When I first began to grow seed I was very discouraged as I couldn’t seem to get seed to germinate. All the interesting, rare and unusual plants weren’t available in the shops and I wanted to grow them, so I bought seed.
I’m happy to say that after many years of perseverance I have learnt many things and I have a lot more luck these days. I’d love to pass some of this information on to you so you keep persevering with this and reap the bounty waiting to be unlocked in that little time capsule.
First things first, there are seeds and there are seeds. Open pollinated seeds are seeds that you can grow again from seed. If you select from the best plant the genetic traits that make it a good plant will have a good chance of occurring in the next generation. Farmers have been selecting plants this way for thousands of years since agriculture began and that is where all our food crops have come from. Growing from seed means there is a huge genetic pool to draw on. If you take a cutting you are cloning the exact genes in the plant that you strike.
There are many reasons why a seed won’t germinate. If it hasn’t been stored properly or been kept in storage too long without being grown out it may have lost it’s viability. All seeds have a shelf life and each genus is unique for example beans are viable for three years and broccoli for five years under optimum storage conditions. I’ll concentrate on vegetable seed as they are the most useful to people providing food which is something we can all benefit from in these times of continual food price rises.
So the seed may not be viable, the best way to combat this one is to source fresh locally adapted seed and the best way to do this is to look for people in your neighbourhood or region who are growing food and saving seeds and may have some to share. There are many groups around that are happy to share their seeds. If you are going to save your seed, label them so you know what was successful. Store them so that air and moisture can’t get in and the temperature remains stable, not too hot or too cold and grow them out every year.
Local adaptation is important as the seed is used to the environment it is growing in. If you grow a lettuce seed originating in Tasmania it might not like being grown in Cairns or it will take some getting used to. Remembering this can also improve your success rate.
When to Sow Seed
Research the plant that you are growing, know when to plant it as timing is very important. Seeds require moisture, oxygen and have a temperature clock for each particular plant you are trying to grow. Grow in the correct season. Charts are usually available for all climatic regions explaining what to grow when. Spring is the peak growing season when the sap is rising. They will sprout when the temperature is right for it.
Seed Sowing Medium
When sowing seed make a mix of two thirds coarse washed river sand (very important) and one third sifted compost (lay it in the sun to kill of the seeds in it as they will overtake the ones you have sown. We used to use peat but this resource is drying up. You want something that will hold water. The sand provides drainage and hence the air pockets for oxygen and the compost provides the water holding capacity so some of the moisture is left behind.
How to Sow Seed
Sow the seed at at a depth of two thirds the diameter of the seed. Hence lettuce which is small seed will virtually be sown on the surface and covered with a thin sprinkling of the mix. A large broad bean would probably be planted at a depth of two centimetres.
Never let the seed boxes dry out once they have been sown. A fine misting or gentle rose so as not to dislodge and disturb the seeds. Seeds seem to like rain water best.
You can allow four weeks for germination, but that all depends on the plant so it pays to research that particular genus and their germination requirements. Food crops usually sprout in this time, but some plants can take years.
Some seed requires special treatment before it will germinate. Soaking and hot water treatment for instance. Experimentation and research will help here. I soak luffa seeds for three days prior to sowing.
Sowing by seed produces many plants quickly and saves you money.
You could have about 20 localised varieties of vegetable seed crops and save the seed each year and you would get enough food to supplement the family diet with very nutritions and organic food. Read my article on “Making Compost for your Rasta Garden.”
If you really wanted to do something interesting you could build a bee hive and let them do some pollinating for you. Not to mention the honey.
If you can gradually get all these elements into your seed sowing and saving practices you will be on your way to success and one day all your seeds will come up. It is quite thrilling to get a tray of gum trees from some fine dust. To think, each of those tiny little seedlings will become a massive tree one day in the not too distant future.
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