On Episode 3 of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, we have a nifty way to stick tomato and pepper plants in the ground, a method guaranteed to produce a stronger plant.
We talk about a really basic seed saving technique: how and where to store those half-filled, left over packets of seeds you have…somewhere. Did you look in the garage? I hope they’re not there. And the reason you may want to search the house for those seed packets now? You won’t find seeds of popular varieties at the nursery or online right now…because many of them have been swooped up, and you can blame the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. We talk with the president of a seed company about why orders are not getting refilled for customers and stores, and what you can do to better store your current supply of seeds to guarantee that they will germinate next year, and the year after that.
We bring in college horticulture professor Debbie Flower to answer your garden questions. Today’s question deals with a common problem with backyard and indoor citrus trees: yellowing leaves.
Farmer Fred: 0:03
Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good guarding information while you've come to the right spot, Welcome to Episode three of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Podcasts. And we're gonna be talking about a really basic seed saving technique today. How and where to store those half filled leftover packets of seeds that you have somewhere in the house. Did you look in the garage? I really hope they're not there. And the reason you may want to start searching the house for those seed packets now is because if you're going seed shopping, you just might not find seeds of popular varieties of vegetables at the nursery or online right now because many of them have been swooped up. And for that, you can blame the anxiety surrounding the Corona virus pandemic. We'll talk with the president of a seed company about why orders air not getting refilled for customers and stores, and what you can do to better store your current supply of seeds to guarantee that they will germinate next year and the year after that. And we get to bring in college horticulture Professor Debbie Flower to answer your garden questions. And today's question deals with a common problem with backyard and indoor Citrus trees. Yellowing leaves. Plus, we have a nifty way to stick tomato and pepper plants in the ground. It's a method guaranteed to produce stronger plants. Welcome to Episode three of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. Let's get started. Recently, I was talking with the manager at a local nursery here in Northern California to see how spring is going, what, selling things like that there. And then he told me something very interesting. This is Quentyn Young from Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery here in Sacramento.
Quentyn Young: 1:57
All kinds of vegetables, herbs, seeds, tools, obviously, to get their gardens in. Also fruit trees, fruiting vines, Citrus trees, basically anything that can produce fruit people seem more interested in this year. So it's just nice to see that interest. And then people are making it a family event, you know, so that the parents were figuring out what's going to go where and then they're getting the family and the kids to help them do it.
Farmer Fred: 2:25
How many people are trying to tackle this from seed versus transplants?
Quentyn Young: 2:30
Well, so the seeds sold out. We sold out a lot of seeds this year, I think probably the same logic behind people buying flour, and yeast at the grocery stores. I don't know how many people actually use the seeds, but we sold out so many seeds that seed companies aren't able to restock until July at the earliest, I'm told. Most people now are interested in just starting with starter plants.
Farmer Fred: 2:53
And what Quentyn said is very true. Travel around to local nurseries. You may see empty seed racks. What's going on? Is it due to the Coronavirus epidemic? Well, it just might be. In fact, I've heard from some seed growers that this seems to happen every time there's a a national emergency, there's a run on seeds, and if you've checked online seed companies lately, you can see that there are delays in delivery. There are a lot of varieties sold out. So for those of you who have purchased seeds, what is the best way to save them from year to year? Let's talk with Rene Shepard. She's with Renee's Garden, the garden to table seed company based up in the mountains above Santa Cruz in Felton. Renee, these are interesting times we live in, aren't they?
Renee Shepherd: 3:41
Well, interesting, and it's been a real challenge for us in the business.
Farmer Fred: 3:47
I would imagine so, what with the empty seed racks at nurseries that I've been hearing about and the fact that if people go to your website renees garden dot com, they may see some of their favorite varieties not available and won't be available until later in the summer.
