A large part of my winter is spent crop planning – figuring out what crops to grow, how much of each to grow, and when and where they should be planted.
This process starts in December, and though the bulk of our vegetable planning is done by January, the seed crops seem to take a lot longer to finalize.In fact, even though we’ve already started seeding in the greenhouse, I’m still a few days away from wrapping up this year’s seed growing plan.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will share the broad strokes of how I plan seed crops.
We’ll start by how to choose seed crops to grow. Likely you want to grow crops that are worth growing and that will produce seed. So good crop planning often starts off the previous year by …
TRIALING NEW VARIETIES
- Get seed for that new variety. You can also get seeds from a few different seed sources so you can compare different strains.
- Get more than enough seed. If the trial is successful, you want to have enough seed to grow a future seed crop.
- Plant at least 5-10 bedfeet of the variety. If you’re trialling different strains plant 5-10 bedfeet of each strain. Better yet grow this trial beside other varieties with which you are familiar.
EVALUATING THE VEGETABLE CROP
- Does it look like it’s supposed to?
- Does it taste good? Does it taste amazing?
- Is is easy to pack for market?
- Is it better as a home garden crop?
- How does it resist pests and diseases in your area?
- Does it produce an adequate yield?
EVALUATING SEED GROWING POTENTIAL
Does this variety set seed early enough to avoid fall showers and low temperatures? Autumn weather can germinate seed on the plant or create ideal conditions for fungal and bacterial disease that can rot the seed or leave seedborne diseases.
If you can’t get quality seed from this crop, it is probably not worth growing a large seed crop.
EVALUATING SEED CLEANING
Tough the same basic seed cleaning principles apply to most crops, each variety has its own tricks.
Before growing a large lot you, you should see whether you’re able to process a small lot to your satisfaction.
IS YOUR STARTING SEED GOOD FOUNDATION SEED?
Even seed you purchase from a reliable commercial source may have accidental crossing. Is this strain true to type?
If the variety is crossed up, you might consider trying a different source for clean seed. However, if there is small amounts of crossing you can also clean the seed up by growing the seed for a couple of generations and removing off-types before they produce pollen. You shouldn’t sell this seed until the variety is growing true to type again.
Every new seed lot you buy has a chance to be crossed up. Even if you’ve previously purchased pure seed of the variety from this source in the past. This is why it is very important to start with enough seed for your trial and your first large seed crop. It is even better is to get enough seed for a second seed crop in case the first one fails.
Once you’re sure you would like to grow a larger seed crop you have to determine how much seed you want to harvest. And that’s what we’ll figure out next time!
In the meantime, you can visit theruminant.ca and see my contribution to their recent post on tricks for speeding germination and seedling growth.