Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Planting the Right Seed

Once in a while I get a rude reminder I wasn't thinking when I planted some seeds. Just last week I went to tend to the garden of a friend who was out of town and noticed her tiny spinach plants were bolting. This was a garden I had helped to plant. I started to get mad at the seeds until I realized it was a spring spinach I had planted too late. It reminded me that occasionally in the excitement of planting (and warm weather) we plant the wrong seeds at the right time, and then get disappointed with the results.

spinach in bloom
For instance, some crops like spinach are daylight sensitive- meaning they flower in response to the length of daylight hours. We have to plant them in early spring or late summer to avoid bolting. I should have planted a variety specifically bred for summer production. These varieties resist bolting during the increasingly long days of late spring.

Another example is cauliflower. In some areas it's possible to overwinter cauliflower-- yet this isn't a universal cauliflower trait. Certain varieties have been selected for increased cold tolerance and are thus planted in late summer for harvest in winter.

As gardeners, it is important that we select the right variety for the time of planting we are intending the plant to be growing in. No matter how well a garden is tended, plants will respond to environmental cues. The best we can do is capitalize on the work of plant breeders who have developed varieties to perform well during different seasons.

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