Renee Shepherd: 4:03
Well, that's right. In this case, it is really more of a supply chain problem, simply kind of like for the toilet paper and paper towels. In other words, we are just out because of huge demands. But for example, at the beginning of the second quarter, normally on a Monday, we would get, for a smaller company like ours, 400 orders on a Monday, and we started to get 2500 orders, those are huge 500% increases. Those hit just about everybody in the seed business. So the people who either sell them online or in a catalogue, as well as companies like ours who also sell to garden centers or The nursery. Most of us had delivered initial orders to garden centers, the nursery, but then we got a huge demand. So we in the seed packet business, we figure out Okay, we sold 1000 packets of, let's say, lemon cucumber seeds last year and the year before, so we'll probably sell the same amount this year. Plus an increase that we hope to get. And that's how many we package for the spring season and usually that supply is it. We'll do it this decently if we project well, that'll last us through the spring, but this year it all that sold out really quickly. So we're simply out of seed packets. There's no seed shortage. Last year was a very good year for the seed production business. This is really about to seize our ability to pack it up for 2020.
Farmer Fred: 5:47
Are you currently packing seeds or are the people that you're buying seeds from? Are they out?
Renee Shepherd: 5:53
No. That's what I want to assure you. The people that grow seeds in a large scale for the home garden packet business, there's no shortage of seed. It's the fact that we're all out of current inventory, and we in the seed packet business usually start packing at this time of year for the next season. What we call the 2021 season, such as this fall. Most of us are making the decision not to break into our 2021 inventory to keep this season going, because then we'll run out. Then we will run out next year. So we're just out of current inventory because there was a huge, unprecedented demand for seed packets.
Farmer Fred: 6:39
Who bought those seeds? Is it regular customers, or are they hoarders, or are they people trying to resell it on the Internet?
Renee Shepherd: 6:47
I'm sure there's some of all of that, but, we own the garden side because we do have an online site. Obviously, we haven't seen people ordering tremendous amounts of package. No, you just see a tremendous number of people who are sheltering in place at home, who always meant to have a garden or thought of what can I do with the kids, or I think I want to grow my own food or there's a lot of new gardeners trying it for the first time. And there's a lot of people who are saying maybe I want to order some packets for next year, too. I don't know the answer to that. Sorry. People buying our seeds from third parties on the Internet. That's been happening for a long time. Nothing we can do about that.
Farmer Fred: 7:36
What seeds do you currently have in stock?
Renee Shepherd: 7:40
Well, you have to go on our website to see. The gardener who has always grown Sun Gold tomato, you may go to the nursery or on line or mail order and see that you can't find any. This might be the year to try something different. We don't sell any varieties that we haven't carefully trialed and don't think are excellent for home gardens. So, prepare to find that your favorite maybe sold out. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot of there are other choices, and we are more sold out of vegetables than we are flowers. You always thought you might want to plan a few pollinator flowers. Might be a really good year for playing around with those.
Farmer Fred: 8:22
Yes, indeed. Starting a pollinator garden is part of a successful vegetable garden. So you know, when life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade, gardeners, and that's what you do.
Renee Shepherd: 8:31
I think you just have to be okay with maybe not planting the same things. Or your first choice is try another variety or a new variety. We all gotta make do and figure out how to get through this. Right?
Farmer Fred: 8:44
Exactly. How are things going in the way of employment at Renee's Garden? Is the Covid-19 virus working its way through your personnel?
Renee Shepherd: 8:55
No, we haven't had anybody who's gotten sick. Our staff in the office here in Felton are all working from home. Fortunately, we're a computer based business, so that wasn't too hard to set up. Our warehouse, which is actually in Boulder, Colorado, in the middle of the country, is working full time. Everyone's working as much as they can with proper distancing and masks, and so on. But but it is tough to keep up, really, and are mostly shipping orders in this situation.
Farmer Fred: 9:28
Yeah, that's a question I've been getting a lot lately, and people don't understand that. Nurseries, seed suppliers are all part of agriculture, and agriculture is essential services.
Renee Shepherd: 9:37
That does vary widely across the country because we sell all over the country. There's a few states in which nurseries have not been exempted, and that's being really tough for them. For those, we are providing seed packet fronts and downloads so that they can try and sell what they have online themselves. So but, you know, it's kind of hard to set that up from scratch if he has never done it. So I think it's tougher in some other states, it's better here. But there are lines at nurseries because social distancing...so be patient.
