GROWING PLANTS FROM SEED
What is a SEED?
It is essential that you know what a seed is before we start on how to grow them in the garden.
The flowering plants can be divided into two groups which are not difficult to distinguish:
1. Monocotyledons (known as monocots) - These comprise mainly of grass like plants and bulbous rooted varieties such as grasses, corn, and daffodils. When germination occurs the monocots produce only a single seed leaf (cotyledon).
2. Dicotyledons (known as dicots) - Dicots are all other ordinary flowering plants including trees and shrubs. When germination occurs for dicots they usually produce two seed leaves.
In the case of Monocotyledon (see picture of a corn seed) the nutrients are stored in the cotyledon and the endosperm issue. The radicle and hypocotyl (region between the cotyledon the radicle) give rise to the roots. The epicotyl (region above the cotyledon) gives rise to the stem and leaves and is covered a protective sheath (coleptile).
In case of the Dicotyledon (see picture of a bean seed) the nutrients are stored in the enlarged cotyledons. The radicle gives rise to the roots, the hypocotyl to the lower stem, the epicotyl to the leaves and upper stem.
Since our objective is growing plants from seeds, a seeds herein will be considered as dicots. A seed, no matter how small, contains two parts being the two seed leaves. These leaves contain the necessary nutrients for plant seed germination and for the first roots to form. On successful germination, the seed will break open and a shoot will appear growing up out of the compost. The two dicotyledon leaves, being the first seedling leaves, will start to appear and slowly grow above the composts surface.
Below the composts surface, roots will start to grow down and also spreading out across the grow tray obtaining nutrients from the compost to aid in the seedlings growth.
8 Tips to start with
What you need
1. Gloves – Rubber or disposable gloves are recommended for ease of handling as they are thin.
2. Grow box – You can use anything from plastic trays, pots, wooden box, cartons, ice-cream tubs, plastic bottles and clay shallow pots. Ensure that, whatever you use is thoroughly washed out and there is a hole in the bottom for drainage.
3. Seed compost – To grow seeds at home it is important that you use the best growing media which has the right mix of nutrients for seed growth. The vital nutrients your seeds need to germinate are nitrogen to boost the germination process, phosphate to encourage root growth and potash for strong and healthy seedlings.
A good fine sieved and sterilized compost is the best. If it is not available make a growing soil as under:
· Garden soil 1 part
· Fine sand 1 part
· Moss or brunt coconut husk powder
· DAP 50 Gm per kg of the soil
Mix it thoroughly and keep it aside for a few days to ripen.
4. Watering can – A rose headed watering can is needed to ensure your seeds do not get drowned.
5. Cover for your seeds – For proper growth and to ensure your seeds are kept warm they should be covered with a transparent cling film or a plate glass sheet. It is important that whichever cover you use is transparent to ensure light can reach the seeds.
6. Markers – A few waterproof markers to record the date you planted the seeds and the type of seed you planted (for example –
7. A wooden round block – You need a wooden block or for that matter anything which is flat at the bottom like a cup to gently compress your growing media before planting your seeds.
8. Where to keep your seeds – The right where you should place your seeds to ensure the best chances of seed germination are a sunny window sill (out of direct sunlight), a greenhouse or a sunny spot in the garden (depending on the season) having indirect sunlight.
How to plant seeds:
1. Ensure you have enough compost or the growing media to fill to the top of your grow box, seed tray or household container.
2. Breakdown the compost with your fingers (wearing your gloves) into fine, light flakes As this will ensure the compost can breathe and the tiny seeds you are going to sow do not have any large bits obstructing their germination process (remember even small bits of compost are large to seeds size). Leave out any parts of the compost you cannot breakdown. Alternatively you can use a sieve.
3. Take your flat surfaced object and gently press down over the surface of the compost until it is slightly compacted and evenly surfaced.
