Growing Chia Seeds
Chia is easy to grow, beautiful to look at, and offers lots of nutritional value. It deserves a place in any garden.
Chia seeds are a very high source of linolenic acid (LNA) and linoleic acid (LA). Both these essential fatty acids attract oxygen and help cell membranes to be flexible and fluid, plus strengthen our immune system to help protect our bodies from viruses, bacteria, and allergies. in this article will go through the steps on how to grow chia seeds.
Chia is an herbaceous plant with opposite, serrated leaves approximately 1½ to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. Also known as “lime-leaf sage,” plants reach a height of a little more than 3 feet at maturity. High planting density can result in 5- to 6-foot-tall plants. Height also depends on planting date and day length. Clusters of blue to purple to white flowers develop on spikes forming at the end of each branch. Seeds are oval and approximately 2 mm (0.08 inches) long and 1 mm (0.04 inches) wide (similar in size to red clover or alfalfa seed). The shiny seed coat varies in color from cream to charcoal gray with darker irregular markings or specks. Brown seeds result from immature chia being harvested, or early frost before complete crop maturity.
Chia’s native range extends through the coastal and inner coast ranges of California from Mendocino County in the north to Baja in the south. Chia grows throughout southern California and into adjacent areas of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Northwestern Mexico. Chia was once more common in many of its native areas, but its populations have declined due to overgrazing, urban development, and fire suppression.
Habitat: Chia is a member of the foothill woodland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities in California, where it sometimes forms extensive stands. It can be found in the open, exposed grassy areas of woodlands, in sandy washes, dry, open plains, hillsides and gravelly, disturbed sites. It is commonly found at elevations below 1200 meters but is known to grow in some areas up to 2100 meters.
Adaptation Chia is adapted to arid conditions and soils of low fertility. It is one of the so-called “fire following” species, in that it increases in abundance after a fire.
Growing Space and planting
Harvesting chia seed does not just happen with sprinkling some seeds across the garden, but there are some important understandings that people should go through first in order to grow their chia in the most right and effective way. Chia seeds do not need a specific place or a specific length for them to be grown; some people make lines that reach 2.2 meters and there are those who make them even shorter, it all depends on the amount that you need. Most probably, 2.2 meters long in two rows will produce about 100 grams of chia seeds at the end.
Chia is a low-maintenance crop that prefers moderately fertile, well-drained soils. While moisture is necessary for seedling establishment, this crop is highly intolerant of wet soils. Seeds are planted into a fully tilled seed bed using a standard grain drill or planter with small seed metering capability; some adjustments to this equipment may be necessary. Because of the small seed size, precision planting is important to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Chia is planted in May or June and harvested in October.
Cultural requirements, such as plant spacing and nutritional needs, are still being refined. Chia has a lifecycle similar to soybeans, and is harvested early enough that it is possible to double-crop chia after winter wheat.
Salvias are started indoors in March and April or outdoors in April and May, after all chance of frost has passed. Germinate seeds indoors where they’re safe from foraging birds by scattering them on top of a moist paper towel or over seed-starting mix. With little more than warmth, moisture and bright light, chia seeds germinate in three to 14 days. Covering the seed tray with plastic wrap helps keep the exposed seeds moist. Once the seeds germinate, you can carefully prick them out and move them to individual flowerpots.
Neither insects nor diseases have posed a problem in Kentucky to date. Weed management is most critical during establishment; however, weeds become less of an issue once the canopy closes. Despite the fact that chia is an aggressive crop, researchers are not concerned that it could become invasive or present a problem for subsequently planted crops; most commonly used herbicides tested against chia have succeeded in killing it, and mowing or light tillage can be effective in controlling any volunteers in subsequent years.
Diseases and crop management
Currently, no major pests or diseases affect chia production. Essential oils in chia leaves have repellant properties against insects, making it suitable for organic cultivation. Virus infections, however, possibly transmitted by white flies may occur. Weeds may present a problem in early development of the chia crop until its canopy closes, but because chia is sensitive to most commonly used herbicides, mechanical weed control is preferred.
The sprouts are ready to harvest when they are about 1/2 -3/4 inch high which should about 4-7 days depending on the type of seed and time of year (where I live it takes longer in the winter months). You can cut the sprouts just above the roots and use directly. Or you can also take the whole thing, roots and all, lift off of the tray roots and all and store in a partially closed container in the fridge for up to 10 days ( just cut the sprouts above the roots for eating). Don’t water prior to harvesting.