Grow Your Own Plants What To Look For
Seeds have multiple uses to man. Examples are as source of food (e.g. cereals, grain legumes, seed vegetables), beverages (e.g. coffee, cacao, juice from young coconut), and spices (e.g. anise, nutmeg, mustard, sesame). Many seeds also provide raw materials for the industrial processing of various products such as vegetable oil, starch, biofuel, lubricants, and fiber.
Cereal seeds are rich in carbohydrate; legume seeds contain more protein than the seeds of other plant types. There are seeds also that are rich in oil such as castor bean, jatropha and sunflower. The seeds of the desert shrub jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) contain a wax that is used as a substitute for sperm whale oil in the production of lotions, shampoos and other cosmetic products, and even machine oil (Postlethwait and Hopson 1989).
Main Functions of Plant Seeds:
The primary function of seeds is reproduction in which plants perpetuate themselves, mainly sexually. The seed is widely used in the deliberate production of seedlings, known as plant propagation.
In addition, this organ also serves as a diaspore or dispersal unit of many plants. Many seeds are equipped with adaptations which ensure or enhance dispersal such as dust-like and balloon seeds, wing-like appendages, hairs, parachutes, feathers and hooks, and water repellant surfaces.
INSIDE A SEED
A seed is the first stage in the life cycle of a plant. Protected inside the tough seed coat, or testa, is the baby plant, called an embryo. Food, which fuels germination and growth, is either packed around the embryo or stored in special seed leaves, called cotyledons.
- SPREADING WITHOUT SEEDS
Seeds are not the only means of reproduction. Some plants create offshoots of themselves – in the form of bulbs, tubers, corms, or rhizomes – that can grow into new plants. This type of reproduction is called vegetative reproduction. As only one parent plant is needed, the offspring is a clone of its parent.
A bulb is an underground bud with swollen leaf bases. Its food store allows flowers and leaves to grow quickly. New bulbs develop around the old one.
A tuber is a swollen stem or root with buds on its surface. When conditions are right, the tuber’s food store allows the buds to grow.
A corm is a swollen underground stem that provides energy for a growing bud. After the food in the old corm is used up, a new corm forms above it.
A rhizome is a horizontal stem that grows underground or on the surface. It divides and produces new buds and shoots along its branches.
ADVANTAGES OF GROWING FROM SEED
Growing from seed is the natural way to do it and produces a wonderful variation of buds within the same genetic range. Although growing from a female clone guarantees you a female plant, unless you change the growing environment, there is little room for variation and therefore improvement.
- There are a wider range of strains available in seed than in clone, opening up your options for growing different genetics.
- Some varieties just do better when started directly in the garden from seed.
- Seed is less expensive. A packet of seed usually costs less than a six pack of plant starts and will yield at least five to six times as many plants.
Seed gives the farmer the ability to experiment with new varieties that are not be available as starts at your local garden center.
STEPS OF SEED SOWING
Eileen Powell, author of From Seed to Bloom, divides the sowing of seeds into seven steps:
1) Prepare the containers. Clean with well-diluted bleach (nine parts water to one part bleach). Punch drainage holes in the bottom of your container and then line with a layer of newspaper.
2) Prepare your growing medium. If you are using soilless growing media, Powell recommends dampening it. Place it in a plastic bag and add four parts water to one part soil. Mix well by squeezing the bag. End result should be damp, but not wet.
3) Fill containers. In addition to your growing medium, you may want to add a layer of sand to promote drainage. Fill pots or flats to within 1/4 inch of the top with your potting mix and level the surface.
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4) Sow your seeds. The easiest way to avoid mixing things up is to plant only one variety of seeds per container. Powell says, “As a general rule of thumb, seeds should be covered to three times their diameter.” Read the directions on the seed packet for specific planting instructions.
5) Label containers. Label each container with what seed you’re planting, date planted, expected date (range) of germination. Also, mark a calendar with your plants germination dates, which will make planning easier, Powell says.
6) Water. If you’ve pre-moistened your growing medium, you can skip this step. Otherwise, water to moisten, but not saturate, the soil.
7) Cover containers. Cover seed trays with plastic wrap or place them inside a plastic bag. The idea behind covering the container is to keep moisture levels constant. Seeds are very sensitive to the amount of water they receive. Too much water or too little water will greatly affect your success rate. Remove the cover once the seeds have germinated to prevent plant diseases, such as damping off.
As soon as your seedlings develop true leaves (usually the second set of leaves), it’s time to give them more room.
Thin them by trimming off the plant’s leaves at soil level. You’ll want to end up with one plant for every 1 to 2 inches.
Certain seeds can be tricky to get started. For example coriander and parsnips take a long time to germinate. You can speed up the germination of coriander by gently pressing the seeds with a brick, or in a pestle and mortar. This will open the seedpods slightly, allowing the plants to escape from them more easily. Because parsnips take so long to geminate, weeds can grow and it is difficult to spot the emerging parsnip seedlings. Often gardeners accidentally remove them, mistaking them for weeds. A good trick is to pop a radish seed in the planting hole with the parsnip seed. The fast-growing radishes will mark the spot from where the parsnips will grow and be long gone by the time the parsnip seedlings emerge.