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Changing the world by getting back to direct seeded gardening  RSS feed

 
William Schlegel
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I want direct seeded vegetables. It concerns me that we don't know as a society anymore when tomatoes, squash, and melons ripen because so much local food is produced with the aid of season extension. It also concerns me that too much vegetable seed is produced with the aid of season extension.

So here is my plan. Lets change the world by direct seeding vegetables, saving, and exchanging the seeds.

Thoughts, concerns, comments?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Direct seeding is not practical for most parts of the world since most planters of gardens are wanting to get crops producing as soon as possible.
Length of growing season has a great deal to do with viability of gardening and if you have a short "out in the open" growing season, you might not get the amount of food grown you will need.

One has to wonder if starting seeds in a cold frame (been done for centuries) or green house (also referred to as a conservatory and has also been done for centuries) is any different other than getting the jump on the growing season length of time.
The seed started in the ground that it will mature in must be planted later in the year than a seed started in a cold frame or green house.
This means those plants will not have the opportunity to produce as much food as those transplanted from started plants which are put out in the soil as soon as the conditions are right.
These are not "extended season" plants just early start plants.

If you are fine with wondering if your seeds will germinate, and don't worry about the summer heat coming on just as the plants want to start setting fruits, then "in the place they will mature planting" works just fine.

I think "extended season" means green house grown, something that, should you live in certain parts of the world (near artic zones for example), may be necessary to provide food for you to eat.
Direct seeding in say the northern parts of Canada or Alaska is very impractical from a food production quantity need, the growing season is short and most plants would not have the time to reach full maturity and thus produce their maximum quantity of good fruits that they could.

For me, what really matters is what and how the plant is fed the nutrients it needs, this is what most affects nutritional value of a plant's fruits, which is what most gardeners are growing foods for in the first place.

Redhawk
 
William Schlegel
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Direct seeded plants are practically working pretty well for me in Montana and I suspect will work pretty well for most parts of the world. A few exceptionally difficult gardening areas such as Alaska and Northern Canada I agree- without season extending practices many crops would not be possible. However agriculture has not been going on for just the few hundred years that we have had cold frames, cloches, glasshouses, and hot beds grown over manure.

I should clarify that my thoughts on this matter are most strongly inclined to amateur vegetable breeding. Basically direct seeded crops for my climate is one of my favorite goals of my amateur breeding efforts for my climate here in Montana. If we can extend that farther into colder zones (I think we can go a few more zones with this based on some of my successes).

That isn't to say that I will abandon my greenhouse or never use the row covers I bought last year (still in their original packaging- haven't used them yet). or never set anything in a wall of water again. I might in fact do so- especially if I ever try to compete commercially. If I ever try to compete commercially I might just go full Elliot Coleman on season extension. Not with my breeding projects though- those I want to adapt to my climate, not some climate that will fail if a kid throws a rock or will go bad after the UV stabilization rated for 3 years starts to break down and I can't afford to buy a new piece of plastic or afford to buy increasingly expensive propane fuel.

Here in Montana I think we can grow almost everything we grow now without any of the season extension practices that use modern resources expending resources that our planet is short on including not just greenhouses but anything made of resources that require fossil fuels to produce and transplant. One caveat global warming which is perhaps keeping my tomatoes alive as we speak is very real and is impacting our gardens in both positive and negative ways.

Warm Season Crops that I can grow seed to seed here without any season extending practices but which many people transplant:

Tomatoes (this year did amazing)
Tomatillos (this year did amazing)
Watermelons (sometimes- more work needed on my part I had a failure this year)
Cantaloupes (usually)
Cucumbers
Squash (This year ~ 3 species well and a fourth maybe)



So for example I tried a lot of super short season tomatoes this year direct seeded. Some of them did so well that I think they could be direct seeded in even colder climates. Some of the determinate varieties produced all their tomatoes direct seeded with time to spare! It was anything but unproductive- in fact I was unprepared for the massive productivity.

Cold season crops- can often be seeded in the fall or early early spring long before last frost. This year I planted wheat, rye, lentils, chickpeas, onions, favas, peas, sunflowers, spinach, orach and cilantro in March for the first time. Many of them did much much better than when I planted them later. Especially the peas and favas.

Some warm season crops can be seeded early or volunteer well. Sunflowers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and squash are often in this category.

Also just a note on productivity- sometimes I grow the same crop both ways and get no more productivity from the transplants. That was true this year with Tomatillos, Orach, and tomatoes. Sometimes I mess up with the transplants, don't have time to do the transplanting just at the right time, or the weather doesn't cooperate and they get stunted in the pots and the direct seeded plants do better.

One case study is the tomato Sweet Cherriette which is supposed to be 35 DTM from transplant. I grew it this year direct seeded and transplanted. Some of the transplanted plants got frosted froze to the ground and came back up, and some were planted later and did not. So I tortured it in several ways. I had just a few plants that I did things almost perfectly with- and these few came close to being 35 DTM from transplant. As a direct seeded plant it tied with "Sungold F2" and ripened fruit on August 1st Transplanted and frosted it tied with "Jagodka", Direct seeded later it tied with "Anmore Dewdrop". Only with just the right conditions did it come close to meeting its advertised potential- but still under torture it was one of the fastest tomatoes.

Its often been said that direct seeded tomatoes catch up to their transplanted brethren. I put that to the test this year and found it to be true only with a few select varieties. One of those was 42 days. possibly not the best test but I had one plant that was transplanted (and froze back a bit) and another direct seeded. They both ripened fruit almost simultaneously. However, for the vast majority of varieties this was not true- even with extensive frost damage most transplanted tomatoes produced earlier than those that were not transplanted.