Farmer Fred: 10:12
Yes, exactly. That's one of the new normals. I think for all of us going forward is exercise more patience. So let's talk about saving seeds, for people bought a lot of seeds. They obviously don't need to start all of them. I hope they wouldn't start all of them unless they're farming. But for the most part, people are gonna have leftover packets, and I hope to goodness they're not just leaving them on a counter in the garage and are doing something to properly save those, so those seeds might be able to be used in future years. What is the proper way to save a packet of seeds?
Renee Shepherd: 10:47
Well, first of all, you know different seeds will hold their germination for different amounts of time. So, for example, some vegetable varieties such as cucumber, peppers, tomatoes. They'll be good for 2, 3, or 4 years where, as leafy greens don't hold their germination that long. But almost everything you buy now will be good for at least another season or two. And if stored properly, and proper storage for seed packets means cool and dry. Their biggest enemies are heat and humidity. So never keep them in the garage or your garden shed. Always keep them indoors where you would be comfortable. So in the summer, if you're in an area that you'd wanna have air conditioning. That's where your seeds should be, too, for really long term storage. Like more than a year or so, you keep them in a sealed mason jar in the freezer to keep the moisture out and always bring the seed jar to room temperature before you take the seeds out. But if you're just saving them until the next season, just put them in a cool and dry place and you'll be fine. Or, share them with other people.
Farmer Fred: 12:02
Is it okay to put them in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator? Or should they go into the freezer if you're saving them long term?
Renee Shepherd: 12:10
I don't think putting them in the vegetable crisper has a particular advantage. I think if you're buying seeds from a reputable company and you're not buying the, you know, five for a dollar packet, those are already old, probably. So you're buying fresh new seed and you keep it in a Ziploc bag in a cool, dry place indoors. You really shouldn't have much trouble, if you're saving the seeds only until next season anyway. If you want to keep it for 2, 3, or 4 years, then you go to the freezer.
Farmer Fred: 12:43
Is a plastic bag better than a paper bag?
Renee Shepherd: 12:47
A paper bag? Fine, too.
Farmer Fred: 12:49
All right now. In past years, I've always suggested if people want to save their seeds. Used the original packet. Put the packets in a paper bag, label the bag, and put it in the coolest, driest place in the house. And for a lot of people that might be under your bed. But leave some notes around as far as what you left under your bed.
Renee Shepherd: 13:15
Then if you're in an air conditioned house, then those temperatures are fine. For one season storage, you don't really have to go to special rooms. Humidity and extreme heat are the enemy. Most fresh seeds that you buy at a garden center, you could certainly keep for the one season, or longer stored. Alternatively, you could buy the broccoli seeds and have someone else bu the lettuce and then share packets. Most modern seed packets contain enough seed to feed a family of four or six , with a little left over, because we put enough seeds in the packet that if the cat walked over the bed or something doesn't come up, you'll have some to replant and also because some are not germinated 100%. there's natural termination. Tomatoes might be high eighties below nineties percent). Um, but if you were wanting to grow lavender from seed, a good germination would be 50 or 60%. That's why we provide more seeds. It's good to plant a little more and then didn't thin to the recommended spacing on the packet. And that's really essential when you plant from seed.
Farmer Fred: 14:24
Whenever you go to plant seeds, follow the directions that are listed on the back of the package. They'll tell you exactly what to do and how to thin them and how to grow them. Renee Shepherd is with Renee's Garden based in Felton here in Northern California. The Garden to Table Seed Company. Well, Renee, best of luck to all of us, and we hope to have ah, more normal times ahead.
Renee Shepherd: 14:47
Well, we've finally had some good rain and certainly getting beautiful, so I think it's gonna be a great year to be outside gardening. At least we can all be assured of that.
Farmer Fred: 14:59
We are grateful for a beautiful spring. There's no question about that. Rene Shpard, thanks for a few minutes of your time.
Renee Shepherd: 15:05
Sure glad to do it. Happy gardening!
