to planting. They're small, they're not really expensive and they contain so much hope. It seems like such a positive thing to do. So I'm guilty of that one.

Farmer Fred :

We all are. We all have packets of seed, but I think the lesson is, if you are a seed hoarder, hoard them properly in that cool dry place it could be under your bed is a cool, dry place. For example, just be sure to label the package of what's there and put notes around to remind you that they're seeds under the bed. Don't store them in the garage.

Debbie Flower :

Right and don't store them on a window sill where light comes in and heats up whatever's nearby. Exactly. Yes. Seeds are fun. Oh, peas are wonderful.

Farmer Fred :

Yes, we sound like gardeners. I think, you know, of course we have just scratched the surface of planting glossary terms. We'll probably revisit this again with more glossary terms. But I think we've learned a lot in our little diatribes here, trying to explain seed packets and hope it helps out people.

Debbie Flower :

Me too, have fun. seeds are so much fun.

Farmer Fred :

Yeah. And once you get bit by the bug, you'll never go back.

Debbie Flower :

True. That's right.

Farmer Fred :

It's Debbie Flower. Thanks for a few minutes of your time, Debbie.

Debbie Flower :

Oh, it's a pleasure, Fred. Thank you.

Farmer Fred :

Smart Pots are the original award winning fabric planter. They're sold worldwide. Smart Pots are proudly made, 100% in the USA. Smart Pots are also BPA free. There's no risk of chemicals leaching into the soil your herbs, vegetables and other edibles. That's why organic growers prefer Smart Pots. Smart Pots' breathable fabric creates a healthy root structure for plants. Smart Pots come in a wide array of sizes and they can be reused year after year. Speaking of the cold weather that's on the way, if a frost or freeze is in the forecast, moving your frost tender plants that are in the Smart Pots that have handles makes them even easier to move closer to the house for added warmth or you could even move them inside for the winter. Visit SmartPots dot com slash Fred for more information about the complete line of smart pots lightweight fabric containers. It's Smart Pots, the original, award-winning fabric planter. Go to SmartPots.com slash Fred for more info and that special farmer for a discount on your next Smart Pot purchase. Go to SmartPots.com slash Fred. The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode: transcripts links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you. It's been divided into easily accessible chapters and you'll find more information about how to get in touch with us. We have links to all our social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also a link to the farmerfred.com website. That's where you can find out more information about the radio shows. You remember radio, right? Now, if the place where you access the podcast doesn't have all that information, you can find it all at our home podcaster, Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout.com. Just look for the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. You'll find a link to it in the show notes. We were chatting with Linda Chalker-Scott. She's a professor of horticulture at Washington State University, and the author of several great books about garden myths, including the informed gardener and the informed gardener blooms again, as well as a very instructive book called "how plants work". And we were talking about the cycles of droughts in the United States and how there are products that are being developed for you to add to your soil to help maintain soil moisture and Linda chalker Scott had a no doubt about it answer to this. The country seems to be going more and more through drought cycles. And during the last drought cycle here in California, there were a lot of new products that came out that allegedly would allow you to apply less water. basically they would preserve soil moisture. the common ingredient in a lot of these products are polysaccharides they're sugars. Do you know of any research any scientific evidence that sugar can keep moisture in the soil longer?

Linda Chalker-Scott :

I guess, you know, not really not for any length of time. I mean, sure, if you, you know, you put some aloe gel or something in Sure. I mean, it will keep moisture there for a while. But those things get eaten up so fast by microbial systems very expensive way to have a very transient impact. You're much better off protecting the soil from evaporation just by mulching it rather than incorporating all this expensive stuff. Save your money for buying plants and don't buy all these things. Especially the ones that have surfactants or which basically are soaps. You know, you don't want to be pouring soap onto your soil.

Farmer Fred :

Yeah, and a lot of them have salts in it too.

Linda Chalker-Scott :

Oh, yeah. You know, people keep on thinking that salt just means sodium chloride. And there's all kinds of salts and they're generally parts of fertilizers and the more you add, the worst your drought problem is going to be.

Farmer Fred :

Well, how do salts interact with the mycorrhizal functions?