So what I learned is that I can reserve my greenhouse space primarily for a few select varieties of beloved longer season tomatoes and plant a main crop of direct seeded tomatoes.

Especially for those of us with large gardens on a budget I think it makes most since to have perhaps a few plants started indoors or a small greenhouse for an early harvest, and a much larger direct seeded main crop. This might mean more small plants and fewer large plants but I believe it is still very practical.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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People ask me constantly for transplants of cucumbers and squash. When I do side-by-side testing, the direct seeded plants get established quicker than the transplants. Sometimes I am a bad neighbor, and give people what they ask for rather than what would be best for them. So I take zucchini, cucumber, and muskmelon starts to market with me. I console myself for my sin by saying that it's OK to satisfy people's urge for an instant garden. Besides, transplants can more easily outgrow the weeds. It seems OK to value instant gratification in this case. There is an emotional and mental health component to gardening, in addition to the physical harvest.

When I started growing fava beans, they were way out of their comfort zone for my climate. So I grew transplants that were about 3 weeks old when they went into the ground the day the snowcover melted. That allowed a few of  them to be just mature enough to flower and set seed before hot weather arrived. A couple of years of transplanting allowed me to select for plants that reproduce well in my climate (as transplants). Then I transitioned to direct seeding. Now the direct seeded plants do better than transplants, and are less labor.

Direct seeded tomatoes have not worked well in my garden. Perhaps I have a bug or microbe that eats tomato seedlings. I direct seeded more than 10,000 tomato seeds this year, and zero plants established themselves.

A traditional way to plant fields is to grow seedlings in dirt in a protected/guarded space near the house, and then transplant them to the field when they are larger.

If I wanted to grow a marketable watermelon crop, I think that I would need to plan on setting out 8 week old plants rather than direct seeding.

Many crops don't grow well for me as transplants from pots. Perhaps they would do better as transplants from one place in a field to another. I loved what a Pueblo farmer told me about his chilies, "Peppers grown from transplants are imbeciles". In other words, he was saying that chilies should always be direct seeded.




 
Kyle Neath
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In which way do you want to change the world? I'm struggling a bit with what you mean by that. I very much agree that people have lost touch with seasonality of produce, but I would probably pinpoint that primarily on long-distance shipping of produce (tomatoes from Chile in December) and a general distance from gardening/farming. People don't know that tomatoes are a summer fruit because they've probably never grown them, and if you go to the grocery store there's tomatoes year round.

Personally, I have never had anything close to success with direct-seeded vegetables (or really much even with cover crops yet). I suspect with the arid conditions we have here the problem is mostly due to irrigation. Direct-seeding most vegetables out here requires surface irrigation multiple times a day to ensure germination and that would require extensive irrigation facilities. By starting things in a protected environment, I can keep a more humid environment until the plants are large enough to reach the moisture under the surface. And that's nothing to speak of the squirrels and birds that dig up every larger seed (squash, peas, beans) I put in the ground. It's not so much that I've given up on direct seeding, it's just that I've found starts to be a much easier and lazier approach.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Joseph. It is super that you chimed in on this, phila'waye kola.

In my state we have to deal more with early summer heat and torrential rains just about the same time.
The last two years it was the sprouting seedlings that were beat down by the rains (one was 7 inches in 5 hours), my transplants survived far better.
Many of the things we grow; corn, beans, squashes, melons, beets, carrots, kale and lettuces along with many others do great seed planted.
I usually start my tomatoes so that when I plant them out in the straw bales I can install them deeper so they get a better root system faster.
Since we grow our peppers in bales, we have to have them growing already otherwise they would not sprout in the bales. We do grow some in the ground, those are direct seeded.

As most here know, I am more about nutritional value than I am over any particular method of growing. There are a few methods I don't and or won't use but those are more along personal preferences.
We are developing just a few land race items since we are able to locate quite a few seeds that have already been land raced for our area.
Some of our melons are becoming better adapted to our mountain land just because we save our seeds and plant out the best selections for our needs.

I believe that everyone should follow what they find works best for them.
I have worked with with many farmers looking for profits, I also have worked with farmers looking for quality of nutritional value over quantity (farm market folks).
Many of my clients have moved away from "fertilizers" and "cides" and they are seeing better success and profit margins.

Redhawk
 
William Schlegel
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Kyle Neath wrote:In which way do you want to change the world? I'm struggling a bit with what you mean by that. I very much agree that people have lost touch with seasonality of produce, but I would probably pinpoint that primarily on long-distance shipping of produce (tomatoes from Chile in December) and a general distance from gardening/farming. People don't know that tomatoes are a summer fruit because they've probably never grown them, and if you go to the grocery store there's tomatoes year round.

Personally, I have never had anything close to success with direct-seeded vegetables (or really much even with cover crops yet). I suspect with the arid conditions we have here the problem is mostly due to irrigation. Direct-seeding most vegetables out here requires surface irrigation multiple times a day to ensure germination and that would require extensive irrigation facilities. By starting things in a protected environment, I can keep a more humid environment until the plants are large enough to reach the moisture under the surface. And that's nothing to speak of the squirrels and birds that dig up every larger seed (squash, peas, beans) I put in the ground. It's not so much that I've given up on direct seeding, it's just that I've found starts to be a much easier and lazier approach.


Last year I asked someone in the local seed co-op why their lettuce wasn't bolting for me and they suggested I should start it inside. I went back to my garden and looked at my lettuce I had been seed saving or just letting volunteer for years bolting happily and decided I didn't need any new fangled lettuce that couldn't set seed without taking up my precious greenhouse space.

So basically I want to change the world to make it safe for lettuce to live outside again!

The story didn't end there- some of the slow bolting lettuce seed must have been dormant and volunteered this year. It also bolted this year- planting it earlier even without season extension may have been enough.





