(HARTFORD, CT)- The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg) and The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) have been notified that several Connecticut residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them. Unsolicited packages of seeds have been received by people in several other states across the United States over the last several days.
Please do not plant these seeds. CT DoAg and CAES encourage anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds from China to immediately contact their state plant regulatory officials, Dr. Kirby Stafford at 203-974-8485 (Kirby.Stafford@ct.gov) or Dr. Victoria Smith at 203-974-8474 (Victoria.Smith@ct.gov ). Please hold on to the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone contacts you with further instructions.
Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.
Our Plant Diagnostic Laboratory now offers hot water seed treatment. What is it? Watch Abby Beissinger, our plant diagnostician, explain how hot water seed treatment works and can help you.
Hot water seed treatment is supported in part by a UConn CAHNR Innovation in Extension Programming Award and a grant from the New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association. The Plant Diagnostic Laboratory is currently closed due to the university closure for COVID-19 but will accept seeds for treatment when we re-open. The Plant Diagnostic Laboratory is a service of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and Extension.
Spring 2020 generally arrived on time in Connecticut, but with some hesitation. A few bright, warm days have been sprinkled between cool or rainy, windy days and some localized snow showers. Those warm days brought out the rakes, pruners, shovel, and a pop-up yard bag to clear the debris that accumulated since the fall clean up in the shady perennial beds and sunny pollinator garden. Tiny shoots of the ephemeral bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia sp) were buried under still-soggy leaves and had to be uncovered carefully by hand to prevent damage to the delicate new shoots.
Ephemerals are plants that pop up in early spring, produce leaves, flowers and seeds but then disappear when the summer perennials are at their peak of display. The ephemerals take advantage of the short period between when snow cover disappears and trees start to leaf out. Usually found in cool, moist, rich soil in shady woodland areas, they produce their flowers for a short time, are pollinated, produce seeds then disappear underground until the following spring. Ephemerals provide essential nectar and/or pollen for early foraging bees and flies
Areas around the home that are in dappled shade are perfect spots to grow ephemerals. The best way to add these early bloomers to home beds is by purchasing root stock from a trusted supplier. Plant the bare roots or corms 2-3 inches deep in moist, humus-rich acidic soils (4.5-6.5 pH) that drain well and are sheltered from all-day summer sun. In the fall, keep the area with the new plantings moist so they develop a good root system. A light winter cover of shredded leaves will make it easier for the new growth to emerge in the spring. Eventual cold temperatures will force dormancy. The plants will start to develop roots and shoots after about 3-4 months when soil temperature starts to rise. Divide mature plants in the fall being careful to provide roots for each new section. A light scattering of balanced fertilizer (such as 5-5-5) can be added to each new planting area.
Interested in learning more about other early garden arrivals?
The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations will conduct a variety of activities in support of this focus on a food product that is nutritious and sustainable. According to information on the web site, www.fao.org/pulses-2016, the objectives of IYP are to:
Raise awareness about the important role of pulses in sustainable food production and healthy diets and their contribution to food security and nutrition;
Promote the value and utilization of pulses throughout the food system, their benefits for soil fertility and climate change and for combating malnutrition;
Encourage connections throughout the food chain to further global production of pulses, foster enhanced research, better utilize crop rotations and address the challenges in the trade of pulses.
So what exactly are pulses?
Pulses are the edible seeds of legumes. Legumes are members of the botanical family Papilionaceae within the family of Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), the third largest family in the plant kingdom. You are probably most familiar with dry peas and beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans and fava beans. Peanuts are also legumes. Generally, “pulses” refer to the dry seeds or grains produced by the legume plants: they do not include peas or beans eaten green or soybeans used for oil production.
Cuisines from all over the world rely on pulses as a source of high protein nutrition. In Kenya a family may sit down to a traditional meal of Githeri or Mutheri, a boiled mixture of maize and beans; in India, it may be Dal, a soup like dish made from lentils or a chickpea curry also known as chole or chana masala; baked fava beans from Greece or falafel or hummus from any number of middle eastern countries, made traditionally from chickpeas are all examples of how these legumes are a critical part of the world’s food basket.
In addition to being rich in protein, these foods are low in fat and are a great source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is one of two types of dietary fiber-the other is the insoluble form that is found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel. It slows digestion and has been associated with reducing the risk for heart disease, lowering blood cholesterol and helping to control blood sugar. According to the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, legumes contain “three times as much iron as meat, two times as much magnesium as rice, and four to five times as much potassium as meat.”
And, diets rich in these plant proteins are also contributing to a more sustainable food system. Cultivation of pulses is less dependent on fertilizers and fossil fuels because the plants are able to “fix” or get nitrogen from the atmosphere. This helps with soil fertility and long-term productivity of farmland. They are also drought tolerant.
Grow your own
So, why not try growing lentils, chick peas, fava beans or soybeans in your home garden? They can be relatively easy to grow. The difficult part may be finding seeds. Several online blogs and forums have participants who have had success with purchasing dry lentils and chickpeas in the grocery store and planting them. Some seed companies have “sprouting seeds” that you could try. And others do have seeds for growing soybeans, lentils and dry beans. Search through the seed catalogs or online.
Most legume crops like cooler growing areas and are somewhat drought tolerant. They do not like a rainy growing season. Lentils are more tolerant of frost than other legumes so may be planted earlier. If you grow these crops for several seasons, practice crop rotation to minimize disease. There are several Extension publications that you may refer to online. Try searching for “Growing Dry Beans: A Vermont Tradition” by Winston Way or “Growing Lentils in Montana” by Cash, Lockerman, Bowman and Welty.
The growing season is over and harvest begins when pods are dry and begin to crack open. Try to harvest after a dry period. If rain interferes, pull up the plants and hang until dry. Remove the seeds/beans from the pods and allow to dry at room temperature for a few weeks before storage. Sort through the beans and remove any that look shriveled or moldy. If you are concerned about the presence of any bugs, you may freeze your dry beans in an airtight freezer container. Otherwise, store in an airtight container (glass canning jars are good) in a cool, dark location.
But, remember, that if you would rather devote your garden space to fresh vegetables, herbs or berries, pulses are readily available at very low cost in any grocery store. Some of the more exotic options such as red lentils or fava beans may be found in stores that specialize in international cuisines. But why not try growing them just once?