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Thread: Why Start from Seed and How to Succeed

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Zone 9a - Gulf Coast
    Posts
    9,934

    Wink Why Start from Seed and How to Succeed

    As Vicki and Glen in BC discussed in a prior post, it is quite gratifying to start plants from seed. Here in zone 8, you can plant seed for annuals up until about July, and usually do have to start some later because they are so short lived, go to seed, start getting scraggly and die.

    Because of our long growing season, we usually have to plant many annuals 2-3 times to keep them looking showy and healthy. It's a lot of work and worth it if you are willing to try.

    But for me, August and September are the times that I like to start many perennial seeds. In late September, early October, I usually start petunia and pansy from seeds.

    There are basically 4 primary reasons for growing plants from seed. They are:

    1) Finding the right variety
    2) Finding the right quantity
    3) Finding them when you need them
    4) No introduced disease

    Some of the most common reasons why seeds do not germinate or die in early infancy is because of improper watering. In general, seeds are in a dormant stage until you plant them and provide them with ample moisture. Then one of two basic problems can occur.

    1) Too little moisture causes the developing embryo to dry up and die
    2) Too much moisture and the wrong conditions. will cause 'Damping Off'

    To prevent the first, too little moisture from occuring, simply enclose the potted seed in a plastic bag creating a greenhouse effect and give the seed the required amount of light, but keep out of direct sunlight for this will cook the seedlings.

    To prevent the Damping Off fungal disease, you need to insure the following:

    1) Use clean or treated seed
    2) Warm temperatures (as required, 24 hours a day unless otherwise noted)
    3) Good drainage and proper aeration
    4) Plant in sterile containers
    5) Use sterile potting mixes

    Since Damping Off is a fungal disease, keeping your environment for the seeds and seedlings sterile is critical. The disease, once established will quickly spread, so if you see signs of damping off, discard the soil and the seedling and sterilize the area and the containers if they are to be reused.

    When collecting your own seeds, be sure to allow them ample time to dry out. Some seeds are not very viable and should not even be allowed to dry out, but that is not the norm. Once you allow them to dry in the open air, you can store them in a paper bag or envelope out of direct light. The temperature for storage depends on the specific seed and how long you wish to store them.

    If you find seed that you have previously collected and stored and they have mold on them, then most likely they did not dry out well enough before storing them.

    You can use plastic bags to store seeds if you are sure they have dried well enough, but make sure there is nothing in the bag, like leaves, stems or remnants of seed pods that contain any trace of moisture.

    So, why do I like starting from seed? Primarily it is to get the variety that I want, at the quantity and price that I want them, and once I have them, I can propagate them.

    So, gather up those seed packets, study up on their planting requirements and decide which can be planted now and start making preparations.

    It's that time of the year, My Favorite Time...

    Enjoy!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Surrey, BC, Canada
    Posts
    221

    Lewisia seed

    Ann and all-your post on sowing seeds jogged my memory about one that will be coming up for me. A good gardening book stated that the time to plant lewisia seeds is September. Since I have two packs of these things to sow, I'm thinking about the best way to do this.

    I know the lewisia needs a cold period before most will sprout, I did the first pack last spring using the fridge, and got reasonable germination.

    Have you ever planted in Sept. to get natural cold treatment, I assume to sow in prepared flats and cover with humidity domes and leave in a shaded area until spring. Any thoughts?

    By the way, the lewisia has been an incredible hit here, everyone who sees them falls in love with these "cute" little plants with their sprays of long lasting flowers. I've almost never seen them in garden centres, but they are sure eyecatching! Would make an excellent little pot plant, as well as rockery subject, in my opinion. And they have been real easy to grow, no pests or diseases so far.--Glen in BC

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Zone 9a - Gulf Coast
    Posts
    9,934

    Imitating Nature in Seed Germination

    Glen,

    Yes, and you bring up a very good point. One of the reasons that some seed are best planted in late fall, early to late winter, or very early spring is that in nature the seeds need to go though a cold period in order to break dormancy.

    For some seed, this can be accomplished by simply placing the packet of seeds in the refrigerator. This process, called stratification is also used to break down the seed coat, an alternative to 'nick em and soak em'.

    After stratification, the seed can be planted in a greenhouse or other indoor environment such as under flourescent lamps.

    For many years, I struggled with some seed. Now, I understand why. Cleome for instance, will not germinate under the fluorescent lights in my indoor propagating room. But soon after I take them to the greenhouse, they start germinating like crazy.

    Why? Because Cleome seed require fluctuating temperatures in order to germinate. They require daytime warmth of about 75-80 degrees and a significant drop in temperatures at night. Since I do not heat my greenhouse (unless absolutely necessary to prevent freeze), they meet those conditions when I put them in my greenhouse.

    There's a lot to know about different seeds and the best way to germinate them. Unfortunately, not all seed packets give all the necessary requirements to succeed. I hope that with all of you helping, we can learn and share more tips on germinating in the months to come and growing plants from seed will be easier and more fun for everyone.

    Here is a link to the Lewisia cotyledon:

    http://www.em.ca/garden/per_lewisia_cotyledon1.html

    Definitely my kind of plant, Glen!

    Thanks for sharing that with us!

    Enjoy!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


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