Buying and Saving Seeds

Seed packets for sale at garden centers or other retail stores are often hybrid seeds (See later post about hybrid plants). Hybrid plants often grow bigger and yield more than nonhybrids. Hybrid seeds are usually more expensive due to the time and cost of breeding etc.  If you don't mind buying new seeds each grow cycle then hybrids are a good choice. Look on the seed packet to see if the label says "hybrid." The packet will also give climate recommendations for that species. (See the USDA hardiness zones under Useful Links on this blog) Some hybrid plants are developed for specific growing conditions, so pick ones that are right for your indoor growing conditions. If you use HID’s you may want to use varieties that are heat resistant for example. Growing indoors means that you can grow even tropical plants in any area or any time of year. You can grow any plant on Earth if you try. Other examples of indoor considerations are to grow dwarf varieties for growing in small spaces or early maturing varieties to help you speed up the growth cycle  which is something that might appeal to you if you are in college and are on a semester schedule.
Saving Seeds
Some good growers like to gather seeds from their plants and save them to plant the next grow cycle.   (See my post on how to store seeds) While I have suggested it may be better to buy seeds (link to buy seeds) collecting and growing seeds may be an interesting way to experiment and save money.  You should know most hybrid seeds, due to genetics, will produce inferior offspring or plants with different qualities and only a few will be the same as the original parents. With a small garden you will need some luck to get improved plants. If you want to be self sufficient you should buy heirloom seeds rather than breeding and planting seeds from a hybrid plant. If you don't want any hassle and  just want to grow good plants all the time, it's best to just buy new seeds. However, if you are curious and have a large garden or want to try crossing two hybrids together to look for new combinations of traits you can always try. If you cross two excellent varieties you should get above average plants at least. It might be good to have a second area for growing that you devote to breeding if you want to advance to the next step... that is another topic for the future.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


E-mail- Screened Enclosed Plants and Polination

Hi Dr. Myers
You have answered questions from me in the past and I do have another one.
In addition to my indoor garden, I have an outdoor vegetable garden. I just recently moved these plants inside my screen-enclosed pool area. Question: doesn't tomato, pepper,etc. rely on bees and other insects to pollinate and create the fruit ? So, if these vegetables are enclosed..... they will not ever produce fruit because insects and bees cannot get to them..... is this correct ?  Thanks in advance
Thanks for your E-mail. I am always happy to help, if I can. You have a good question, the answer is it depends if the plants are self pollinators or cross pollinators.  Self pollinators are plants that produce flowers that are usually fertilized by their own pollen, commonly when the male and female flower parts are contained within the same flower. These plants usually don't need an insect polinator.  Cross pollinators are plants with flowers that require pollen from another flower -or from another plant to produce a fertilized seed and the fruit that surrounds it. Cross pollinators commonly require the help of insects or the wind or YOU to achieve pollination.

Self-pollinated vegetables include: bush and pole beans, lima beans, chicory, endive, lettuce, most peas, and tomatoes. These plants don't need any help they will produce fruit if they get enought light and nutrients.

Wind-pollinated vegetables include: beets, chard, sweet corn, and spinach.

Insect-pollinated vegetables that won't produce fruit well in an enclosed area with out your help or insects are: cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, muskmelons, mustard, okra, parsnip, hot pepper, pumpkin, rutabaga, squashes, turnips, and watermelon.

You may want to see my post about how to collect pollen and do so for some of your pepper plants, all the flowers should produce it, and use your finger or a brush etc. and put the pollen from one flower (or better yet from one plant) into another.   Also, look at my Blog postings about how to transfer pollen.
Good Growing,
Dr. E.R.Myers


Terminator Genes - Keep You From Breeding Your Plants

I have talked about breeding plants, but did you know that it is now possible for corporations with biotechnology to insert genes into plants that will enable them to kill any seeds you get from breeding.  By inserting three genes into a plant Monsanto, and any other large corporation can effectively force you to buy seeds from them forever.  The art of breeding and crossing new varieties, something that human cultures have done for… well since we started cultivating plants 10,000 years before present (YBP) would be gone forever into the world of corporate profits.

How does this terminator technology work? Well, one example would be to insert three genes into a plant so that it can be sterilized at any time in the breeding program. First insert a gene into the plant that produces a toxin that kills the seedling as it begins to germinate. To keep this gene off (so it does not make the toxin), a section of DNA called a security wall is placed between the toxic gene and the gene that regulates it being on and off (sorry this is complicated stuff stick with me here). A second gene called a scissor gene is also inserted into the plant; this makes an enzyme (called recombinase) that cuts out the security wall turning the toxin gene on. A third gene makes a protein that represses the scissor gene (keeps it from making recombinase). Now as long as this third gene is active, the plant can reproduce normally. If however the third gene is activated by some chemical, say an antibiotic then as the seed grows it will release the scissors gene in all its cells including one's that form the seeds so that seeds from that plant will never germinate, thus ending the breeding line. By inserting this terminator gene group into breeding lines, the companies can continue to breed their plants, and they simply have to spray the seeds they sell with the antibiotic before the sell them guaranteeing that no one can grow a plant without getting new seeds from them.  This is sort of like a time bomb, you insert the terminator genes and breed away until you get a variety you want to sell, and then you spray the seeds with a chemical so that once the seeds grow the terminator genes are on. You will still be able to clone a plant with the terminator genes, but as I said cloned plants keep track of time so after a few generations you often see a decrease in plant growth and vigor.

