Class Title: From Seed to Shining Seed
Where: Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, Harvest Hall breezeway, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto, 95358.
When: Tuesday, October 19, 2021 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Instructor: Heidi Aufdermaur
- Author: Heidi Aufdermaur
Fruit or vegetable, there is no doubt to the popularity of the home-grown tomato, picked fresh off the vine and appreciated for its tasty flavor, health benefits and beauty. Growing heirloom tomatoes has recently become more popular, with the various colors, shapes, and sizes.
The first year I started my tomatoes from seed, I was not sure how many seeds would germinate. I planted 3-4 seeds in each cell. To my surprise, most of them grew. I was challenged to thin them and keep the most vigorous ones, so I transplanted most of them into their own cell and grew about 450 tomato plants. I was very popular that year with co-workers and family as I shared the bounty.
Tomato plants are also an easy plant to grow in containers. The important thing to remember when choosing a tomato plant is its growth habit. The two growth habits are determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes grow to 3-5' tall, set fruit within 4-6 weeks and then begin to decline. They are a great choice for container gardening. Indeterminate tomatoes are more like a vine, as they grow, flower, and set fruit the entire season. They need a sturdy support and grow best in the ground. For more information about growing this tasty produce, join the UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener presentation, ‘Tips for Terrific Tomatoes” on April 20.
Where*: On Zoom. You will receive a link the morning of the class.
When: Tuesday, April 20, 2021 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Register at: http://ucanr.edu/tomato/tips2021
Master Gardener Instructors: Heidi Aufdermaur & Terry Harper
- Author: Anne E Schellman
In August we featured an article by former Environmental Horticulture Advisor, Ed Perry, called "Save the Right Seeds."
This article discussed how to successfully choose which vegetable seeds to save to plant in your garden next year.
Now, we wanted to follow up with tips for how to save your chosen seeds. Master Gardeners Royce Rhoads and Heidi Aufdermaur taught this class last year, and plan to teach it again in 2021.
Here is a list of items to gather. Most likely you already have most of them:
-Marker and masking tape
-Knife and spoon
-Jars and rings; or just use paper cups
-Paper towels or cheesecloth
-Fine mesh or strainer
-Paper plates for drying
Most people save tomato seeds, so let's go over the steps to save them. Tomato seeds have a gooey covering over them that needs to be removed first.
Allowing the seeds to sit in water lets “good” bacteria break down that covering. The empty seeds will float and you can skim them off. The seeds you want are at the bottom of the jar.
Step 1: Label the outside of your jar with masking tape and a permanent marker.
Step 2: Cut tomato, scoop out seeds & put into jar.
Step 3: Fill your jar, with the seeds in it, 1/2 full of water. Cover with paper towel/cheesecloth.
Step 4: Two days later, skim off floating seeds and remove.
Step 5: Wait a few more days until a film forms on the surface (fermentation* process).
Step 6: Strain the pulp through a screen until seeds separate. Spread onto labeled plate until dry for a few days.
Step 7: Label a paper mailing envelope and add seeds. Make sure to include the date.
Your seeds can last up to 4 years if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Did you save any seeds using this post? If so, please tell us how you did in the comments below!
Vegetables such as peppers, eggplants, and melons are much easier to save than tomato seeds. Just remove and spread them out to dry. Squash seeds are also easy, but may need a little bit of cleaning by straining and rinsing with water.
- Author: Ed Perry
Most of the dependable varieties of vegetables that you grow in your garden are from hybrid seeds that were developed to improve the yield, quality, and dependability of crops. However, along with these advantages, the opportunity to grow seeds at home was lost because hybrid seed must be grown under very special conditions not found in most home gardens.
Hybrid seeds result from crosses between parent plants that are unlike. These crosses bring together the desirable characteristics of the parents, and allow you to grow better quality vegetables. However, any seed you save from hybrid plants and grow the next season will produce plants and fruits that have unknown and usually unfavorable characteristics. If you want to grow hybrids, the only solution is to purchase new hybrid seeds each season.
Open pollinated from plants that cross with other kinds of plants
A number of vegetable crops, including corn, squash and melons, cross-pollinate in your garden. In order to grow genetically sound seed from these crops, you must plant them at a considerable distance from similar plants. The distance varies for different crops, but ranges from several hundred feet to a quarter of a mile. Saving seeds from this group of vegetables is likely to give you disappointing results, unless you enjoy growing odd vegetables.
Open pollinated from plants that do not cross with other kinds of plants
Examples are tomatoes (non-hybrids), peas, beans, peppers and eggplant. You may save satisfactory seed from these crops from one year to the next for several years. However, even with these crops, a little genetic change takes place from year to year, so it's a good idea to get new seed every three to four years.
- Author: Ed Perry
When planning your spring garden, one of the first decisions you must make is whether to use those seeds you saved from last year. Are they still as viable as they were when you purchased them, or will you be better off simply buying a new supply?
The answer depends upon the conditions under which the seeds were stored, as well as the length of storage. The two most important environmental conditions in seed storage are temperature and humidity. You should store all seeds under cool and dry conditions. An airtight, sealed jar placed in your refrigerator is a good way to do this. Stored in this way, many vegetable seeds will retain almost “first year” germination and vigor for several seasons. If you can't refrigerate your seed, at least keep it as dry and cool as possible.
The length of time seed is stored is not as critical as the conditions under which it is stored, but all seed deteriorates with time. Older seeds tend to require a longer time to germinate, and the seedlings do not grow as rapidly. Delayed germination and slow growth can cause young plants to be more susceptible to insect damage and seedling diseases. A delay in germination and growth can also delay maturity of the crop.
It's a good idea to test old seed before you plant. Place a few between moist paper towels and leave them at room temperature. Some seed normally takes longer to sprout than others, but if fewer than half of the seeds sprout or if they take an exceptionally long time, it's best not to use them.
Saving seed doesn't always save you money. In fact, it's more likely that losses due to poor germination and reduced vigor will more than offset any money you save by not buying fresh seed. However, buying new seed won't make up for poor planning. Even new seed will fail to sprout if it is planted at the wrong time of the year. If the seeds of warm season vegetable crops are planted before the soil warms up enough, they will often rot. For instance, the minimum soil temperature for seed germination of cucumber, cantaloupe, okra, pumpkin, squash and watermelon is 60ºF. However, at this temperature, the seed will not grow vigorously. A better soil temperature for those crops would be between 65ºF and 75ºF. Many summer vegetables require even higher soil temperatures for best germination and growth. For example, the optimum soil temperature for beans, eggplant, pepper, tomato and corn is 85ºF. As you can see, it doesn't pay to rush your planting.
Seeds need the proper amount of moisture and air in the soil to sprout. If the seeds dry out, even for a few hours, they will die. After you water, air enters the spaces between the soil particles as the excess water drains out of the soil. Since clay soils have less air space, seeds can suffocate if the soil is kept too wet. Mixing organic matter into the soil where you plant improves the soil's drainage and increases the amount of air in the soil. This will also help to prevent soil crusting, another reason seedlings often fail to appear.
Excess salts in the soil can burn tender plant roots. Soils with poor drainage may accumulate excess salts. Too heavy an application of fertilizer can also damage seedlings, so carefully follow the directions on commercial fertilizer products. If you use manures, mix them into the soil at least 4 weeks before planting and water heavily to wash out the excess salts they may contain.
Ed Perry is the emeritus Environmental Horticultural Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Stanislaus County.