Stillwater News Press

Garden

March 29, 2014

What’s Blooming 03-30-14

Starting plants from seeds can be rewarding

Starting plants from seeds can be tremendously rewarding. I happen to be one of those people that love to start plants from seed. There are so many varieties of seeds available to purchase or seed swap with friends and neighbors. Seed starting is also an inexpensive way to increase your plant palate.

 I realize not everyone has good luck starting plants from seed, which can be very frustrating. So, here are a few tips that will hopefully add to your success in starting plants from seed.  First, you want to start with seeds that are going to germinate. By doing a seed viability test you can determine if the embryo of the seed is still alive. There are several techniques to test seed viability such as X-ray analysis, chemical applications, folding seeds in a damp paper towel, or the floating method.  I prefer the floating method since it’s the fastest and easiest method. The floating method is simply placing seeds in a glass of water. If the seed sink to the bottom of the glass the seed should be viable, if the seed floats, toss it out. Once you have determined that your seed is viable, you will need to do a little research about your seed.  

Some seeds need to be forced out of dormancy by a method called stratification, which is a moist-chilling period. I started some geraniums this year and they required a couple of weeks of chilling followed by heat, and then another chilling period. I put the seeds in my potting media, moistened the media, placed the container in a plastic baggy and put it in the back of the refrigerator for the required chilling time. Other seeds may need to be scarified, which is nicking or scratching the seed coat. This is common on seeds with a hard seed coat such as lotus. Researchers have found seeds of lotus in tombs that are dated more than 2000 years old and they were able to germinate these lotus seeds. I have grown lotus from seeds by using a grinder to scratch the seed coat and then placing the lotus seed in a container of water. Within two days, the seedlings of the lotus were emerging.  

When planting the seeds, be sure you don’t plant too deep. Then dampen the soil media. Do not let the media dry out at any time during germination unless this is a special requirement for that seed.  Also, don’t saturate the media as this can rot the seed.  

 When the seedlings start to emerge, the next potential issue is dampening off. This is caused by fungi that occur in the soil and the spores are moved about in water. If the seedlings are growing, a fungicide may be applied to the soil, just read the label first. When the seedlings first emerge, the first leaves you see are not the true leaves, these are the cotyledons produced from the embryo. Most cotyledons photosynthesize which gives the plant energy to produce roots, shoots, stems and more leaves. Transplanting seedlings doesn’t occur until after you have the first set of true leaves on the plant. Transplant your seedlings into the garden, or another container, keep them watered, then watch how fast your plants will grow.  

It does take more TLC to grow plants from seeds, but it’s so gratifying.

Laura Payne is the volunteer and events coordinator at The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University and a field producer for the television program “Oklahoma Gardening.”

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