April State of Affairs

Just a brief look at the garden in April.

Lettuce under cover on April 16th with 3" of snow. Ugh!

Lettuce under cover on April 16th with 3″ of snow. Ugh!

Baby spinach

Baby spinach in the tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot going on weather-wise, but everything made it through. The lettuce heads are ready for our May camp starting on the 1st, and oh! they’re looking so fabulous.

Butter head lettuce (var. Nancy) at perfection.

Butter head lettuce (var. Nancy) at perfection.

Butter head, red oak leaf (var. Oscarde) and green oak leaf (var. Bolsachica).

Butter head, red oak leaf (var. Oscarde) and green oak leaf (var. Bolsachica).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the mesclun in its full glory, I use arugula, Red Russian kale, mizuna, mustard and radish. A little on the spicy side, but not enough to overpower a salad.

 

Spicy mesclun ready to pick.

Spicy mesclun ready to pick.

Red Kitten spinach with interesting red stems.

Red Kitten spinach with interesting red stems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Crown cauliflower, an early (70-day) variety.

Snow Crown cauliflower, an early (70-day) variety.

And the cauliflower is looking great in this cool weather. I’m planning on this being ready by mid May.

A lot is going to be changing in the garden in a week or so; a new high tunnel is going in and two new 45′ growing beds to add to the overall garden are being worked on. As these take place, I’ll keep everyone updated.

But what I really wanted to focus on for this posting was seed storage, as I mentioned in February. I may devote another post about seed saving, but storage of seeds is important enough to spend time writing about it.

Keeping seeds dry is your most important task, more important than keeping them cold or out of the heat. Moisture is the main enemy with seeds, with the exception of seeds that need to be kept moist like citrus seeds. I know people put their packets in the fridge, but often your fridge is humid, or at least the relative humidity is high given the temperature at which the fridge operates. You can keep some seeds a few years this way but eventually the moisture renders the seeds unusable. I think I’ve found the easiest way to keep them dry.

I’ve tried a number of ways to store seeds, but the way I ended up was using recycled glass jars and indicator desiccant (my favorite jars are the ones which are used for soup stocks as shown on the right in the photo).  The indicator desiccant I found on Amazon priced at $26 for a quart. I keep a lot of seeds so this worked for me. Just make sure the jar has some sort of a seal on the lid. You often find desiccant beads in small wrappers to keep things dry. The difference here is that these indicator beads turn color when they are saturated with moisture so you can tell when you need to recharge them. You can recharge them by putting them in a “cool” oven (175 F) for a couple of hours to drive off the moisture. They’ll last, as far as I know, indefinitely.

Desiccant with seed, or seed with desiccant.

Desiccant with seed, or seed with desiccant.

As the photo shows, the indicator desiccant I use is an orange color when dry which turns dark green when fully saturated with moisture. There are two ways I found that work: To put the seed loose in the jar with the desiccant in a small organza bags, or the seeds in small wax envelopes with the desiccant loose in the jar. This will depend on the size of seeds and the quantity. You could keep the seeds in their original packets and use a large glass jar with desiccant at the bottom, which is what I do with my tomato seeds. Of course, if you can keep them in these jars in the fridge too, all the better.

To give an example, I normally can’t reliably keep onion or lettuce seeds more than one year if I just keep them in their seed packs in the fridge; their germination rates decrease too much, say from 90% to 65% or more for lettuce. Keeping them dry they can last 3 years or more. Of course, depending on where you live, humidity varies. So if you live in Arizona, you may not have to worry as much.

It for now. As the new garden progresses, I’ll make sure I have my camera ready.

 

 

 

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