Spring is here and that means it’s time to start seeds for summer. Starting seeds indoors gives farmers and gardeners a head start on the season. In the hothouses right now we have tender spring greens, celery, onions, and cabbage. Soon we’ll have summer crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers as well.
Most of the seeds we grow are heirloom varieties. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated, meaning they reproduce naturally through the natural cross pollination of two of the same kind of plant. The term heirloom refers to the fact that these varieties have not been altered by modern breeding in the past 100 years. They are valued for their genetic diversity, taste, and hardiness. Since they are open pollinated the seeds can be saved for the next season.
We also grow some hybrid varieties. Hybrids are produced through the controlled pollination of open pollinated seeds. The effect is an offspring with the desirable traits of both parents. Hybrids are bred to guarantee uniformity for produce, as well as greater disease resistance, yield, and better flavor. While looking through seed catalogs you may see F1 Hybrids. F1 stands for the first generation. If you save seed from an F1 hybrid the offspring will be a random mix of both parents so hybrid seeds need to be repurchased every year.
Soon we will be starting early spring vegetables outdoors. Spinach and lettuce will germinate in soils between 35 and 40 degrees. When the soil gets slightly warmer radishes, kale, cabbage, peas, turnips, and carrots will be sown or transplanted. These tender young plants need to be protected from frost and are covered at night with cloth.