Propogating Plants from Seeds in Spring
|Published: 30th May 2009 12:01|
As the days become longer and the clocks go forward, we start to look forward with eager anticipation to the enjoyable weeks of gardening ahead. Spring has a special magic as perennial plants emerge from their winter dormancy and everything takes on a new freshness. Hope springs eternal!
Starting seeds indoors for display in the garden is immensely satisfying and therapeutic and the techniques are shown in the video presentation in AboutMyArea.
Seeds for sowing may be acquired in packets from seed merchants, some of which are mentioned later in this piece. It is a good idea to search in the garden magazines for a range of suppliers, many of whose catalogues read like mini encyclopedias.
Sometimes the keen gardener will endeavour to save seeds from favourite plants but there are a few factors which need to be borne in mind when undertaking this operation.
Following flowering, most plants will produce seed and, when ripe, this seed may be harvested for sowing. Aesthetically, the process of saving the seed may not be the first thought in the mind of the tidy grower of ornamental plants, as the first instinct is to perform the practice of ‘dead-heading' !
This is a good, inexpensive way of propagating new plants, as, of course, the seeds are free and all that is needed in addition is compost and trays or pots.
Saving seeds in this manner has one possible disadvantage in that, if the flowers have been ‘open-pollinated' - i.e. from plants grown in the open garden - there is no guarantee that subsequent plants will come true to form or colour. Bees are promiscuous creatures and will flit from one plant to another!
In saving seed, ensure that the seeds are packed in paper envelopes or containers - not plastic, as they will sweat and increase the possibility of rotting. Always label the packet immediately. there is nothing more frustrating than packing a packet, only to find later that it does not contain the name of the seed harvested!
It is also possible to exchange seed with a friend or join a seed-exchange group, particularly useful if an enthusiast belongs to a specialist plant society.
There is always an element of risk involved in saving seed in that the saved seed may not be ‘viable' - that is able to be germinated and produce seedlings but this is one of the wonders and vagaries of propagation by seed.
Seed purchased from a supplier, however, has a very strong chance of germination and modern techniques such as preserving the seed in a foil wrapping enhance the possibilities of success.
It may be helpful to know a little more about the aftercare of half-hardy annual bedding plants and vegetables, so here are a few hints.
Half-hardy plants are not native to our shores and, as such are unused to the frosts and wind chills to which they could be subjected. The cells in their stems are similar to the pipes in our domestic water system. Picture the effects of frost on an unprotected water pipe, followed by a thaw and the resulting burst pipe! This would be the unwanted situation with unprotected half-hardy plants.
As plants raised indoors will have been grown in protected conditions, it will be necessary to wean the plants before placing or planting them outside. This process is known as hardening off. This entails bringing the plants gradually on in containers outside such as cold frames. The cells of the plants, soft in the protected environment, need to be strengthened and hardened. Soft cells exposed to frost, or even chill, would die back.
The vents of the cold frames should start only marginally open during the day, closed at night, then gradually opened wider, offering the plants more air circulation. Eventually, when all danger of frost or chill has receded, it will be possible to take the plants out of the frames and eventually have them ready for planting into containers or the soil.
The range of seeds provided has increased in recent years and, by looking around, the propagator from seed can usually find what is required. Below is a list of some seed merchants but why not research some for yourself?
J.W. Boyce, Bush Pasture, Lowercarter Street, Fordham, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5JU
D.T Brown & Co., Station Road, Poulton - le Fylde, Blackpool FY6 7HZ
Chiltern Seeds, Bortree Style, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 7PB
+ a very comprehensive range. No pictures but very thorough, sometimes funny, descriptions of the range of plants.
John Chambers, 15, Westleigh Road, Kettering, Northamptonshire, NN15 5AG
+ includes a wide range of wildflower seeds
Mr. Fothergill's Seeds, Gazeley Road, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7QB
S.E. Marshall & Co., Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, PE13 2RF
+traditionally useful for range of vegetable seeds
Samuel Dobie and Son. Broomhill Way, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 7QW
Suffolk Herbs, Sawyers Farm, Little Cornard, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 0NY
Suttons Seeds, Hele Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 7JQ
Thompson and Morgan Ltd., London Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP2 0BA
+very broad range, amply illustrated
Unwins Seeds, Histon, Cambridge, CB4 4ZZ
+famous for the range of sweet pea varieties
Nicky's Nurseries Ltd. www.nickys-nursery.co.uk
Plantworld Devon: www.plant-world-seeds.com/site/gardens (some unusual and rare seed)
Enjoy the experience of propagating from seed and looking after the subsequent seedlings and plants.