 
William Schlegel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Direct seeded tomatoes have not worked well in my garden. Perhaps I have a bug or microbe that eats tomato seedlings. I direct seeded more than 10,000 tomato seeds this year, and zero plants established themselves.


In our direct seeding of tomatoes this year Joseph we were on opposite ends of the spectrum and you could say we both had terrible luck for plant breeding purposes. 0 and 100% (ok maybe 90%) are the worst! I'd rather have 1% with that I could make progress! I thought it would be harder and take 3 years or so. The only direct seeds you've mentioned working were some Solanum peruvianum you said volunteered. I had the reverse experience with S peruvianum and other wild tomatoes. None germinated when I direct seeded them only worked from transplants same with true potato seed.

Only thoughts I have on possible reasons for my success with tomatoes is that I had a really well prepped area I basically summer fallowed last year in one garden and obsessively weeded the other. That and I got a couple 1 inch germinating rain storms at just the right time. I don't think I can count on that aligning every year. I can however irrigate to simulate rainfall if need be.
 
Stacy Witscher
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I'm with Kyle. While I probably could direct seed everything, our weather is quite mild, some frost free years, I prefer to start seeds indoors on many things. It's easier for me to monitor. I find that I starting seeds outside results in much poorer germination.

Starting my seeds inside doesn't really change harvest dates for me, neither does putting out plants like tomatoes and cucurbits too early. They don't die, but they don't do much. It's still tomatoes and such in July-October.

Possibly the biggest difference for me, is in the fall/winter crops. Mid-August through mid-October is traditionally our hottest time. Trying to direct seed brassicas at this time doesn't work well. It's difficult to keep the soil moist.

I think getting more people to grow some of their own food, or, at least, buy local, would do more to increase awareness of seasonality.
 
William Schlegel
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I suspect some of the problems some folks are reporting with it just being easier to start some things in a controlled environment is partly because too many varieties are bred that way. Gary Paul Nabhan had a great story in one of his books about a really extreme climate desert Native American garden in the Southwest down in Mexico somewhere where it was even hotter and drier than where most Native American gardens they had visited were. They were visiting when it rained and after the rain they helped plant the garden because one good rain storm will mature a crop there. So they tried some seed saved seeds and because the native farmers didn't have enough seeds they tried some seed rack seeds. The guys from native seed search had some seeds with them and asked if they could plant them too. The farmer said sure and then what happened is the seed rack seeds barely did anything, the other Native American landrace seeds did ok- but only the seeds that were from there did really great. That's really what I'm after. I want my seeds eventually to be from this place- and it seems to me like this is an essential connection for an adapted population of a vegetable species be it a variety, breeders grex, modern landrace, or heirloom landrace like that of the farmer in the story. So this is really a breeding challenge for myself and anyone who wants to join me in purpose or swap seeds this winter.

Case in point Tomatillos! Last year I grew an adapted local variety named Terrapin after a farm in Whitefish Montana and it did amazing (from transplant). This year I thought I would see if maybe I could improve it. So I did a little side experiment with the tomatoes. I got two modern landraces Adaptive Seeds purple keepers and lofthouse tomatillos. I traded for a grex from another amateur plant breeder in California and I got three new seed packets if varieties that sounded promising- so really a lot of tomatillo diversity and what happened is that one particular tomatillo from the California Grex blew all the others away. Direct seeded it was dead ripe by August 1. Big, yellow, fantastically tropical fruit flavored like maybe pineapple- kinda like a ground cherry light.

So I have a new favorite tomatillo! I have seed saved packets of it, the purples that are purple all the way through, and the new grex in general. Should be fun to replant! Definitely gonna keep direct seeding it.

 
William Schlegel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Many crops don't grow well for me as transplants from pots. Perhaps they would do better as transplants from one place in a field to another. I loved what a Pueblo farmer told me about his chilies, "Peppers grown from transplants are imbeciles". In other words, he was saying that chilies should always be direct seeded.


To borrow your lingo Joseph direct seeded peppers in Montana would be some clever seeds I would like to have. I tried to direct seed some Hungarian Hot Wax once- no germination. I've been hearing good things about Canonocito landrace over at Alan Bishop's forum. I'd like to get some of those or similar this winter by trade or purchase.
 
Wes Hunter
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Kyle Neath wrote:In which way do you want to change the world? I'm struggling a bit with what you mean by that. I very much agree that people have lost touch with seasonality of produce, but I would probably pinpoint that primarily on long-distance shipping of produce (tomatoes from Chile in December) and a general distance from gardening/farming. People don't know that tomatoes are a summer fruit because they've probably never grown them, and if you go to the grocery store there's tomatoes year round.


(Speaking only for myself.)

"Change the world" might be a little much, but I think I get the concept.

I sometimes wonder if "season extension" will soon lead more or less to "season elimination."  Here in the Ozarks, at the farmers market, one can buy honest-to-goodness locally-grown tomatoes from February to about November.  We're not even bringing Mexico into the discussion.  That's what greenhouses, hoophouses, plastic, and propane will do for you.  One consequence of this is what seems to me a distinct lack of seasonality.  The tomato isn't a seasonal vegetable (yeah, yeah, fruit) when it's season lasts 10 months.

The funny thing is, with all the excitement about the year's 'first' tomatoes, which happens in earnest in perhaps May and June, lots of folks are all tomatoed out by August and September.  I don't know for certain, but I question whether those "season-extending" farmers and gardeners have really captured the market/demand by getting in on the act early in the year, or if they've just shifted the high-demand timeframe forward a couple months--and consequently shifted the lessened-demand timeframe forward as well.

I get how season extension might help shift consumer purchasing (on the whole) from commodity to local production, if growers can more closely approximate commodity production and timing, but I wonder what is lost as a result.

