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Landrace Gardening

 
R Ranson
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I planted my adzuki beans this weekend. Yes, it's 6 weeks early, and yes, they don't grow here (daylight and temperature issues), and yes, they want actual moisture during the growing season, and yes, there are so many other things I'm doing wrong. But heck, I want adzuki beans to grow here, I just don't want to put the effort in to nursing them along.

The first year I planted about a kilo of grocery store seed, again in mid-April. No hard frosts happened, so they grew, then most of them died from drought and being mistaken as weeds. I got a harvest from two plants, so I took those seed, mixed them with more grocery store seed, planted them in more or less the same place. I got a harvest from 6 plants. Saved the seeds, mixed with grocery store seed, and this year is my THIRD year! Maybe, just Maybe, I'll get 8 plants worth of seed.

I hadn't realized it until today that I what I'm doing might be creating a landrace seed. I can't wait to find out what this harvest will be like.

 
Shawn Harper
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R Ranson wrote:I planted my adzuki beans this weekend. Yes, it's 6 weeks early, and yes, they don't grow here (daylight and temperature issues), and yes, they want actual moisture during the growing season, and yes, there are so many other things I'm doing wrong. But heck, I want adzuki beans to grow here, I just don't want to put the effort in to nursing them along.

The first year I planted about a kilo of grocery store seed, again in mid-April. No hard frosts happened, so they grew, then most of them died from drought and being mistaken as weeds. I got a harvest from two plants, so I took those seed, mixed them with more grocery store seed, planted them in more or less the same place. I got a harvest from 6 plants. Saved the seeds, mixed with grocery store seed, and this year is my THIRD year! Maybe, just Maybe, I'll get 8 plants worth of seed.

I hadn't realized it until today that I what I'm doing might be creating a landrace seed. I can't wait to find out what this harvest will be like.



I started something similar with beans this year. I bought every dry bean type in whole foods bulk section. I planted them all in my 3 sisters (Gets watered once a week only if the weather is above 80) garden. I plan on saving them all for seed unless I get an insane amount.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Sometimes, a man's gotta have a little fun...

I have been growing cacti since I was a little boy. It's the one thing that I grow just for looks, or just for the flowers. While I'm not specifically growing landraces, I do collect lots of different species, and being cacti, they may form inter-species hybrids, but even if they don't, I'm propagating them from seed.

Here's one of my favorites from about 11 days ago.

pediocactus-simpsonii-2016.jpg
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Pediocactus simpsonii.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Today, Mother Earth News published the next installment in my ongoing blog about landrace gardening.

Landrace Gardening: Do It for the Taste

Growing your own localized varieties of vegetables allows you to customize the taste to your liking.

 
John Weiland
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Nice article, Joseph. It occurs to me upon reading it that a future may exist where the first place to look for seeds when thinking of starting a garden would be the local community. Perhaps local databases of who-grows-what would emerge as a source of such "starter kits" of seeds. If one has already brought favored heirloom seeds with them from a different country or region, then heirloom X local crosses may allow faster recovery of a desired taste in that new garden. The vigor and flavor will be an interaction minimally between the taste-buds of the collector/breeder, the soil in which they are being grown, and the genes in the crop in question. The bigger, well-known garden seed suppliers may have to take a bit of a back seat if this were to come to pass, but would still serve as a source (assuming their offerings were still fertile) of new genes of one wishes to introduce them into their landrace varieties.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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John: For my own valley, I sorta have that list of local seed growers already. I know of other nearby and far away places that have their own local seed coops. It's in my memory though, and not in a database where others can access it. My muskmelons resulted from two local growers combining our landraces into one. That was one of my favorite collaborations.
 
John Weiland
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Joseph L. and/or others: I was thinking of this project the other day. Perennialism is valued for many reasons that have been discussed here and annualism allows for fast turn-around. Biennialism is a bit of a pain at times. What if, as a test case, genetically-dominant annualism is put back into Swiss chard. True, it would likely cause problems in those cases where one wishes to keep their chard going through the winter and would probably be detrimental beet root development, but for those who don't have that option, it would allow for seed harvest in the same year that leaf harvest was being made. As the bolting gene responds to long daylength, one could still harvest much leafy material before flowering and even after flowering, although there would be some change to nutrient content. Am I missing something here?