Unknown Speaker :

they have a well if you have enough of them, what they'll do is they just they draw water out of tissues and so, you know, salt toxicity affects everything. Whether it's plant material or microbes themselves. It just draws water out. So it dehydrates everything. And if you've got a drought stress situation again, the more salts you have in the soil, the harder it is on the mychorriazae, the harder it is on the roots, it just really takes its toll on the functionality of that Underground Railroad.

Farmer Fred :

That again was Linda Chalker Scott, Washington State University horticulture professor and the author of many fine garden books, including the informed gardener, the informed gardener blooms again, and How plants work: the science behind the amazing things plants do. Now you may have noticed we used a term there you may not be familiar with: mychorrizal function, and mycorrhizae. what exactly is that? I think Linda Chalker Scott put it perfectly towards the end of her comment. About what salts can do to them. by referring to it as an underground railroad. There's a lot happening below the soil. A mychorriza is a symbiotic association between a green plant and a fungus. The plant makes organic molecules it makes sugars by photosynthesis and supplies them to the fungus. And in return the fungus supplies to the plant, water and mineral nutrients such as phosphorus taken from the soil. mycorrhiza are located in the roots of vascular plants and most plant species form mycorrhizal associations. So think of mycorrhizae as your underground waiters and waitresses helping to feed the plants. The plants in return are giving them a nice sugary tip. If you want to add some pop to your garden this fall, especially in USDA zones seven, eight and nine. How about doing a little spiller chiller thriller display now what is that all about? Well, Julie Oldfield has the answer. She owns Big Oak Nursery in Elk Grove, California and Julia, what exactly is a spiller chiller thriller arrangement?

Julia Oldfield :

Well, I'm glad you asked Farmer Fred because fall is a great time to add some pops of color around in your yard. As your trees are turning red and your leaves are falling and things are going dormant. It's a great time to add maybe a pot on your patio or even a flowerbed can be arranged this way. Filler is something that would hang over the side of the pot or trail along the ground. We like to use new...well, it's not new anymore, but it's something that not a lot of people know about. They call them cool wave pansies. If you know what a wave Petunia is they are these big giant petunias that will hang over the side of your pot and they've developed pansy that will also trail the same way so it'll hang over the side of your pot. And then you have your chiller which just sits in the center and its primary job is to fill the pot up in the middle and just chill and sit there and be beautiful. We like to use ornamental kale you have your purples and your pinks and your white and then you can even add some calendulas, orange and yellow. Those are good fall colors. the orange calendula with the purple kale is absolutely stunning together. And then you'll have your thriller which is the plant in the center that sticks out of the pot and just pretty much waves at your neighbors because it's so beautiful and so tall. We like to use the taller Snapdragon they will just bloom and bloom and they come in all the different colors so you can really get a mixture of colors or your favorite colors together. And it just really fills in your pot and makes your pot look full and just Absolutely stunning and you can do it in your flowerbed too. You can have the lower pansy in the front and then a medium plant like a calendula and then in the tall back you have your snapdragons and that way you can see the three layers. You know if someone's driving by, they can see all three layers because you have them arranged by height.

Farmer Fred :

What a great display of color for the gray days ahead. a spiller chiller thriller of cool season plants. the cool wave pansy in the front trailing over the pot or in the front of the garden. The chiller the standout color that's, I won't say permanent but it lasts a long time, the ornamental kale and the calendula. and then that big plant in the back or in the middle of the pot, the thriller, such as those snapdragons that can get 24 to 36 inches tall. Julie Oldfield thanks for explaining spiller, killer thriller for us.

Julia Oldfield :

You're welcome Farmer Fred.

Farmer Fred :

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday and it's available just about anywhere podcasts are handed out. And that includes Apple podcast, Google podcasts, I Heart Radio, overcast, Spotify, stitcher, tune in, and hey, Alexa, play the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, would you please? Thank you for listening, subscribing and leaving comments. We appreciate it.

Part 2 - Understanding Seed Packets
Smart Pots!
The Myth of Garden Drought Products
The "Thrill, Chill, Spill" Garden