Peaches might be a good analogy.  The local peach season is (relatively) short-lived, by the very nature of peaches, and they're always in high demand.  They seem to bring good prices because of this.  So I wonder: if all tomatoes were direct seeded, and the tomato season was thus relatively short--starting perhaps midsummer and lasting only until the first good frost--would they be as profitable as season-extended tomatoes?  Would the relatively short duration of crop availability affect supply and demand to the point that prices were considerably higher?  Would the net result then be that tomato income for the farmer was equivalent to a lower price for a larger volume over a longer time?  Would consumers then value--literally and figuratively--the tomato higher, and would they then be more excited about the other new crops ripening throughout the season?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I'm also coming at this from the perspective of one who sells (meat, not produce*) at a large weekly year-long farmers market, noticing that starting around mid-August the customer rate plummets.  Part of this, I'm sure, is changing schedules, with kids back in school. Part of this is the abundance of fall festivals that draw large crowds.  But part of this, I'm assuming, is the fact that there's just nothing new and exciting at market this time of year.  Been there, done that.  How might that change if all produce was direct seeded?



*This brings up a related topic, I think.  What if all local meat was sold fresh?  What if local pasture-raised chicken was only available for three or four months out of the year, rather than available year-round in a frozen (season-extended) state?  Could I charge considerably more?  Would my total income be the same?  What if pork was only available late fall to early spring?  What if beef was only available midsummer, when it fattens most readily? 
 
r ranson
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I've actually wondered this myself.  Can getting back to direct seeding help change the world? 

In her book The Resilient Gardener, Carol Deppe talks about transplants vs. direct seeding.  More importantly, she says that if we grow transplants, then save seeds from them, we are selecting for plants that do well in that situation.  They grow more tops than roots so they can survive transplanting easier.  Whereas, a squash selected for direct seeding grows a vigorous root system.  She suggests we can develop frost tolerance by direct seeding because the roots are where the energy is at the start, if the tops die back early on, it's not such a big deal.  Only she said it way better than I can.

In the local shops, there are many veggies starts available.  Plants that I know don't like transplanting like beans and peas, are sold along ones that we traditional start indoors in our clime like tomatoes.  People spend up to $5 per pea plant!  They can buy a packet of 100 seeds for about $2.  Then they have to go to the effort of getting that plant through transplant shock, bending over, putting it in the ground.  They risk bringing new pests into their garden.  All those resources to create the plastic pots, the transportation, the soil with the funny little white orbs in it... Planting pea seeds from a standing makes far more sense to me and I see this kind of thing as a symptom of some greater issue with how we approach food.  I think encouraging people to direct seed might help reduce the symptom and reveal what it is that has our culture thinking this way about food.

However, people have been growing transplants for hundreds if not thousands of years (farmers over 40 centuries talks about rice starts).  I think there's an advantage to starting SOME things in pots then planting them out.  In the summer, for example, starting the seeds indoors means I only have to water a tiny bit of soil instead of the whole garden row.  I can rogue plants I don't want early on and place the good plants in their final spacing.  It takes less seed.  It makes it easier for me to plant my winter veggies. 

There seem to be several issues here.  Yes, transplants help sometimes, but are we using them more than necessary?  I like the idea of what Joseph says about developing genetics that will grow in his conditions.  I also feel, as a culture, we transplant more than is necessary - all this energy could be put to different uses like breeding varieties that don't need to be cosseted.

Direct seeding is a lot less work, so I personally am moving that way.  It encourages me to develop veggies that thrive in my conditions instead of forcing my conditions to conform to the plant. 

 
William Schlegel
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Seeds- if anyone wants to trade seeds towards this goal I've got a few extra tomato seeds from my direct seeded tomato project.
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Tomato seeds saved 2017
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Gigantic tomato seed pile direct seeded grex I'm drying today!
 
Todd Parr
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Our growing season is so short here that I lose a lot of tomatoes by direct seeding.  Right now I have dozens of green tomatoes on some of the tomato plants that I direct-seeded from Joseph's seeds.  They won't be ripe before frost kills them.  If I had another month or two growing time, I would have many, many more tomatoes.  I direct seeded all my squash this year and I have squash that is still blossoming, as well as many squash that won't make it to maturity.  I could simply plant twice as many squash plants next year to get more squash, but an extra month or two of growing time would do the same thing.  I direct seed most things, but I think there is a place for transplants as well.
 
William Schlegel
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Todd Parr wrote:Our growing season is so short here that I lose a lot of tomatoes by direct seeding.  Right now I have dozens of green tomatoes on some of the tomato plants that I direct-seeded from Joseph's seeds.  They won't be ripe before frost kills them.  If I had another month or two growing time, I would have many, many more tomatoes.  I direct seeded all my squash this year and I have squash that is still blossoming, as well as many squash that won't make it to maturity.  I could simply plant twice as many squash plants next year to get more squash, but an extra month or two of growing time would do the same thing.  I direct seed most things, but I think there is a place for transplants as well.


You are a full zone colder than me Todd. If I sent you tomato seeds to try direct seeded they would be my top three shortest season ones from this years direct seeded attempt: Anmore Dewdrop, F3 Sungold, and Sweet Cherriette.

Joseph's landrace tomato population works for me direct seeded but I didn't find anything in it in the top 9 shortest season. That doesn't mean there aren't ultra early wonders in his genetic mix it just means you would need to do a bigger grow out than I did to find them.

Of course there is a place for transplants but wouldn't it be neat if you didn't need to transplant some of the things you now have too?

Also when only a portion of a genetically variable population makes it- that is how a landrace gets to be shorter season adapted. Worst case is either nothing makes it or everything does.
 
