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Perennial Sweet Peas Seeds need Cold Stratification to Germinate!

Some seeds, like Pansies or perennial Sweet Peas, need special treatment to be able to break dormancy and germinate! If you have wondered why you have never had luck germinating some plants from perfectly fresh seed, cold stratification may be what is needed!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, says stratification sequences may vary: ‘Some seeds require a warm and moist treatment, while others require a cool and wet treatment. Even still, other seeds require a combination of both warm and cool treatments followed by a warm treatment, or a combination of warm and cool moist followed by a dry cycle and warm period to germinate. Knowing what seeds require to break dormancy is critical before beginning any seed stratification project.’ Also some plants require stratification from heat, like from fires, to help expose the seed to air and moisture.

The main requirements of Cold stratification are cold and moist. Depending on where you live, it is best to plant when winter is here to stay. If you plant when it is too warm, the seed coat can break down and you may have little germination.

But if you are starting in early season, soak your seeds 12 to 24 hours and put them in a plastic bag or sealable container with sand, peat, or equal amounts of sand and peat. Date and label. Check frequently to see if they are sprouting. Some seeds require a longer period; some need to be in the freezer!

Pinetree Garden Seeds says: ‘Soaking them in cold water for 6-12 hours before starting the process can help cut down on the total stratification time needed. This also helps the seed absorb some of the moisture it requires for the chemical changes that will take place.’

There are different methods, but mainly two.

In the Ground!

1) If your plant reseeds, as soon as it seeds, you can simply broadcast your seed if it doesn’t matter where they come up. Any rowdy ones that come up not in accordance with your garden plan can be transplanted where you might decide you want them, you could give them away, or last resort, eat if appropriate, or compost. I use the broadcast method for Breadseed Poppies. But sometimes you may reroute your garden plan to accomodate what you think will become a lovely display of beauty!

If you have a seed packet, in fall, a more formal version is to decide where you want them, prep that soil, scratch in your seeds. Mark the spot, date and label with a tag. Keep them moist; they will come up when they are ready.

The dangers of these two plans may be floods or wildly fluctuating weather, ie cold, HOT, cold. Keep some backup seeds just in case you need them. Then you go to the #2 methods, or you can do both a 1 and a 2 of your choice just in case…

Seed Cold Stratification Paper Towel

In the Fridge or Freezer!

2) You can use the paper towel method. Moisten the towel, put seeds on one side, fold the towel over on them. Put the towel in a plastic bag, zip it closed. Put it in the fridge and wait. Some say to check every 2 to 3 days, remove any that mold. Others say check in 10 days. Some say it may take up to a month or two. If they get brown spots around them or smell musty, they are rotting and should be tossed. But mainly is to keep that towel moist!

If you have a seed packet, here is the lazy gardener’s choice offered by myseedneeds for poppies! ‘We recommend a short cold stratification period of 6 to 12 weeks, though simply storing your seed packets in your crisper drawer for a couple of months is a trick used by gardeners who don’t want to mess with damp paper towels and plastic baggies.’

Seed Cold Stratification in Sand, Peat, Worm CastingsOr…you can presoak your seeds. Pot up sand or peat, or equal sand and peat; add worm castings to help germination. Put in your seeds. Put the pot or container in the fridge, or put the pot ON the ground in a sheltered place or sink it up to the top of the pot on the colder north side of your building! Be sure to keep those seeds moist.

Important Sustainability point from Harold and the Cats of Alchemy: ‘Seeds…won’t come up all at the same time, like the seeds of most cultivated plants are bred to do. Seeds that use cold to germinate are closer to the wild and so have a good reason to stagger their germination – more are likely to survive that way, and you will get more genetic variation. That means there will be a greater likelihood of getting plants that will survive and prosper in your conditions.’

Plants that can prosper from Cold Stratification treatment

Terms like “self-sowing”, “perennial”, “cold hardy”, or “cold stratification” on a seed packet are indicators your seeds may need cold treatment.

Many Common Domestic Flowers, important companion plants: Bachelor Buttons, BreadSeed Poppy, Cosmos and Pansies, Johnny Jump Ups and Violets (edible petals), Sweet Peas, Zinnia are a few.