Reference information (open access?): "In annual beets, BvFT1 is not expressed even in the absence of vernalization and was shown to be negatively regulated by the pseudo-response regulator gene BOLTING TIME CONTROL 1 (BTC1), formerly referred to as BvBTC1[18]. This gene is located at the bolting locus B and is a major determinant of the annual growth habit in beet. The dominant BTC1 allele promotes bolting in annuals in response to long days, whereas biennials carry a partial-loss-of-function allele which is not able to mediate the promotive effect of long days without prior vernalization [18]. All cultivated (biennial) beet accessions tested were found to carry the same haplotype whereas the vast majority of wild sea beets harbour haplotypes which resemble the BTC1 allele found in annual reference accessions."

http://bmcplantbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2229-13-52
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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John: Bok Choi and Turnips are the same species. One is an annual, the other is a biennial. If chard grown as an annual was as easy to work with and as productive as bok choi, that would seem good enough to me. I have always culled any chard or beets that go to seed the first year. It would be easy enough to select for that trait. I saw some sea beet seed laying around the other day.

 
John Weiland
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Thanks, Joseph. I'm thinking I might ask a local here for some sea beet as well and have it grown out and ready in case some of my chard bolts this year. Being a wild, the sea beet likely will have greater diversity for disease and insect resistance as well. Reselection then could start in subsequent years for leaf traits and bolting and flowering time. Seems that one should be able to cull out early bolters as well and just favor the later season bolters while trying to maximize leaf/palatability characteristics. I know there is a dominant self-fertility gene out there as well, but will avoid introducing that in favor of outcrossing for the time being.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Another thing that I think about often in regards to landrace gardening is that the plants localize to the farmer's habits... So bok-choi that grows best when planted in the spring, might have different genetics than that which grows best when planted as a fall crop. I often think about splitting my landraces between spring, summer, and/or fall varieties, and sometimes I save seed to do those sorts of projects. But fully implementing the split doubles or triples the amount of work I have to do on a species. So I don't often follow through... I have however developed a winter-hardy shelling pea. I planted some favas this spring that I had marked as "summer favas" because they set fruit while it was hot. A couple of my collaborators are working with seeds that I saved as "hot weather peas".

Since I have about a quart of mixed genetics bok-choi seed, I am intending to plant a lot of it, and then split it into populations for winter-hardy, slow-bolting spring, and fall planting.

Yesterday, I had more fun planting the kohlrabi seed crop than I've had planting anything in a long time...

Last fall, I pulled the plants, and buried them in a root pit.


About half of them rotted. I collected those that are still alive. That's a 16" X 24" crate that they are in.


Then I planted them so that about the bottom 4" of the swollen stem was in the ground. And I put fence posts into the ground on either end of the row. Installed the lowest strand of the California-Weave trellis that I'm intending for them. When I take roots out of the root-pit and grow seeds from them, they tend to develop weak roots, so the trellis is to keep them from blowing over, or popping out if jostled.


P5030007.JPG
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Kohlrabi seed crop in progress
 
Tyler Ludens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I planted some favas this spring that I had marked as "summer favas" because they set fruit while it was hot.


Ooo! Exciting!

 
John Weiland
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Just wanted to add this nice photo here with a reference:
CarrotColors.JPG
[Thumbnail for CarrotColors.JPG]
 
John Weiland
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We've been having this on-again, off-again problem for many years with tomatoes and peppers that are otherwise adapted well for our location (the seeds have been kept for many generations)--- We start the seeds indoors under lights. The soil is a bit of standard potting soil mixed with well-aged manure and our garden soil. Irrespective of whether or not we keep them under lights or move them outside to harden off for several weeks, many of them develop a stem/root rot. The immediate supposition is damping off, but sometimes it even occurs when we've been careful to keep things a bit on the dry side. I've been tempted to use one of the beneficial adjuvants like Rootshield (Trichoderma) at the time of planting, but was wondering if others battle this much. I can see where Joseph's breeding and selection schemes with the diversity present might eliminate those that are more susceptible to this, but am curious if he's had to combat this as well.

Flea beetles: They hammer the mustards and pac choi, but not the kale. Another target for landrace breeding in brassicas? Have not seen much discussion on flea beetles but maybe I missed the thread.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I haven't had much trouble with damping off in tomatoes. I've been growing my own varieties for years, and my dozen or so regulars are descended from hundreds of varieties, so maybe I forget how things used to be. I am not in a habit of coddling susceptible varieties. However this year, I had a terrible damping-off problem with okra. Perhaps 7/8th of the crop died shortly after germination, and more die each day. Uugh! Perhaps I'll try replanting with a drier potting media. Perhaps I'll just let survival-of-the-fittest take it's course. I was so looking forward to taking a lot of okra to market this summer. Boo hoo.

I grew about 20 sibling groups of peppers this spring. One sibling group was very susceptible to damping off. 95% of them are already dead. One sibling group lost about 50% of it's members. The rest of the sibling groups did fine.

I'm just now starting to breed brassicas. Resistance to flea beetles will need to be one of the primary selection criteria!!! I should take a photo of my bok choi!!! It would be nice for y'all to see some failures coming out of my garden.
 