Todd Parr
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I hear you William.  And I do get tomatoes from Joseph's seeds, quite a lot of them.  I just dislike seeing the green ones sit on the vine until they freeze.  I also don't know nearly as much about plant breeding as you and others on the forum.  So far I am just planting everything I can get and keeping the seeds from the ones that do best for me.  Someday maybe I'll get to the point of saving seeds only from early maturing plants and plants that taste best, as well as other traits.  Right now I am still learning.  I never heard of landrace vegetables until I read some things Joseph had written.  I just bought heritage seeds every year and thought I was doing the right thing.  The short growing season I am in does present some challenges for me.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Even in my mild climate, I have green tomatoes on the vines that won't ripen before the plant dies. My two strategies for dealing with them, are pickling some for use on sandwiches through the winter. And cutting off whole vines and hanging them on drying racks in the house to ripen.
 
William Schlegel
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This is true I've long been dedicated to short season indeterminate tomatoes and there was always this family tradition- since my grandparents of having boxes of green tomatoes ripening in the house after frost emergency harvest.

I tried way more determinate tomatoes this year largely because of Joseph's writings. In truth lots of the determinate kinds made it all the way through their production cycle. Krainiy Sever, Jagodka, and Forest Fire made it into my top 9 shortest season list and are determinate and of decent size. However with the torture I put my plants through this year most of those that still survive are almost out of green tomatoes!

Torture = the cure for green tomatoes.

Spring frost, weeds, excessive competition, and months of drought with inadequate watering kept my plants nicely stunted and seems to have limited the total crop!
 
Mike Jay
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William, I'm envious of your and Todd's lengthy growing season   I'd be up for a trade for some fast growing cherry tomatoes.  I must admit I've read some of the posts about your projects but not enough to really know which specific tomatoes I should desire.

In return, the only seeds I think I have that are interesting are Minnesota Midget cantaloupes which fruit for me when direct seeded.  I did two direct plantings and a transplant planting this year and have fruit on all three batches.  I had a frost three weeks ago but they are still ripening.  I've eaten some from the first direct seeding plot already (107 days from planting to full-slip).

We can PM about it and if you don't care for cantaloupe, I completely understand.
 
s. ayalp
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There is one point I would like to add to the subject. Even though I much prefer direct seeding, the only reasonable way for me to grow pumpkins or winter squash is to start them indoors 3-4- or even 5 weeks before first frost (13th of march). Every year at the end of July all plants somehow get "fatal wounds". This year it was hail storm, other years it might be mildew (over 90% humidity for two weeks), bugs (peaks in July), rats (summer food scarcity), whatnot. Yield might drop up to 60%. Direct seeded plants indeed do much better if you are considering how much growth they put on, but their fruits are a lot smaller, and prone to disease (they don't have much root growth in summer (no rain - Mediterranean climate), compared to spring when soil is moist). Yet I comment these without locally adapted seeds.

On the other hand, I think I can understand the concept. It might be an umbrella term/requirement. To achieve direct seeded gardening, one might better have,
-top quality soil. (Paul Gautschi's comments on soil quality and it's relation with direct seeding - recently asked by justin rhodes about his techniques)
-locally adapted seeds (very very important)
-balanced environment
and/or some other requirements that I can't think of right now. Yeah, I can absolutely see how it can change the world.
 
leila hamaya
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Todd Parr wrote: I just dislike seeing the green ones sit on the vine until they freeze.


a bit off topic, but i think worth the side track - right before the frosts come you can pull up the ENTIRE tomato plant, roots and all, hang it upside down in a corner somewhere (cool is better) and it will slowly naturally ripen all those green tomatoes this winter.

sometimes i plant tomatoes late in zone 8 just to do this....

back on topic, i find that some things certainly do better than others with direct seeding, and some things seem to do best only when direct seeded. but i find it takes a 100 times more seed, if not more to get the same amount of plants. volunteers are a different story, though and produce some of the best producing plants. but again from like 100-thousands of seeds...say from a bunch of tomatoes left in the garden you might get only one or 2 volunteers.

so if you have a lot of free cheap seed to spare, direct seeding can be excellent. but being able to control the temps and conditions and with the extra protection, growing the starts, you get much more bang for your smaller amounts of seed.
 
r ranson
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What if you had squash that could direct seed in the ground when it's still cold?  6 weeks before the transplants go in the ground.  Would you're season be long enough then?

That's what I'm working on.  Carol Deppe writes about squash that can take a light frost while still young.  Direct seeding them gives them a chance to get a deeper root and be stronger, so they can produce squash faster when the weather grows hot, and need less water too.

Our season is long, but often not hot.  With the help of earthworks, I'm planting my squash seeds in the ground mid-April.  Last year, it was early March.  Officially we can't plant out squash starts until the end of May.  My harvest comes earlier than the local farms.  Although I'm still working on creating a squash that suits my needs.  Maybe I need to invest in some Lofthouse seed. 
 
William Schlegel
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leila hamaya wrote:

back on topic, i find that some things certainly do better than others with direct seeding, and some things seem to do best only when direct seeded. but i find it takes a 100 times more seed, if not more to get the same amount of plants. volunteers are a different story, though and produce some of the best producing plants. but again from like 100-thousands of seeds...say from a bunch of tomatoes left in the garden you might get only one or 2 volunteers.

so if you have a lot of free cheap seed to spare, direct seeding can be excellent. but being able to control the temps and conditions and with the extra protection, growing the starts, you get much more bang for your smaller amounts of seed.


With tomatoes I would agree I would say plant 10 seeds for every plant you want. Home saved seed is a lifesaver for this because some tomato seed is very expensive. Though home saving tomato seed is really easy and you can still eat most of the tomato. You still have to pay attention- in some cases possibly too much attention to the bed of newly planted seed. Gotta keep it watered, got to prepare a good seed bed. Some soils / climates this is harder than others.