Wildflowers! Here’s a terrific MAP to select native wildflowers that need cold stratification before planting in spring for your area! American Meadows! Native wildflowers are terrific companion plants that attract native bees! They need to be in your fridge 4 to 5 weeks, so be sure to start early enough for planting time. Your seeds will germinate quicker and grow well. Don’t forget native Milkweed for Monarchs!

Many Common herbs, perennials, also important veggie companion plants and provide food for pollinators: Calendula, Lavender, Rosemary and Sage

Seed Cold Stratification Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Be sure to look up each plant individually to see it’s specific needs, ie length of time and temp. Here’s an example at SFGate for Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale), a perennial. Some poppies grow readily but the Oriental poppies need special treatment!

  1. Place 2 tablespoons perlite or sand in a plastic bag. Moisten it slightly with water, but don’t allow it to become soggy.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the bag and mix the seeds with the perlite or sand.
  3. Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for two weeks. Check it occasionally and provide more water if necessary to keep it slightly moist. Do not allow it to dry out.
  4. Remove the bag from the refrigerator and store it in a cool, dry location for one week. Place the bag back in the refrigerator for two more weeks.
  5. Repeat this cycle of cold and thaw for six weeks to up to three months. Sprinkle the stratified poppy seeds on moist soil in early spring. They will germinate within two weeks when the soil temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. [So start your process in plenty of time!]
Cold Stratification is a simple technique that may take a little dedication, but it really pays off!

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Nutritious and Beautiful Rainbow Lacinato KALE!

Rainbow Lacinato Kale is almost too pretty to eat! West Coast Seeds says, ‘A fabulous cross of beloved Lacinato with the super cold hardy Redbor produces these multicoloured plants with mostly the strap-like leaves of the Lacinato and the colouring of the Redbor. It is slower to bolt and more productive than Lacinato. Enjoy in your salads, snacking, cooking this colourful bouquet all winter long.’ 65 days.

PLANT KALE! In SoCal, rather than cold tolerant varieties, select heat tolerant varieties that will grow well over summer too!

Kales have amazingly different colors and shapes!

  • Scotch – Curly Leaf Kale is the most plant you will get for the footprint of all the plants in your garden! Its leaves are amazingly convoluted, and it keeps growing as you pick, tall and taller, up to 7′! In healthy soil it may make side plants along its naked stem. It’s disadvantage is if it gets aphids, then whiteflies attracted to yellowing leaves, they are hard to hose out of the leaves.
  • Siberian Kale is a curly edged flat leaf variety. If you like your curls, but not your aphids, you might prefer this beauty. It’s leaves are light blue-green with white stems. It is the most tender variety, making it a great choice for raw salads.
  • Red Russian is a flat leaved low variety, with a red/purple midrib, beautiful among your ornamental yard plants!
  • Red Bor, a completely purple beauty, midribs and leaves, is perfect for edible landscaping. 3 to 5′ tall. It is mild and crisp!
  • Lacinato, aka Dinosaur Kale, is a unique bumply long narrow leaved variety that gets tall. Definitely prehistoric looking! Rainbow lacinato kale, image above, is more productive and quite prettier!
  • Ornamental kale, aka Salad Savoy, is such a pretty winter garden accent! Ruffly, maybe frilly, bi/tri color purple, white, green heads.

Farming ThousandHeaded Kale is quite popular in Kenya! Great return per square foot!

Farming ThousandHeaded Kale is quite popular in Kenya! Great return per square foot!

And then there is ThousandHead Kale! It has fans. It’s an old Heirloom from the UK originally used as a fodder plant called borecole – you can see how productive that means it is! Turns out it is a great culinary plant too! You may need only one! Medium height variety, if left to grow it will reach a height of five feet! Vigorous plants with many side branches, continuous picking, long harvest period. Maturity 60 days from planting. Very good heat tolerance. Mature plants survive to -12°C (10°F) or below! One person said ‘When we grow this plant it is a sampling of medieval food.’ ThousandHead Kale has a 5 Star rating at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds! It’s like Fordhook Giant Chard – can you eat that much?!

Kale, Brassica oleracea, varieties have differing tastes. Some are more peppery to a bit bitter, like Curly Leaf; Red Russian is milder. Some are snacks in the field, while others need some cooking or even disguising in a stew with other veggies if you aren’t a kale lover, but want the nutrition. Salad Savoy is mild and tender.