This is not going on now, that I know of, but it is not science fiction either my friends. There have been court battles about this so it is possible that the terminator genes can be marketed, and theoretically could be put into any plant species.

To me, this is just another reason to support small local growers/breeders and to breed yourself, keep the plants in the hands of humans, not controlled by corporations
Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


Are You Wasting Money on Expensive Seeds?

Do you buy new seeds or clones everytime you grow?  Have you ever figured out how much you spend each year on this?  With a few supplies from HTGSupply.com you can clone your own plants or you could try your hand at plant breeding and pay next to nothing to continue growing... 

I have been breeding some plants for many years. I have not bought seeds for peppers, dill and many flowrers in years.  I do this 1) becasue I can (I have a Ph.D. in plant breeding) and 2) I am cheap and don't want to pay money to corporations for seeds which I can get myself and 3) I like it, it is my hobby.  However, I was traveling this summer and decided to get some new seeds to include in a breeding program.   What I have noticed is that the 'new' seeds/plants  have more vigor, they are growing faster and look healthier than 'my' plants. This observation was bitter sweet, my strain from many years of breeding was not as good as the one's I paid money for... but I have some awesome new plants to grow and cross with each other and 'my' plants.   I should say  that in the past I have also compared my plants with other people that paid good money for seeds and I won that compitation.  Buying seeds from big companies is not always going to get you the best product if you don't do your homework.
Most people (including me) can not afford to grow the thousands of plants required to establish a successful and longlived breeding program that can make lots of awesome seeds. This does not mean you should keep forking out money to the seed companies every time you grow however.  If you are curious, have a little time and want to save your seed money for other things you might want to try your hand at cloning and/or breeding.   I will be writting about the benefits of buying seeds, and or breeding and about some things that corporations can do to FORCE you to buy their seeds with terminator genes
I continue this buying seed debate in a later post about buying and saving seeds
I have written an introduction to breeding and about plant sex, and went into some breeding technques too, if anyone is interested.  I am ALWAYS happy to expand on or answer questions about past posts.  The more questions I get the better resource this blog will be, so tell a friend if you like what you see.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


E-mail - Cooling a Grow Room for Less Than 50 Bucks

Hi Doc,
I am looking to purchase a 400 hps light set from htgsupply.com and I was wondering if it would require cooling if it is left in a 12-12 cycle. I am limited in terms of cooling as I do not want to destroy my closet and am not able to drill anything. How could one go about cooling this machine for under $50 effectively?

Hi, The 400 is a good all purpose light, I use them myself. The answer to your question depends on the size of your closet. I also have a 400 watt in an old closet that is 8 feet high and 4 feet by 9 feet (I only grow under ½ that space at most). I have a carbon filter to blow the air around and my temperature never gets above 90F if I leave the door shut 24/7. You could use a circulation fan for far less than 50 dollars to move the heat if you don’t want to buy a carbon filter. Temperatures in the 90’s F may seem high but the temperature is in the low 70’s or less in the dark cycle so a few hours of 90F while not ideal is ok for most plants. If your closet is smaller space you will need to get some of the heat out. The easiest way is to have the door open during the lights on cycle. The best time to do this would be near the end of the light 'on' cycle when the temperature will be highest. The problem is you may forget to shut the door when say, you are not home, and the light will go off but the door will be open. (If you have irregular light and dark cycles you will have poor or no flowering/fruit). It would be ok to leave the door open for 5-15 minutes every day after the lights turn off to let all the heat out. It is good growing to have a big difference between day and night temperatures; you don't want to trap all the heat in the closet all night.

If your temperatures are in the upper 90’s or over 100F for long periods and you can’t open the door then you may need to use an exhaust fan. I say this because I had a small closet (3x3x7 feet) I used once and even a 250 Watt HPS needed to have the door open or it would go over 100F which will slow plant growth and make the plants grow tall and fall over, and flower poorly. You will need to do some minor construction, drill a hole a few inches in diameter, depending on the fan/duct you use.  Wall studs are usually  16 inches apart, if you find one, move the hole don't cut one , it may be holding up the roof. The fan and duct work will blow the heat out of the room. Since heat rises you should put the fan and duct at the top of the grow room.  Last option, if construction of a duct/fan or having the door open is not possible, you may want to use LED or fluorescent lights. You know I have tested the Tri-Band and you can get HO T-5 with flowering bulbs that are high in RED light

So, the first thing you need to do is to get a thermometer that has a minimum and a maximum reading and put it in the closet.  Take the reading at the top of the plants under the light.  Do not take the reading at the top of the closet, this will be the hottest spot, but is not where your plants are growing. If the temperature never goes above 90F at the plant tops you’re fine and have solved the problem for less than 50 dollars. If it is over 100F, and you are not growing cacti, your plants won't grow anywhere near their full potential. With temperatures in the upper 90F range or more you will need to do something to get rid of the heat like open the door, or use an exhaust fan/vent. You can get a squirrel cage from HTGSupply.com and I would recommend getting the duct and flange from them too so you know everything matches up. This option is sadly more than 50 bucks but is guaranteed. You can vent the air outside, or I like to vent it into the next room during the chilly months to use the heat more efficiently (think cheaper gas/electric bills with a warm room). I don’t grow in the room in the summer.

I would also send an E-mail to Sales@htgsupply.com, where a sales representative knows how to use all sorts of specific equipment. I just help with how to grow plants.

Good Growing,

Dr. E.R.Myers