Farmer Fred: 15:13
Here on the Garden Basics podcast, We want to answer your garden questions. a couple of ways you can do that. Give us a call. 9162928964 That number again. 916 292 8964. You can either leave a message, or you can text that number as well. Be patient. There are a lot of rings before we pick up. Another way is email. Send your garden questions to Fred at farmerfred dot com. That's Fred at farmerfred dot com. One benefit of E-mail is you can attach a photo of a bug or a plant that you're trying to identify. We're looking forward to hearing and seeing your questions. And thanks for listening to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Podcast. I appreciate all your support and all your comments.
Farmer Fred: 16:09
We like to answer your garden questions. You just heard how you can call in your questions. Well, of course, you can also send it via email to Fred at farmerfred dot com. And don't forget all the social media where you can leave a question. There's the Get Growing with Farmer Fred Facebook page; at Farmer Fred on Twitter; or Farmer Fred Hoffman on Instagram. Feel free to leave questions on any of those locations as well. Helping us answer garden questions is my favorite college horticultural teacher-retired- Debbie Flower, who has worked in horticulture throughout the country. So she has a wide knowledge of situations that may be facing you. Debbie. Let me get this right. You've gardened in New Jersey, you've gardened in Oregon.
Debbie Flower: 16:56
Farmer Fred: 16:56
You've gardened in Arizona? Yeah. And you've gardened here in California? Yes. Good. You can answer all these questions, then.
Debbie Flower: 17:05
Debbie Flower: 17:07
Oh, Puerto Rico.
Debbie Flower: 17:08
And New York. Yeah, I got around.
Farmer Fred: 17:10
Okay. Well, if we get any questions from Puerto Rico, I'll be sure to aim them at you. All right. The first question comes in from John and he has a citrus question. So, for those of you that have Citrus trees, this may be similar to what you're seeing on your tree this time of year. He says, "I have several Citrus trees, but this grapefruit tree, we planted last year has had yellow leaves from the get go. And no matter what I try, they stay that way. I fertilize all my Citrus and other established trees. They love it, But this grapefruit is a problem. Now a kumquat next to this one and a new mandarin further up the hill are getting a couple of yellow leaves. Also, I dug up one, and the roots didn't look too good. There was still sawdust packed in, so I shook it out and replanted it into a pot. A few days ago, it was still looking rather poorly, And so I mixed in more Citrus fertilizer into the soil before planting it again and I used a bat guano fertilizer to see if that helps. I also cut back the top a little." Do you have any ideas, Debbie? It sounds like John's working too hard on this.
Debbie Flower: 18:18
Yeah, I agree. I agree, boy, he's done a lot to that. He's also put a lot of things into the soil that those roots are growing in, and one thing I would look at is how deeply he planted it. If you plant a Citrus tree too deeply, and this goes for any other woody plants as well, meaning that the soil is covering part of the trunk that close to the root zone. Then they will suffer, and you will see yellow leaves. He needs to give it time to recover when he keeps moving it from place to place. And evergreens, citrus are evergreen, and when they get new leaves growing, he mentioned that the other two, besides the grapefruit, are starting to show some yellow leaves as well when new leaves come out on an evergreen plant and Citrus are evergreen plants. This untold set of leaves will turn yellow and fall off and the yellow patterns like on older leaves will give us information. And in the case of a Citrus, that could very well mean that the new leaves are coming on and the old leaves are being sacrificed. And that's very normal for the plant.
Farmer Fred: 19:23
Anyway, citrus developing yellowing leaves is kind of natural. This time of year, when winter transitions into spring, if the soil is wet or cold, it may just have yellow leaves, but which would indicate a lack of nitrogen uptake.
Debbie Flower: 19:38
Right, the roots just aren't functioning. The soil is just too cold, and so the roots aren't are not taking up the nitrogen. Maybe they're in the soil, but the roots aren't getting it because of the temperature there, sort of maybe hibernation type situation. He is desperate to save history. It sounds like he put in a lot of things. He's put Citrus fertilizer, and bat guano and a lot of things into the soil and you really don't want. You can poison a plant by putting in too much fertilizer into the soil. So without having any other indication of deficiencies, I I'm wouldn't want him to put more nutrients, fertilizers and guano and that sort of thing into this soil.
