Chia Plant Care: Learn How To Grow Chia Seeds In The Garden
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Once the hair on a novelty toy, chia seeds are making a comeback, but this time, they’re taking up residence in the garden and the kitchen. Aztec and Mayan warriors in old Mexico recognized chia seeds as a valuable source of energy and stamina; in fact, the Mayan name for chia means “strength.” With this chia plant information, you can learn how to grow chia seeds for all their health benefits.
What is a Chia Plant?
Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a member of the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. Adding chia to your plantings provides a valuable nectar source for bees and butterflies. These herbaceous hardy annuals grow to 3 feet tall (91 cm.). They have thick, dark-green leaves that are wrinkled and deeply lobed. Tiny, soft, gray hairs cover the upper side of the leaves as well.
The chia plant has several stems rising from the plant’s base. In the late spring and early summer, each stem holds up spikes of small blue, tube-shaped flowers. The blooms have three lobes on one lip, with a white tip on the lower lip. Burgundy, spiny-tipped bracts surround the flower whorls, and each set of flowers produces a seed head of tiny gray or brown seeds. The seed heads look a lot like those of wheat plants.
How to Grow Chia Seeds
Growing chia plants is simple provided you stick with optimal chia plant growing conditions. They are hardy in USDA zones 8-11. Choose a spot that receives full sun and has good drainage. In the fall, prepare the soil as you would for other plants, breaking it up and amending it as needed. Scatter the tiny seeds over the surface of the soil and then rake the earth over them carefully. Water them lightly until the plants are growing strongly.
Chia plant care is uncomplicated. The desert plant is not only drought tolerant, it is known as a “fire following” plant, meaning that it is one of the first to reappear after a devastating wildfire. Once the plants have established themselves in well-drained soil, simply water them only infrequently.
Remarkably adaptable, chia plants can even self-pollinate if the bees or butterflies don’t take care of the task, and they will self-sow the following autumn, assuming they survive the depredations of birds, insects, and animals.
Once the canopy of the chia plants grows over, there is no need for added weed control. Having no known vulnerabilities to pests or diseases makes chia plant care especially simple.
Are Chia Seeds Edible?
Not only are chia seeds edible, they are a rich source of many nutrients. They are high in protein, antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They offer five times the calcium available from milk, and the enzymes in the seeds may aid digestion. Researchers believe that chia seeds have an important role in diabetes treatment. Chia seeds may also help to lower triglycerides, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Use the seeds in baking or add a light crunch with a sprinkle of them over salads, casseroles, or vegetable dishes. Chia sprouts are also delicious additions to salad greens.
Adding chia plants to your garden is a triple winner: they are easy to grow, they add a pop of blue color, and they have numerous health benefits.
How To Grow Chia Microgreens Fast And Easy
Remember chia pets? They were those animal-shaped planters that grew “fur” as the chia plants grew. Well, that cute little fad was actually a method of growing microgreens, even if it was a bit unconventional. It turns out that chia microgreens are very easy to grow and even better to eat. So let’s set aside the chia pet planter and grow chia microgreens as a crop!
You’ll be amazed by the health benefits of chia seeds. They have 3 times the amount of calcium in cow’s milk. They’re also a great source of protein, fiber, and iron. Perhaps what they’re most famous for is the amazing amount of omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in cardiovascular and mental health. The American diet is widely deprived of omega 3 fatty acids, so this is a great plant to start growing.
If you look online, you’ll notice that most guides are for sprouting chia seeds. In this article though, we’re focused on growing actual microgreens. The difference is that microgreens are grown in soil, given sunlight, and allowed to grow larger than sprouts. As a result, the harvest is considerably larger and contains chlorophyll – the uber-healthy nutrient that turns plants green.
If you haven’t already, brush up on the benefits of growing microgreens here. Now, let’s get started on this exciting, indoor gardening journey!