For your growing pleasure, here is a terrific all-in-one mix from Hudson Valley Seed! Mix of Russian and Siberian kales in shades of green and red.

Kale Seed Mix Russian Siberian at Hudson Valley Seed
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Soil 
Fertilize well at planting time because your plant will be working hard, leaf after leaf, forever and ever! Kale grows best when your soil is mixed with organic matter (manure/compost) and perhaps a tad of lime. Overplant, closely, to start, for lots of little plants for salads, then keep thinning to 24 to 36 inch centers for your final spacing. Even my ‘dwarf’ kales get up to 36″ wide!

Intermingle with companion plants and different varieties of kales and Brassicas! Cilantro enhances Brassicas and repels aphids! Keep replanting that cilantro! Lettuces repel cabbage butterflies. Different varieties mature at different times and you will have less pests like aphids.

In SoCal weather your kale will grow up to 4 years, even more, though it is a biennial. Feed them time to time because they are heavy producers, a continuous leaf crop. Dig in a compost, worm castings, manure chow. Be careful not to break main roots. Scratch in some of those delicious box powder ferts, or if you live in Santa Barbara get that super landscape mix at Island Seed & Feed. Water it in well. Or get out your spade fork, poke in some holes and pour a compost, castings, manure tea down the holes! Your soil, your kale, and the faeries will dance in the moonlight!

Mildews, yuk. Severely infected plants may have reduced yields, shortened production times, and fruit/leaves that have little flavor. Powdery mildews like warm and dry weather, are windborne! Be good to neighboring gardeners, remove infected leaves ASAP! Some Powdery Mildew spores can’t germinate in water, so water your kale overhead and spritz the undersides of the leaves every couple of days to wash spores away and suppress the spread of the mildew! Downey mildew, the fuzzy under leaf kind, likes cool moist weather, is spread by wind, water, and overwinters in your soil!

Aphids suck the juices out of leaves, stealing your plant’s vitality. Aphids are pests particularly of Curly Leaf Kales. You can see they are well protected in those curls, humidity is great, thanks! Inspect your curly leafs regularly. Hose away aphids and whiteflies, mildew ASAP! Let them have it! Spray in those little folds. If they get in the center new leaves, hose ’em out! Remove leaves that are hopelessly infested and DO NOT compost them. Remove yellowing Brassica leaves. Yellow attracts whiteflies. In general, plant further apart for air circulation, water and feed just a little less to let those leaves harden up a bit. Soft fat leaves are an invitation to aphids and mildew! Keep up with harvesting, so leaves are healthy and resistant.

Aphids do it all year-long birthing as many as 12 a day! That’s long odds in their favor. Aphids prefer a comfy 65° to 80°F, sigh. If ever there were a reason to plant habitat for their predators…. As well as being super pollinators, Syrphid flies, aka Hoverflies, larvae are natural enemies to aphids; they can eat an aphid a minute! These flies are actually those little insects that hover, hover flies! You’ve seen ’em. Plant ample habitat for them. They prefer little flowers, white (alyssum) and yellow colored flowers, some preferring more open flowers like daisies and asters. They like parsley, dill, yarrow (leaves speed compost speed compost decomp), clover and buckwheat flowers. Plant more flowers! Check out this post by Heather Holm for ideas, but know she is in Minnetonka, MN! Her ‘hood is definitely different than SoCal!

Prevention is the wise choice.

  • Do fall cleanup of leaves and debris.
  • Plant in full sun
  • As soon as you do your planting, or the very next day, treat with your homemade remedy: heaping tablespoon Baking soda, 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk, one regular aspirin, teaspoon liquid dish soap per watering can/gallon. Treat again every 10 days or so after that, and after rains.
  • Water less and early in the day.
  • Avoid excess fertilizer, use slow release fertilizers instead.
  • Remove weeds and plant less closely to reduce humidity.

Get mildew resistant varieties! Some say their Lacinato kale is resistant. Blue Curled Scotch Kale seems to be. High Mowing says NASH’S GREEN KALE is resistant, as proven in the damp winters of the Northwest! If you are looking for cold hardiness, here is great information from Mother Earth News field trials! Kales are generally Heat tolerant but even more heat tolerant varieties are surely coming due to weather changes and droughts. Coastal SoCal kales grow all year long and the most severe condition in recent years is heat, though 2019 certainly was the exception!