Farmer Fred: 20:25
Exactly. My idea would be leave it alone and watch it recover. And probably as the soil warms up and maybe dries up a little bit, too. There will be more nitrogen uptake of fertilizers that are there in the soil, but give it time. Give it a chance to recover on its own.
Debbie Flower: 20:44
Your point about drying up is a good one because he says that the other two citrus trees that are just beginning to show these symptoms of yellowing leaves are up the hill, so they're higher up. The grapefruit is at the bottom of the hill, and the bottom of the hill is where water will collect. And so it could be in the wettest soil. So, yes, it may very well just need to dry out and as we move into warmer weather. And everything might be hunky dory.
Farmer Fred: 21:08
There is some good information from the University of California about yellowing Citrus leaves, because yellow Citrus leaves could be yellow for any number of reasons, any number of nutritional deficiencies. But if you go online and you go to the U. C. I. P. M. website and look up diseases and disorders of leaves and twigs of Citrus, you'll get some great pictures of different patterns of yellowing leaves and the problem that might be associated with that. So without knowing John's situation as far as if there's a pattern to the yellowing or just an overall yellowing, we really can't give much more information than what what we already did. Absolutely so John, basically, just leave that Citrus tree alone, give it a chance to recover, and if it isn't better by May let us know.
Farmer Fred: 22:00
Don't forget you can get your garden questions into the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Podcast through a myriad of ways, including leaving it via telephone. 9162928964 You can also text your question there. 9162928964 e-Mail it in to Fred at farmerfred dot com, and you can leave it on a number of social media outlets, including the Get Growing with Farmer Fred Facebook Page or on Twitter at Farmer Fred and Instagram, Farmer Fred Hoffman. Debbie Flower. We learned a lot. Thanks for your time.
Debbie Flower: 22:37
Farmer Fred: 22:37
Wait a minute, Debbie. Don't go away yet. Let's give out a quick tip.
Debbie Flower: 22:46
Farmer Fred: 22:47
It's interesting that two of the most popular summertime vegetables, tomatoes and peppers can be planted deeply, and I mean way deeply. So let's say you buy an eight inch tomato plant at the nursery and you go to transplant it into your garden. You could actually bury six inches of that eigh- inch plant.
Debbie Flower: 23:09
It's one of the the things I told my students in horticulture education. You learn the rules. And then you spend the rest of your life learning the exceptions. And this is an exception that you can plant the plant much more deeply into your garden than it was in the pot.
Farmer Fred: 23:26
Why is that?
Debbie Flower: 23:27
Well, they have the ability to make roots on their stem. If you've grown tomatoes before, perhaps you've seen that as the branches get older and bigger, and sometimes they sag and you'll see bumps along the stem. And for that plant they are able to make roots there.
Farmer Fred: 23:47
And that's great if you especially if you've started tomato plants from seed and maybe they've gotten a bit lanky, and if you tried to plant it at soil level in the garden, it would just fall right over. Well, one way around that is to bury it deeply. But I guess you could also, if you wanted to, if you couldn't go deep, maybe you could go long and dig a trench and bury most of it in the trench and leave the top couple of inches sticking out.
Debbie Flower: 24:13
That may be the better choice if the plant is very tall, because let's say, the plant is two feet tall. If you dug a foot and a half deep hole, the roots are gonna be really low in the soil and may be out of reach of oxygen and water. So the trench idea would definitely work. So you just dig a trench along the soil, lay the plant in it and turn it up. In the end, you may need a stake to make the end stand up straight, but that's okay. It'll be a well rooted, and it's really an advantage to the plant because now it has so much more of a rooting system, and it takes a lot of roots to make a lot of tasty tomatoes.
Farmer Fred: 24:50
Do you have to strip off the lower leaves when you plant that way?
Debbie Flower: 24:54
you do not
Farmer Fred: 24:55
Whoa. What about pepper plants? Can you do that the same way as well?