In my garden this year I think I noticed a bias against small tomato seeds. I think large tomato seeds had an easier time germinating. This seemed odd to me because wild and just closer to wild tomatoes tend to have smaller fruits with more seeds and smaller seeds. I would have assumed that small seeds represent higher fitness- and they do in terms of high seed numbers, but larger seeds may also have a fitness component.
 
William Schlegel
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r ranson wrote:What if you had squash that could direct seed in the ground when it's still cold?  6 weeks before the transplants go in the ground.  Would you're season be long enough then?

That's what I'm working on.  Carol Deppe writes about squash that can take a light frost while still young.  Direct seeding them gives them a chance to get a deeper root and be stronger, so they can produce squash faster when the weather grows hot, and need less water too.

Our season is long, but often not hot.  With the help of earthworks, I'm planting my squash seeds in the ground mid-April.  Last year, it was early March.  Officially we can't plant out squash starts until the end of May.  My harvest comes earlier than the local farms.  Although I'm still working on creating a squash that suits my needs.  Maybe I need to invest in some Lofthouse seed. 


I suspect I could seed my squash in March and the seeds would wait in the ground until the soil was the right temperature to grow. I did something similar to this in 2011 or 2012- not quite march but I planted the squash seed before the soil was the right temperature according to the packet knowing that squash can volunteer- and thus must be able to survive in the soil and germinate when the correct temperatures arrive. I haven't had a squash volunteer in years- I think this is because there is a lot of rodent pressure in my garden and they eat the seeds. In the backyard we often had squash volunteer usually right out of the compost pile.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Sorry I just started laughing when I heard this, sure it's fine for people in warm areas, and even possibly continetal climates but for some of us in Northern europe, not happening.

going to comment on some specifics here.
Tomatoes (this year did amazing) Need greenhouse protection or southfacing wall AND early starting to get red (or yellow) tomatos
Tomatillos (this year did amazing) Never gets warm enough for these outside a greenhouse
Watermelons (sometimes- more work needed on my part I had a failure this year) Seriously specialist plant up here, requires heat and a greenhouse, even then may not fruit
Cantaloupes (usually) See watermelons, I did get one this year from a plant started in feb in the house and then into the greenhouse in June
Cucumbers Outdoor pickling types might make it, but you wonuldn't get a crop before early september, a couple of weeks before first frost.
Squash (This year ~ 3 species well and a fourth maybe) zuchinni can do it, winter squash struggles as it is, prefering to grow on black plastic and only just makes it to maturity now just before the frosts.



So for example I tried a lot of super short season tomatoes this year direct seeded. Some of them did so well that I think they could be direct seeded in even colder climates. Some of the determinate varieties produced all their tomatoes direct seeded with time to spare! It was anything but unproductive- in fact I was unprepared for the massive productivity. I'm not sure how a tomato that is seeded in mid june can possibly get anywhere before September when night temperatures drop to 5C

Cold season crops- can often be seeded in the fall or early early spring long before last frost. This year I planted wheat, rye, lentils, chickpeas,more greenhouse crops here onions, favas, peas, sunflowers, spinach, orach and cilantro in March for the first time. Many of them did much much better than when I planted them later. Especially the peas and favas.
Peas are always started in March direct here, fava are broadbeans? They go in in Jan or Feb or even the previous autumn they are winter hardy. Sunflowers struggle in a good summer they may make a seed head but it won't ripen before frosts. Spinach can be grown very early or late.

Direct seeding up here in Europe where our summers are cool and not very long 120 days frost free, but very rarely over 70F with nights often below 50 even in July, isn't practical, we're already seriously pushing where you can grow crops, so they need all the help they can get. For example this year I neglected to get my tomatos out into their growbags against a south facing wall before the end of June. that ment that by the first frost (now) I had 0 tomatos from them, only the greenhouse ones produced.  Some things like sweetcorn you can do either way, starting them inside in May will get you a week or so ahead of the ones direct sown in June.  Even cabages do better when started indoors, I did both this year some were started in march inside, others in May outside, the march ones came in a month before the direct sown.

There is another problem with direct sowing, it takes a lot more space, you can cheat and get plants going 2-3 weeks without them taking up space in the garden, then slot them in after something else comes out.  And now I think about it, I have other issues in my garden which is soil, I live in a bog, I cannot even plant peas when everyone else does unless I transplant as the seeds simply rot, I have to wait 3-4 weeks later and do it then (I'm going to try round seeded types this year, apparently they are better). I think to direct seed eveything you're going to need perfect soil, a warm and resonably long summer, and a very limited diet. I do plant everything I can direct, even some things that people here consider to need transplanting (swiss chard for example) But I could not get the exotics like tomatos and squash to go without it, they barely make it with it.

Personaly I do not want to go back to the old diet we had here before glass houses and transplants, cabbage kale and root veg, yay.

 
leila hamaya
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a lot of my fails with direct seeding are because i have so many different kinds of animals/bugs/birds that want to eat the seeds and the sprouts. and even when i manage to get them sprouted, ive had a lot of things that will eat the small seedlings. i've been way out in the woods, so the animals and bugs are pretty epic.

thats another plus for starting inside a more controlled environment. that and its easier to remember to keep them frequently watered.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Because seed is often sold in ounces and my garden is small. Some things I have more seed than I need, and others I have to buy multiple packs yearly. I only need a 8-10 tomato plants, and they have very small seeds. But I like to plant a lot of fava beans, and their seeds are large and heavy. I didn't save seeds from my favas last year because the plants ended up covered in rust. But I have a feeling that is always going to be an issue, just like powdery mildew on cucurbits in autumn. If it happens again this year, I think that I will save some seed and see where it takes me. Does anyone else have experience with these issues? My mother has always told me that it isn't so important whether or not a plant gets powdery mildew or rust, etc. , but whether or not it survives if it's a perennial, or it got the job done as an annual.
 