Some gardeners say steamed washed mildewed kale is safe. But many gardeners won’t have it, and I personally don’t recommend it. Some people are allergic to certain fungi. Some don’t prefer to breathe the spores, say the kale smells mildewed, and suspect a lack of the right taste. Having read about spores overwintering in soil, I’m no longer putting it in my cold compost, likely a perfect habitat for it.

IMPORTANT WARNING! Non organic grocery store Kale is now one of the most pesticide contaminated veggies!

GROW YOUR OWN even if it is in a container at your front door or on your balcony, wherever you can! Put in a bucket or planting bowl! That’s as fresh as it gets! It’s easy to grow from seed or a transplant from your nursery! It needs a little watering – you can carry a little bucket or if that’s too heavy, a half bucket, of water from your tub or kitchen tap. Let that water sit for a bit to off gas any chlorine. Keep your Kale harvested so it doesn’t get too big, but never more than a 1/3 of the plant at a time. You will become accustomed to it’s happiness and yours as you learn. It will become part of your family.

If you are not inclined to grow it, buy organic! Support your local organic growers, go to the Farmers Market! Bon appétit!


The nutritional value of kale is superb, both in disease prevention and treatment!

  • The trick is to balance the nutrition versus the calories. For example, kale has less calories, but sweet potatoes have more Vitamin A. But that kale does have 98% of our daily need!
  • Kale has less sodium and a surprisingly high Vitamin C count, in fact, raw kale has 200% the Daily Value we need! Even cooked, it has 71%! A cup of cooked kale or collards contains more vitamin C than an eight-ounce glass of orange juice, and more potassium than a banana. All that and only 55 calories!
  • One of the super features of kale is it has a high amount of bioaccessible Calcium, especially needed by older women! We can absorb 50 to 60% of kale’s calcium. A cup of kale has more calcium than a cup of milk, that many are allergic to! And, it is a top source of Vitamin K, also essential to bone health.
  • Steamed kale’s fiber-related components bind with bile acids in your digestive tract to lower your cholesterol levels. Raw kale does too, just not as much.
  • Extraordinarily, kale’s glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level!
  • Over 45 different flavonoids in kale, kaempferol and quercetin heading the list, combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that reduce your risk of cancer.

Proper Storage  Do not wash kale before storing. Water encourages spoilage. Remove as much air as you can from the plastic storage bag. Pop it in the fridge, it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes.

Eat more, cook less! Eating a cup to 2 cups 2 to 3 times a week is good, 4 to 5 times is better! Steaming is best. If you have young thin stemmed kale leaves, cut the leaves into 1/2″ slices. If your kale is older, thick stemmed and you don’t want the stems, run a sharp knife along the stem to shave the leaves from the stem, cut those into 1/2″ slices. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting qualities, then steam for 5 minutes.

Kale Blueberry Salad Natasha's Kitchen

Delicious Kale Blueberry Salad recipe at Natasha’s Kitchen!

Tasty Culinary Adventures: With most kales, young leaves can be added to a salad. Mature leaves are better in soups, quiches, stir fry, steamed over rice sprinkled with soy, or sautéed and tossed with your favorite dressing! Kale chips are easy to make; dry and sprinkle with your favorite flavors! Have you had it chopped with scrambled eggs in a homemade breakfast tortilla?! Make a cream of kale soup, kale potato soup. Add to accent your fish chowder. Add to winter stews, or with cream of Butternut squash! Chopped and steamed with diced potatoes, diagonally sliced carrots, and onions, all tossed with olive oil. Are you hungry yet? Get rad and try a smoothie! With yogurt and berries, mmm, delish! Finely chopped in hummus, or super tender baby leaves, thinnings, chopped in salad, or sprinkled with enthusiasm in enchiladas!

Cool kale salads! Delish with dried cranberries, toasted or raw cashew pieces, vegan mayonnaise and a little lemon juice. With fruits like avocados, apples, pears. Napa or red cabbage, carrots, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Dress to taste with vinaigrette, sesame-ginger or tahini dressing. How about chopped kale, pine nuts, and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil?! If your kale plant flowers, those are edible too! Just run your fingers along the stem then sprinkle the flowers over your salad.

Bon appétit! To your superb health and longevity!

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Updated as new information comes in…

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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