Debbie Flower: 24:59
Yes, you can do that the same way as well.
Farmer Fred: 25:02
Well, how easy do you want it? Boy, that's great. You know, you could just dig a trench and plant it, leaving the top sticking out. And would you leave out, what, the top two sets of leaves, or how much would you leave out sticking above the soil surface?
Debbie Flower: 25:15
The top two sets would probably be my minimum. You could leave more if if you've got a sturdy plant and want more of a presence above ground.
Farmer Fred: 25:23
now, we should point out again that, as you pointed out, Debbie, this is the exception, not the rule. Generally, when you buy plants at the nursery, you want to plant them at the same depth that they came in, from the pot from the nursery. And this is the exception.
Debbie Flower: 25:41
Absolutely. It is the exception, Yes.
Farmer Fred: 25:44
so don't screw it up, folks.
Debbie Flower: 25:49
Oh, but grow your tomatoes, especially tomatoes and peppers. They're easy, productive plants, so satisfying.
Farmer Fred: 25:56
Exactly, Debbie Flower. Always a pleasure. Thanks for a great garden tip.
Debbie Flower: 26:00
Thank you, Fred.Well,
Farmer Fred: 26:05
Well, today, Friday, April 17th is kind of special for me. It's the eighth anniversary... the eighth anniversary of what? After being diagnosed with four cholesterol jammed heart arteries back in March 2012, I underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass graft surgery on April 17th, 2012. Hey, and I'm still here. And to complicate matters at that same time, I was told, and actually to my total surprise, that I had full blown Type two diabetes with an A1 C number of 10.4. And those of you that are familiar with diabetes are familiar with A1C numbers. 10.4 is not good. That's really high. Well, Fortunately, the surgery went well, and the long road to healing from heart disease and diabetes began. And thanks to regular exercise and a healthy diet, I lost 60 pounds. The arteries that now service my heart are still flowing without problems. The blood sugar levels are way down, that A1C level now is 6.0, and that's near normal.
Farmer Fred: 27:13
And also, to the amazement of the doctors within eight months of surgery, I no longer needed to take any prescription medications for either of those ailments. And they agreed, it was with their blessings, Of course. Well, it's now years later, and I am still prescription free with the help of eating good food and regular exercise. Now I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist. I'm just a guy, a guy who's lucky to be alive, a guy who could have easily keeled over and died back in March of 2012. But I'm still here, and my philosophy is shut your mouth and move your feet, and a lot of it involves gardening. Plus, I ride my bike about 100 miles a week now.
Farmer Fred: 27:54
So what tips did I use to be able to wean myself off prescription medications and get back to a normal life? My primary method for keeping me on the straight and narrow is to write it down. Track all the foods and liquids you consume as well as time spent exercising. I use the My Fitness Pal app for that, but there are plenty of others that do it as well. Read the label of whatever you eat. Pay attention to serving size, calories per serving, sugar and fiber content. By the way, speaking of sugar and fiber: added sugar is your enemy. Too much sugar in the diet can make you susceptible to many diseases, not just heart disease and diabetes. Read the book Fat Chance, by Dr Robert Lustig, for more information about that. Now, if sugar is your enemy, well, I'm here to tell you soluble fiber is your friend. Studies at the Mayo Clinic and other institutions have shown that soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol levels by reducing low density lipoproteins that's the bad cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber may have other heart health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, blood glucose levels and inflammation. So what I try to do every day is eat more fiber and eat less sugar. My goals are to eat at least 35 grams of fiber per day and less than 45 grams of added sugar per day. So, I choose foods with more fiber than sugar.
Farmer Fred: 29:21
And I was in my sixties when all this happened, and you are not too old to achieve better health, either. People who eat right and exercise can substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease and early death, even if you're in your fifties or sixties or even your seventies. And that's where gardening comes in. Besides being good exercise, you're growing healthy food, fruits and vegetables, full of soluble fiber. If I can do it, I bet you could, too.
Farmer Fred: 29:49
Thank you for listening to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. Be sure to subscribe.