Good Products For Growing Chia Microgreens:
What Is A Chia Plant - Information On Chia Plant Growing Conditions - garden
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Chia, (Salvia hispanica), also called Mexican chia or salba chia, species of flowering plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae), grown for its edible seeds. The plant is native to Mexico and Guatemala, where it was an important crop for pre-Columbian Aztecs and other Mesoamerican Indian cultures. Chia seeds are touted for their health benefits, being high in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, and are now grown commercially in several countries, including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Peru, and the United States.
Chia is an annual herbaceous plant that can reach nearly 1 metre (3 feet) in height. Its lime-green leaves are oppositely arranged and have serrated (toothed) margins. The plant bears spikes of small blue, purple, or white flowers that have a high rate of self-pollination. The small oval seeds are about 1 mm (0.04 inch) in diametre and feature a shiny, mottled, or speckled seed coat that ranges in colour from dark brown to gray-white. The seeds produce a mucilaginous gel when soaked in water. Chia is a desert plant requiring little irrigation and grows well in sandy loam soils, but it is sensitive to frost and day length . The plant resists insect pests and disease and is a good candidate for organic production.
Chia was widely used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and had medicinal and religious value in addition to its culinary applications. Together with beans, corn (maize), squash, and amaranth, chia seeds constituted a significant portion of the diet of the indigenous peoples. Aztecs commonly roasted the seeds and ground them into a flour, and warriors and messengers relied heavily on whole seeds for nourishment on long journeys. Given chia’s cultural and religious significance, Spanish conquerors banned its cultivation and replaced it with foreign grains, such as wheat and barley.
Until the late 20th century the plant was largely overlooked as a food crop, though it did gain some popularity in the United States in the 1980s as part of the terra-cotta novelties known as “ chia pets.” It was not until agricultural engineer Wayne Coates began promoting the plant in the early 1990s that chia was recognized for its potential as an alternative crop and a health food.
Nutritionally, chia seeds are one of the most-concentrated sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. They are also high in dietary fibre, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and antioxidants. Although other seeds, such as flaxseeds, must be ground to enhance their nutritional benefits, chia seeds are easily digested and thus can be eaten whole. They are commonly sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, hot or cold cereals, or yogurt and can be an ingredient of baked goods. The seeds can be mixed with water, juice, or milk to form a thick beverage or pudding and can also be sprouted and eaten fresh in salads and sandwiches. Given chia seeds’ high fibre content and ability to expand as a gel, there is some evidence that they may work as an appetite suppressant. They also show promise in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, though further studies are needed.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Description
- 3 Seeds
- 4 Cultivation
- 4.1 Climate and growing cycle length
- 4.2 Seed yield and composition
- 4.3 Soil, seedbed requirements, and sowing
- 4.4 Fertilization and irrigation
- 4.5 Genetic diversity and breeding
- 4.6 Diseases and crop management
- 5 Decorative and novelty uses
- 6 References
The word "chia" is derived from the Nahuatl word chian, meaning oily. 
S. hispanica is one of two plants known as "chia", the other being Salvia columbariae,  which is sometimes called "golden chia".
Chia is an annual herb growing up to 1.75 metres (5 feet 9 inches) tall, with opposite leaves that are 4–8 cm ( 1 1 ⁄2 – 3 1 ⁄4 in) long and 3–5 cm ( 1 1 ⁄4 –2 in) wide. Its flowers are purple or white and are produced in numerous clusters in a spike at the end of each stem.  Chia is hardy from USDA Zones 9–12. Many plants cultivated as S. hispanica are in fact Salvia lavandulifolia. 
Typically, the seeds are small ovals with a diameter around 1 mm ( 1 ⁄32 in). They are mottle-colored, with brown, gray, black, and white. The seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. While soaking, the seeds develop a mucilaginous coating that gives chia-based beverages a distinctive gelatinous texture.
Chia is mostly identified as Salvia hispanica L. or Salvia columbariae Benth.  Chia is grown and consumed commercially in its native Mexico and Guatemala, as well as Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua, Northwest of Argentina, Parts of Australia, and the southwestern United States.   New patented varieties of chia have been bred in Kentucky for cultivation in northern latitudes of the United States. 