John Weiland
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Thanks, Joseph. I suppose if the damping-off knows no season, I could wait until we know that our current crop is humming along in the garden, and then I could plant out much of the previous-year's seed and select for those that survive the damping off. I could try keeping this separate for successive plantings, protecting them into late fall, to see if we can beat the disease without losing other favorable qualities.

Pac Choi looks like it was hit with a sand-blaster, but the kale marches on.
 
R Ranson
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John Weiland wrote: Irrespective of whether or not we keep them under lights or move them outside to harden off for several weeks, many of them develop a stem/root rot


Are you using metal or plastic containers? We switched to wood flats and/or those paper pots, and what use to be an annual plague of stem/root rot, has never returned. The inspiration was that my great grandfather never had that problem and had no access to modern solutions, so we tried what he use to do. It worked!
 
John Weiland
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@ R. Ranson: "Are you using metal or plastic containers?"

They are plastic flats, so it would be interesting to switch. Certainly would be interesting to try clay pots of which we still have a few. Thanks for this....certainly worth testing!
 
R Ranson
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Did I tell you guys yet?  The first squash of the season is ready this week!  I picked it yesterday.  It looks like a mix of sweet meat and First Taste (hybrid kabocha), weighing in at 4+ kilo.  The photo is from last week.

This is from some of the seeds I planted back at the end of March (if memory serves - I really should start keeping records)

I can't remember what time of year I normally harvest squash, but I think it's usually July.  More to the point, my friend's squash have two true leaves and the grocery store squash is up to $4 a pound (averaging $2 a pound) for squash right now (compared to the late summer price of 14 cents a pound). 


Writing this more to remind myself than for you guys
My goals for this landrace are:

  • yummy!

  • big seeds
  • frost tolerant when young so can be planted in early April or march
  • big flesh, small seed cavity
  • about 2 kilo fruit
  • vigerious vine growth style - no bush squash for me.
  • direct seed in the ground instead of transplanting
  • vigerious root growth and drought tollarance
  • good keeper


  • I think I'll add early producer, that continues to grow squash throughout the summer.  I don't know if this is possible, but if I were selling my squash right now, it would fetch a very high price.


    I'm thinking for next year, my plan for squash growing is to pick my five or ten favourite squashes from this year, and grow at least one plant from each.  I'll also plant some of the favourites from last year like First Taste and Sweet Meat, as well as my Cinderella style squash that has most of the growth characteristics I love (cold tolerant seedlings, grows massive great vines of up to a meter per day, very drought resistant) but makes far too large a squash.  Am I on the right path?




    IMG_1189.JPG
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    first squash of 2016
     
    R Ranson
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    inside the squash



    about three-quarters of the seeds were 'full'.  Lovely fat seeds.  Mmmm.



    It could have been sweeter, but I think it would get there with storage.  Very happy with this squash.  Its seeds are going in the save for planting pile.

    Now to decide if I'm doing sibling groups next year, or simple mass selection. 
     
    Tracy Wandling
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    Congratulations! How exciting is THAT?! Can't wait for more growing space, and starting my own experiments. I feel that this is so very important for people to learn and practise, and am pretty excited about setting up my first attempts. The future lies in seeds, me thinks.
     
    Casie Becker
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    I'm curious how many people kept up with their experiments or started them because of this thread. It went a long way to giving me the confidence to save my own seed last year. This winter I started my first efforts for culling for characteristics I want. Reading about others efforts helps me believe that it's not impossible to breed for a squash that produces for a whole season that isn't destroyed by squash vine borers.

    While not what I'd consider breeding projects, I saved seed from several varieties of beans, a couple of squash, amaranth, dill, and tomatoes and all of them are going back into the garden this year. Both of the squash survived the squash vine borers, but through different mechanisms. I have many more varieties to try this year.
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Very excited to follow your experiments this year, Casie.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I am aware of dozens of people that have read this thread, but not participated in it, that have started saving their own seeds for their own gardens. I like the digital letters that people send with details about their seed saving endeavors.  I really like the handwritten paper letters that people send.

    In my world view, any seed saving effort is a breeding project, because of minor differences between plants. Those minor differences eventually show up in the descendants as selection is (perhaps inadvertently) made for the more fit types.

     
    Ferne Reid
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    My squash landrace last summer was a dismal failure. I'm putting it down to the fact that it was my first year gardening in the South, and although the spot I picked would have been ideal in PA, it was too dry and sun baked here in TN. Nothing came up. So I've moved the whole garden, and I'm going to give it another whirl this year.

    My goal this year is to plant as many varieties of everything that I can get my hands on.
     
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