William Schlegel
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

I do plant everything I can direct, even some things that people here consider to need transplanting (swiss chard for example) But I could not get the exotics like tomatos and squash to go without it, they barely make it with it.



If you plant everything you can direct and push the limits a bit on the societal norms on that where you live then I consider you on board with the idea- though you may not have realized it at first. This idea is not and does not have to be one size fits all. Not everyone needs to be pushing the limits on the same crops, many of us have different climates etc. One gardener's direct seeded tomatoes might be another's direct seeded swiss chard!

Also not all vegetable genetics are equally up to this task even within a species. In fact though I bet that some of the ultra early tomatoes I collected for this years attempts would be quite useful for someone on the edge of where tomatoes are possible even with transplanting… Same with some of my exotic Montana adapted squash varieties like Mandan and Hidatsa squashes. Perhaps my exotic super short season sweet corn grex would be of use for someone further north or in a cooler more maritime northern climate.
 
William Schlegel
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Stacy Witscher wrote:Because seed is often sold in ounces and my garden is small. Some things I have more seed than I need, and others I have to buy multiple packs yearly. I only need a 8-10 tomato plants, and they have very small seeds. But I like to plant a lot of fava beans, and their seeds are large and heavy. I didn't save seeds from my favas last year because the plants ended up covered in rust. But I have a feeling that is always going to be an issue, just like powdery mildew on cucurbits in autumn. If it happens again this year, I think that I will save some seed and see where it takes me. Does anyone else have experience with these issues? My mother has always told me that it isn't so important whether or not a plant gets powdery mildew or rust, etc. , but whether or not it survives if it's a perennial, or it got the job done as an annual.


Your mother is right but there is a possible solution to the problem altogether: a more genetically diverse population of fava beans. Which you can obtain from such sources as Adaptive Seeds, Resilient Seeds, or Joseph Lofthouse.

https://www.adaptiveseeds.com/product/vegetables/beans/fava-bean-ianto-s-return-organic/
http://www.resilient-seeds.com/store/p78/Fava_-_Ianto%27s_Return_%28Certified_Organic%29.html
http://garden.lofthouse.com/seed-list.phtml

I had my best Fava / broad bean / Vicia fava year ever this year. I planted Lofthouse landrace, Ianto's Return, 2 types of Windsor (early and regular), and Frog Island Nation, and I changed my way of doing things from how I've been planting my early windsor for many years. I planted much much earlier- in March as soon as I could get into my garden. I tried a few transplants because Joseph mentioned doing do, but direct seeding worked fine for me. Because I let my garden dry out for the tomatoes this summer most of the plants died but some kept on and a few are still growing now- though they came back from the base and are still smaller than they once were. I expect they will keep growing till it gets really truly cold sometime in deep winter.

My seed saved early windsor from the now defunct garden city seeds had a disease- which I looked up at the time, causes black spots. Anyhow I ignored it as has pretty much been my approach to plant pathology forever and when it got a little warmer the black spots dried up and the plants just kept on growing. I asked around a bit online and other gardeners said they ignore it too. I also found an article that said some strains are resistant. So if we can collect enough Fava diversity we might find ourselves with a black spot or rust resistant strain of Fava. In many ways in a hyper diverse population its the diversity that checks the ability of plant diseases to adapt to new hosts. So if I planted a vast acreage of a very genetically uniform Fava a particular rust or black spot strain could infest the whole vast acreage. But if my vast acreage of Fava was planted with incredibly diverse favas the disease should be checked by that very diversity. Though diversity alone is not enough, genes for rust resistance and possibly immunity, preferably multiple versions of genes with slightly different modes of action found both in multiple alleles and different locations in the genome should be present in the population and should be allowed to exist in every possible configuration.

The conventional approach to rust resistance is to have as many of the best genes as possible for rust resistance all arrayed in a single uniform variety. This means if the rust adapts to the variety it can once again wreak havoc on the entire giant field.

I read an interesting article about wild favas recently.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170410095649.htm

Some researchers found old dead seeds of wild favas at an archaeologic dig site. This generated great excitement because even though there is great diversity in domestic favas no wild crop relatives or ancestral wild species are currently known. So if Archeology could lead us to an extant wild population modern plant breeders could get awesome disease resistance genes from the wild ancestor. That is for their scheme of developing uniform varieties that become susceptible again as soon as one strain of the pathogen can attack their new variety. Apparently getting these genes from the wild ancestor would be far easier than sorting through the thousands of varieties in gene banks- it is apparently to hard to sort through all that material and properly evaluate all of it. Maybe someone should introduce them to Joseph Lofthouse. If they did I am sure Joseph would suggest taking those thousand different envelopes of seed and dumping them all together into a bucket, then planting the entire bucket of mixed up seeds in a field where the disease problem occurs
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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William Schlegel wrote:Maybe someone should introduce them to Joseph Lofthouse. If they did I am sure Joseph would suggest taking those thousand different envelopes of seed and dumping them all together into a bucket, then planting the entire bucket of mixed up seeds in a field where the disease problem occurs


Yup, that's my strategy. I creolize everything as soon as possible.