4. Fill your watering can and ensure you thoroughly soak all the compost in the tray.
5. Open your seed packet carefully (check the seed packet first to see the number of seeds you have) and gently tip the packet up and tap the top so the seeds fall into the palm of your hand (no gloves required now). If a small number of seeds pinch one seed out at a time between your thumb and first finger and place carefully on top of the compost. Place the seeds so they are well spaced and in nice uniformed rows. However, if you have a large number of seeds (or they are extremely small) tap these into the palm of your hand and hold your palm over the compost and gently tap your palm with you free hand so the seeds evenly fall and distribute over the tray/container.
6. Next you should sprinkle a thin layer of thinned out compost evenly over the top of the tray so the seeds are just covered and the compost reaches close to the top of the tray/container.
7. Cover the tray with whatever material you have a sheet of glass, some cling film, or a clear plastic bag – ensure it is transparent for germination to take place.
8. Move your tray/container to the most suitable area you have chosen for the seed germination. Air, warmth and moisture are the key for successful seed germination.
A few tips you should know to grow healthy seedlings and plants in your garden.
1. Warmth - keep the grow box in a place which has a consistent temperature which does not decrease dramatically at night. Ensure the temperature does not increase too much as you do not want to ‘cook’ your seeds otherwise they will not germinate. A consistent temperature of between 18°C and 22°C is acceptable, a little higher or lower is nothing to panic about.
2. Soil/Compost - ensure the soil has the right kind and right amount of nutrients by using specialist compost. This is the key when learning how to germinate seeds. The roots supply these nutrients to the stem and the leaves.
3. Water – ensure the compost does not dry out, however too much watering can drown the seed. You need to make sure there are plenty of small holes on the bottom of the grow box for drainage.
4. Light – ensure the grow box is exposed to light at all times (however not direct sunlight), be it on a window sill or in a greenhouse.
When to transplant?
After the germination has taken place you will observe that two leaves have emerged above the compost. Soon, in 10 to 15 days depending upon the temperature a set of another two leaves will start growing on the seedling. This is the right time to transplant the seedling.
The soil is most important
The soil is the key component to the success of growing your plants and your garden.
Why is soil so important to your garden?
It is a rare chance that the soil in your garden is by nature the right choice for a healthy garden. If the soil does not have the proper pH value for the plant or it does not have the necessary nutrients the home grown seedlings or the seedlings/young plants you have purchased from a nursery, will neither do well or perhaps even survive.
It is essential that as a home gardener you should know the different kinds f soil and what you have in your garden otherwise you could be wasting your valuable time and money.
What types of soil are there and what is your soil type?
Different plants prefer different growing conditions and different kinds
of soil. You need to know your soil type before you know which plants work best with your soil. Appended below are some easy steps to follow to find out your garden’s soil type:
· Acidic (having a pH of less than 7),
· Chalky (i.e. Alkaline being a pH of more than 7),
Is the soil Sandy, Clay, or Peat?
To find out the type you can do it as appended below:
The Touch Test
The touch test and examining its color is one of the many tests you can use to find out the types of soil in your garden. Take a ball of moist soil from your garden and rub it between your fingers. (It might be necessary to moisten the soil slightly).
· Sand – if the soil feels gritty and breaks up it contains sand; largish particles indicate grit.
· Clay – if it appears slightly shiny and smears smoothly, it contains plenty of clay.
· Chalk – (i.e. Alkaline being a pH of more than 7), this type of soil is pale looking, has a fine texture and is often rich in flint or bits of chalk.
· Peat – crumbles if rubbed between fingers, absorbs water like a sponge, can be very fine.
You can get the soil tested in a Soil Testing Laboratory to find out its type and quality. The test will also give you the following information:
· Your soil’s nutrients – do you need to increase or decrease the nutrients in your soil?
· Your soil type – do you need to change your soil type to cater for the types of plant you want to grow?
Your garden’s drainage is very important – does your garden hold excess water? If so most of the plants would not survive. Ensure a proper drainage system for healthier growth and survival of the plants.