Have seed

Have seed

Deer Gardener: Fresh tips on sprouting seeds

Every seed from the dust-like begonia to the hefty coconut is a time capsule of life to come.

I wonder if we ever actually stop to appreciate what a perfect creation a seed is. The potential within it is immense.

Every seed is encapsulated such that it contains the promise of life. From a huge yellow cedar to a tiny watercress, all the genetic information of the parent uniquely comes together to create a plant of like characteristics. Seeds are alive, although dormant. Every seed from the dust-like begonia to the hefty coconut is a time capsule of life to come.

The mission from time immemorial is the same: go forth and multiply. It’s when we try to grow things where they do not naturally grow that the trouble begins. Naturally, plants don’t even grow in a straight row… sheesh! Not many common vegetables are indigenous to these islands, so we have to develop ways to cause them to grow, and straight(ish) rows and greenhouses work for us.

The term ‘viable seed’ means ones that will grow rather than rot in the ground. Some seeds remain viable for many years under perfect conditions, most are good for three years. Seeds on ‘sale’ are often older seeds. They will germinate less reliably, but then again, they do cost less!

Seeds have specific needs that cause them to stir within the husk, then burst out into warmth and moisture. They have reactionary instincts based on the surrounding factors, which trigger growth. If it’s too cold, they grow stunted a pause in their growth pattern (but they do toughen up). If it’s warm but too dark they grow spindly, searching for light. If they are pinched or deer-munched they grow side shoots, giving a bushier plant that is not all bad unless they are taken to ground level… that’s bad!

As a seed germinates, the sprouting process cannot be stopped. If it continues to receive moisture, warmth, air and light it keeps growing. Allowing it to dry out or be waterlogged will kill it. Try not to blame the ‘poor seeds’ for poor seed husbandry.

When a seed packet says “60 days” on it, that is the time from true leaves to first fruit, under ideal conditions. I always have to add a month or so because our conditions are less than ideal. The West Coast has less heat, more moisture, and more wind than most of Canada, so naturally many heat-seeking plants will not thrive without a lot of bother. If you like the bother… well that’s your privilege, celebrate if it works out, but don’t complain if it doesn‘t!

Left to grow in its natural environment, a plant will continue because the seeds are spread where their needs are met, as did the parent plant. Except coconuts. Coconuts fall in the ocean, bob around for years, touch new volcanic islands and proceed to germinate, thus starting a new island of living plants. Then birds land on the coconut trees and droppings with seeds in them are left behind. Voila, a newly vegetated tropical paradise! Buy a time share NOW… ‘cuz you never know.