Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Planting and Heirloom Seeds

This morning when I walked out the door at 4 am I was greeted with crisp, dry air - a glorious 58 degrees! Almost brr. Almost long sleeve. Almost flannel. Almost.
I know, laugh, those of you living north of Dothan - for you, 58 degrees is closer to hot than cold, but after walking out into balmy 70+ degree heat for months, earlier than the crack of dawn, this felt almost chilly to me. Almost.  My blood runs like Florida water!
Needless to say I was filled with energy and excitement about all the endless possibilities of the things I could do outdoors without sweating buckets today, the most beckoning being, getting my fall seeds planted.

Some of you may remember my Summer Manifesto list found HERE. One of my goals was to "Start fall seeds on time"  .. well, I'm almost on time - I could have begun two or three weeks ago, but this will work - and Fall officially begins this Saturday (which, now that I'm reminded of my summertime goals, I see that there are a few incomplete.  I may have to extend "summer" a little longer,  but that's the good thing about living in Florida - summer lasts much longer than the calendar date! Except that I tend to forget how late it's getting and the holidays generally catch me off guard because I'm still enjoying the warm weather - the temperature can be in the 80's even until December!)

   Confession: I'm intimidated by new things.  I don't know why but it typically takes me a long time to begin a new endeavor. I have to think about it for awhile before I attempt to begin. Even if it's something I want to do and I know that I will love.  When I began scrapbooking I gathered supplies for well over a year before I finally worked up the courage to begin.  I was terrified at the thought of putting scissors to photos and decorating album pages, but once I began I was totally hooked (although now I know better than to cut up pictures, but it was the thing to do 15 years ago - now I just crop and print smaller pics).  I did the same thing with soapmaking - I thought about it and agonized over it for months, too intimidated to begin, but now that I've finally begun it's very easy and enjoyable, and I make soap several times a week.
   My most recent irrational fear factor breakthrough, in which I've finally begun a hobby that I've thought about for years, knowing that one day it will be a vital resource to have learned and become proficient at, is heirloom seeds - all aspects of it: planting, growing, harvesting and saving. I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered several packages of Heirloom fall seeds and planting trays which arrived this week.

Generally, seeds and plants bought at farm and local stores are hybrid which means that they come from two different plants that have been cross-bred to produce plants with specific qualities such as disease resistance, uniform size and production. It is the careful combining of two superior plants with different, specific traits so that the offspring produced exhibits both traits. The problem is that the plants grown from hybrid seeds will not continue to carry those qualities. Subsequent plantings will not reproduce the same characteristics of the parent plant, rather they will typically revert to one or the other of the initial genetically pollinated plants or they may be sterile and not produce fruit at all.  This means that to ensure a recognized crop, new plants / seed packages must be purchased each year.

Non-hybrid plants, also called open-pollinated, heritage or heirloom, are pollinated naturally and allow for a much wider variety of species than hybrid. They have not been genetically modified or combined and therefore the seed remains true to the parent plant and can be saved and replanted year after year with the same product results. Unfortunately these plants may be less disease resistant and produce less fruit, but they are more diverse and oftentimes even more flavorful. Besides, I like the idea of learning to save seed, experiment with multiple varieties and replant each year with seed from my own harvest. From a survivalist's point of view it seems like the smart thing to do.

I'm now preparing my garden houses for fall planting. On the table I have a tray of Broccoli, Red Cabbage, Leaf Lettuce and Romaine Lettuce. Each tray has 50 seeds planted. I aspire one day to become diligent enough to plant in succession so that I will have a continual harvest rather than the typical - sow them all at once and gather all at once. (and, of course, since yesterday, a rogue chcken managed to gain access and dumped an entire tray on the ground spilling everything.  I have decided that any chicken found inside my gardenhouses are fair game for the stew pot! It's time we started eating what we grow! - More wisdom from the survivalist.)

In the square foot boxes I've planted snow peas and spinach, and today, in pots, I'm attempting to grow carrots - this seems like a logical way to grow them. Notice the pans underneath to ensure they get enough water.

This is how I spaced them, with two or three...or 10 seeds in each hole. (They're tiny seeds and sometimes come out faster than I plan - but they're old seeds so maybe there's have a better chance that some will germinate. These were not heirloom seeds - all the others were)

So here goes - another learning experience. I'll keep you updated.

Since beginning this blog, and subsequent plantings in the cool of the morning, the temperature has risen into the high 80's. I think I may now take a break and work on my summer manifesto list... and plan a day at the beach!


  1. :) I may need to plant some vegetables, too! :) I love reading your blog!

  2. You are definitely determined to complete your Manifesto. Well, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and congrats on starting your fall seeds on time! I think it is good that you conquer your fear and start planting. Starting small is good, especially for beginners. Small scale gardening is the way to go. For one, you can save some space on the planting trays, and it is easy to move the plants around when necessary.

  3. Wondering if there is an update to this post? Would like to see how the seeds turned out.