Chia is grown commercially for its seed, a food rich in omega-3 fatty acids since the seeds yield 25–30% extractable oil, including α-linolenic acid. The composition of the fat of the oil may be 55% ω-3, 18% ω-6, 6% ω-9, and 10% saturated fat. 
Climate and growing cycle length Edit
The length of the growing cycle for chia varies based on location and is influenced by elevation.  For production sites located in different ecosystems in Bolivia, Ecuador and Northwest Argentina growing cycles are between 100 and 150 days in duration.  Accordingly, commercial production fields are located in the range of 8–2,200 m (26–7,218 ft) altitude across a variety of ecosystems ranging from tropical coastal desert, to tropical rain forest, and inter-Andean dry valley.  In northwestern Argentina, a time span from planting to harvest of 120–180 days is reported for fields located at elevations of 900–1,500 m (3,000–4,900 ft). 
S. hispanica is a short-day flowering plant,  indicating its photoperiodic sensitivity and lack of photoperiodic variability in traditional cultivars, which has limited commercial use of chia seeds to tropical and subtropical latitudes until 2012.  Now, traditional domesticated lines of Salvia species grow naturally or can be cultivated in temperate zones at higher latitudes in the United States.   In Arizona and Kentucky, seed maturation of traditional chia cultivars is stopped by frost before or after flower set, preventing seed harvesting.  Advances in plant breeding during 2012, however, led to development of new early-flowering chia genotypes proving to have higher yields in Kentucky. 
Seed yield and composition Edit
Seed yield varies depending on cultivars, mode of cultivation, and growing conditions by geographic region. For example, commercial fields in Argentina and Colombia vary in yield range from 450 to 1,250 kilograms per hectare (400 to 1,120 lb/acre).   A small-scale study with three cultivars grown in the inter-Andean valleys of Ecuador produced yields up to 2,300 kg/ha (2,100 lb/acre), indicating that the favorable growing environment and cultivar interacted to produce the high yields.  Genotype has a larger effect on yield than on protein content, oil content, fatty acid composition, or phenolic compounds, whereas high temperature reduces oil content and degree of unsaturation, and raises protein content. [ citation needed ]
Soil, seedbed requirements, and sowing Edit
The cultivation of S. hispanica requires light to medium clay or sandy soils.  The plant prefers well-drained, moderately fertile soils, but can cope with acid soils and moderate drought.   Sown chia seeds need moisture for seedling establishment, while the maturing chia plant does not tolerate wet soils during growth. 
Traditional cultivation techniques of S. hispanica include soil preparation by disruption and loosening followed by seed broadcasting.  In modern commercial production, a typical sowing rate of 6 kg/ha (5.4 lb/acre) and row spacing of 0.7–0.8 m (2 ft 3 1 ⁄2 in–2 ft 7 1 ⁄2 in) are usually applied. 
Fertilization and irrigation Edit
S. hispanica can be cultivated under low fertilizer input, using 100 kg/ha (89 lb/acre) nitrogen or in some cases, no fertilizer is used.  
Irrigation frequency in chia production fields may vary from none to eight irrigations per growing season, depending on climatic conditions and rainfall. 
Genetic diversity and breeding Edit
The wide range of wild and cultivated varieties of S. hispanica are based on seed size, shattering of seeds, and seed color.   Seed weight and color have high heritability, with a single recessive gene responsible for white color. 
Diseases and crop management Edit
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 the 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. 
During the 1980s in the United States, the first substantial wave of chia seed sales was tied to Chia Pets. These "pets" come in the form of clay figures that serve as a base for a sticky paste of chia seeds the figures then are watered and the seeds sprout into a form suggesting a fur covering for the figure. About 500,000 chia pets a year are sold in the US as novelties or house plants. 
Chia Flowers and Seeds
The blue to lavender chia flowers begin to appear in mid to late summer, about four months after germination of the seeds. The flowers attract native bees, honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden, making it a hotbed of wildlife activity.
Once they're pollinated, the flowers die back and the tiny seeds develop. Deadhead the flowers to encourage continued blooming until frost. If you allow the seeds to self-sow throughout their planting beds, sparrows and other seed-eating birds will flock to the garden to enjoy this tiny, oval treat.