Why Would You Grow Your Own Chia?
Chia is easy to grow, beautiful to look at, and offers lots of nutritional value. It deserves a place in any garden.
I have been growing chia organically for the past ten years, and in that time I have fine-tuned my growing and harvesting techniques. Chia is one of the easiest plants to grow, and one of the healthiest.
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.
Most people's diets are dangerously low in essential fatty acids, which results in tired muscles, fatigue, and a range of health problems. We need to eat EFAs daily because the human body cannot manufacture them. If your diet includes a lot of refined oils and processed foods, you are most at risk.
EFAs, such as those found in chia, can assist with weight loss and removal of toxins from the body.
Enzymes in chia also help with digestion of other foods.
Traditionally, chia has been used to calm nerves and strengthen the memory, but the most high-profile value of chia comes from the seed's ability to give you energy. University research has revealed that one tablespoon of chia seed could reasonably be expected to sustain a person working hard enough to work up a sweat, for 24 hours.
Chia leaves: Pick and dry them to make tea.
Where to Grow Chia
Before you choose where to plant chia seeds or transplant your seedlings, it helps to have a realistic expectation of the size of a mature chia plant. Chia plants grow to the size of a large bush or small tree.
If you grow herbs in small pots or tucked tightly together in an outdoor herb garden, you'll need to find a new spot for chia. Chia grows taller than most herbs and takes up a lot of space, so give thought to where you'll grow it.
Chia is not a ground-hugger like mint, and it will grow much taller than even the biggest parsley, sage, or rosemary plants. You need to provide sufficient space (and head room) for your chia to expand before it flowers.
My organic chia plants grow as tall as an adult. Some reach six feet or more while others settle and flower at about five feet tall. If you intend to grow chia in a pot, it is important to anticipate the size of a mature chia plant when choosing the pot size.
How Big Does a Chia Plant Grow?
How tall does your chia grow? My organic chia plants grow as tall as an adult.
How to Grow Organic Chia
Chia seeds are tiny. You don't need to dig a hole to bury them. Lightly ruffle an area of your weed-free garden with a rake or, if you only have a few seeds and are spacing them carefully, simply loosen the earth with your fingers. Sprinkle a few seeds over the soil and rub gently to cover them.
Water the seeds daily, and within about a week you can expect to see chia sprouts.
When planting chia seeds directly in the garden, I create a carpet of chia and then thin the plants as they grow. Some are fed to the hens, some are used as mulch, and some are harvested while young to dry the leaves for chia tea.
Chia seeds can also germinate successfully in pots. If you want to start your chia plants indoors or close to your garden tap, sprinkle the seeds lightly in your pot and water regularly. When the sprouts are about three inches tall, they are ready for transplanting.
Remember to mulch your chia plants as they grow, and water them regularly. They thrive in an organic garden and don't like competing with weeds.
Here's some hints to remember:
- Don't clear existing weeds until you are ready to fill the space.
- When it's time to plant, work gently. Don't dig up or turn all the top soil (thereby exposing a whole new lot of weed seeds).
- Plant your new seeds in the freshly cleared space without inviting unnecessary competition from deeper weed seeds.
- Add mulch and compost and anything you like to make your garden healthier as your plants grow, but put it on top and let it feed the soil from above.
Chia seeds germinated in a pot.
Harvesting Chia Seeds
The size of your harvest will determine how many days are required to separate the seeds, but if I don't have time, I store dried flower heads in a large calico bag until I have time for my next seed separating session.
Successful collection of chia seeds without waste has a lot to do with timing. When growing chia at home, it is possible to pick individual flower heads when they look ready instead of doing a mass harvesting like they do in a commercial growing environment.
If you wait until the flower head browns, you risk losing the seeds.
- Begin harvesting your chia as soon as most of the petals have fallen off the flower.
- Give the heads time to dry in paper bags or on a drying rack. Expect at least some of the chia seeds will break free in the process.
- Do not hang the plants upside down in your shed.
Ready for Harvest
Dried chia flower heads, ready for seed separation. Picked at the right time and allowed to dry, the chia seeds are easy to separate and collect.
Separating the Chia Seed from the Flower Head
My children conduct science experiments with chia. They explore different ways to separate the seed.
Crushing Chia Flower Heads
The fastest and easiest way to crush the dried flower heads and extract the chia seeds is to rub with a flat hand.
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Blog Credits: dengarden
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