 
Patrik Schumann
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Hola everyone, This is what most all growers used to do as a matter of course.  I've been collecting, growing, saving, selecting, breeding seed & scion lines of vegetable & herbs (300+ vars) & fruit, nut, berry (600+ vars) for many years.  I've approached close to some others & organisations involved. and I'd very much like to see & be part of a systematic collaboration on this.  Note that scale, time, complexity, differentiation, communication, information become challenges quickly: amount of land, succession/ overlap/ time management, individual interests/ parallel cropping/ exchanging reproduction-propagation material, making the most of the group effect, making comparative phenological data accessible, zeroing in on the most promising while keeping the long-term wide-spread going.  My focus at the moment is not breeding the best true-seed garlic for high desert or finding land for the 17,000 apple seedlings from which one might not be a spitter - it's the app that'll connect us all, the material, and the insights.  Best, Patrik

see also: https://permies.com/t/70803/Apple-seed-amd-grape-collective#593924
 
Todd Parr
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leila hamaya wrote:
Todd Parr wrote: I just dislike seeing the green ones sit on the vine until they freeze.


a bit off topic, but i think worth the side track - right before the frosts come you can pull up the ENTIRE tomato plant, roots and all, hang it upside down in a corner somewhere (cool is better) and it will slowly naturally ripen all those green tomatoes this winter.



I didn't know, thank you.
 
Chris Ferguson
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I read the first 8 posts then couldn't make it all the way down so excuse me if this is already stated.  Isn't the goal of Permaculture to create a self-seeding, low maintenance food forest?  I remember the video of Bill Mollison returning to his property and walking around harvesting fruit and vegetables.  He had left it untouched while he taught in Africa.  I neglected my garden this season and I noticed that my watercress was seeded for me in a second garden area by the birds, I think.  I was reminded to make self-seeding a goal.  Is anyone having great success with this?
 
William Schlegel
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Chris Ferguson wrote:I read the first 8 posts then couldn't make it all the way down so excuse me if this is already stated.  Isn't the goal of Permaculture to create a self-seeding, low maintenance food forest?  I remember the video of Bill Mollison returning to his property and walking around harvesting fruit and vegetables.  He had left it untouched while he taught in Africa.  I neglected my garden this season and I noticed that my watercress was seeded for me in a second garden area by the birds, I think.  I was reminded to make self-seeding a goal.  Is anyone having great success with this?


I love volunteer vegetables. Sometimes botany work takes me away for years. When I came back to the garden last year after three years away it had retained parsnips, turnips, daikon radish, and Siberian kale- all still going strong.

Of new additions I would bet on Orach to join them.

Though If I help things along just a little each year lettuce and many others do well also.
 
Kareen Fattig
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Using the natural "volunteerism" of plants to grow a garden. Every year I have volunteer plants whether tomato, potatoe, melons, lettuce etc. So I decided to up the ante and use that inclination to my benefit.
I am from Wyoming. We had a lot of snow, normal cold. In March I ordered 24" bubble wrap and taped strips together to make bubble wrap blankets. I lay these blankets on the snow to quick melt and earm the ground. The temperatures under the blanket reached 60 above easy on sunny days. The soil temp 58 to 62 in several weeks.
I took tomato seeds thr end of march and planted in small hills. I covered with bubble wrap. The third week of April seen tomatoes coming up. I thinned in May. I planted on the worse ground my mistake. My plants are loaded with fruit. Now it is freezing so I cover with floating row cover and bubble wrap.
Melons, cukes, etc all come up early direct seeded with bubble wrap. Watch the moisture is all. They dont freeze either. Tent bw as they grow.
 
Gordon Haverland
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The originator of this thread, is like me, on the eastern slopes of the Rockies (or in the Rockies).  I'm just a little further north at 56N.

When I seen the title of this thread, with "Direct Seeded", my mind went elsewhere.

I am just starting to rehab my abandoned farm, but one thing I had been thinking about is to raise cereal crops (and things like flax for fibre) so that the planting, weeding and harvesting is all by robot, and no footprints (other than all the deer, moose, and what not) need be on the soil of the plot.

A long time ago, I seen a blurb about planting trees in India.  They would dig a deep, narrow hole, pour in a cup or so of water, and drop in a seedling (filling the top of the hole).  The idea being the tree seedling would follow the water.  I've no idea if that works, if that plan was abandoned because it doesn't work.

Let's say we can get a robot to dig a trench as deep/wide as it needs to be along a line.  We then lay in the trench a "cable" (or set of cables).  Part of this cable, is a seed holder, and the cable is positioned so that when the trench is backfilled, the seed is at about the correct depth.  So the seed grow from the seed holder, pushing a stem above ground and root below ground.  And at the end of the season we can lift the cable up, to remove a reasonable fraction of the root ball.  And then cleaning our cable, we can prepare for next season (which could be a different kind of seed).

What else does this cable do/provide?  Well, maybe there is tubing there, and it can provide irrigation.  Drip irrigation would put this tube at ground level.  Maybe we need to put this cable lower down?  How low?  More than one?  Water is delivered to different depths at different rates depending on growing conditions?

Well, the cable could also provide heating.  And as the cable revolves around a seed holder, the heating can be restricted to the vicinity of the seed.

And if a frost event is expected, maybe adding more water to the soil will help mitigate effects?  So, there might be a mode where the water added is more than just a drip.

Maybe the seed holder is a little more involved, and has an mass of custom soil from which the seed is to start?

This can become quite complex.  It probably won't be cost effective to grow whatever generic cereal your part of the world wants to grow as a monoculture.  But even then, it should produce higher yields as it is more water efficient (or could be).

But, if a person wants to grow a particular (heirloom) variety of malt barley to make beer; then this might be an entirely acceptable set of requirements (as long as the customer is willing to pay for the upscale beer that comes out of this).

I've only ever thought of this in straight lines, but maybe it works in other geometries?

But given we can improve a crop for our local conditions by landracing or other, this kind of idea could be used to hedge our bets a little.  It won't protect us from a hail storm, but it will allow us to whether a drought a bit better.
 
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