Plants have been doing a pretty good job developing strategies to move seeds around for a few hundred million years. The ranges of sizes, shapes, and packaging have clearly suited them well. There are some, particularly the round ones, that are pretty easily adapted to modern agriculture. But what about the really small ones, or those that are irregularly shaped?
Pelleting: Benefits and Challenges
Pelleting is a process where seeds are coated with clay, increasing their size and creating a more uniform shape. It allows for easier, more precise seeding either mechanically or by hand. There are some seeders that require them, and practically speaking, using seeds in a precise way ultimately saves resources and money. For those gardeners and aspiring farmers who have small fingers and hands, using a pelleted seed can make the time in the cold frame, greenhouse or garden a lot more fun.
Before a given lot of seed is sent to be pelleted, a suitability test is performed. This test allows us to see how the seed will germinate at a wider range of temperature and light conditions than a standard germ test. The vigor of the seed is also important, as it will often need an extra push to break through the clay coating. Sometimes, but not always, the seeds are primed before the pelleting, to ensure good emergence. All this extra testing is important because the seeds will be used in such an exacting way.
So, there must be a downside, right? There usually is. The introduction of the clay and water, and the occasional priming involved, effectively cuts the long term viability of the seeds. If one is buying pelleted seeds, be careful to buy what you need for that season, as their germ can drop off pretty quickly after one year. We package them in amounts that allow for careful planning and purchase. That said, I have used pelleted seeds for more than one season if I have to; sometimes it works, sometimes not.
New Packaging for Pelleted Seeds
One of the most exciting things about our pelleted seed offerings this year is how they are being delivered to our customers. After much searching, we found containers that will allow the seeds to safely reach their destination. Every size will be packaged in an appropriately sized plastic container, keeping them from being crushed in transport and use around the farm. When they are not being used, it’s important to keep this bottle closed, and in a cool, dark place to help maintain the viability of the seeds.
There are certain crops where I use pelleted seeds whenever I can. Lettuce is definitely a place where having a more uniform and larger seed is a great thing. For growers who are using a vacuum seeder to produce transplants, they are a must. Even when seeding by hand, the extra size and high visibility is really helpful. I seed all my lettuce by hand, and the speed and ease of using pelleted seeds is so much better than raw seed. High Mowing has been expanding its pelleted seed offering over the years, and has a great selection for any size lettuce grower. (In fact, I have been secretly pushing HMOS to offer all the varieties that I use on my farm.)
Regardless of whether you’re seeding a flat or a field, the challenges of handling raw lettuce seed make pelleting worth considering. And the more time you spend at it, the more worthwhile it becomes.
So without further ado, I’m happy to introduce several NEW pelleted lettuce varieties in our catalog this year:
A Batavian-type red leaf lettuce with superior heat-tolerance. Always a stand-out in our trials with its bright green leaves edged in deep burgundy; closes in late at maturity for a dense, crisp head. 48 days
Disease Resistance: Downy Mildew (races 1-27, 29), Lettuce Mosaic Virus, MTO-30
A new stunning mini romaine with gorgeous deep purple coloring and smooth texture. Fast growth rate and an open habit ensure a uniquely foolproof, disease-resistant red romaine. Beautiful paired with Ansar. 50 days
Disease Resistance: Downy Mildew (races 1-27, 29), MTO-30
An eye-catching garnet Little Gem-type lettuce that forms dense, glossy heads with bright green hearts. Performed well in our winter high tunnels for early spring harvest of heart-winning heads. Pair with Spretnak for an eye-catching combination! 42 days
Disease Resistance: Downy Mildew (races 1, 4-6, 13, 15, 17), MTO-30
A green romaine that forms dense mini-rosettes of bright green leaves – a knockout in our trials! Smooth outer leaves and blanched hearts; very heat tolerant but tastes best in the cooler seasons. 45 days
Disease Resistance: Downy Mildew (1, 4-21, 23-26, 28-31), MTO-30