Here is another reblogged article from years ago.
Seed that is available in hardware stores and nurseries came from somewhere. Plants just like those that such seed grows into produced it. Someone, or many someones, collected all that seed to make it available to others. Similarly, several plants in our own gardens produce seed. Anyone who is interested in collecting seed to grow more of the same plants could make good use of it.
After bloom, most flowers deteriorate and disappear into the landscape. Some leave behind desirable developing fruits or vegetables. Many of the flashiest flowers are too extensively hybridized to produce seed. Many produce some sort of seed structure that typically gets removed, or ‘deadheaded’. This diverts resources from seed production to subsequent bloom or vegetative growth.
If not removed, such seed structures can mature to produce viable seed. Those who enjoy collecting seed often intentionally leave a few seed structures for that purpose, instead of deadheading completely. For plants with long bloom seasons, this technique should involve the latest blooms. The same applies to vegetables that normally do not mature prior to harvest, like summer squash.
Such seed or fruiting structures, including vegetables, must be completely mature before collecting ripened seed from them.
Sunflower, cosmos, calendula, marigold, campion, morning glory, columbine, hollyhock and snapdragon are some of the easiest flowers for collecting seed from. California poppy, alyssum, phlox, and several other annuals are happy to self sow their seed, although collecting seed from them is not so easy. Nasturtium and honesty (money plant) seed is easy to collect, but self sows as well.
Collecting seed is limited only by practicality. Some plants, particularly hybrids and exotics (which are not native and may lack pollinators), produce no viable seed. Extensively bred varieties are likely to produce progeny that are more similar to the basic species than the parent. Once collected, some seed need special treatment in order to germinate. All seed should be sown in season.
It is such a bad habit! Even if I spend no money, I spend too much time perusing what I could spend a little bit of spare cash on. On rare occasion, I actually do spend a little bit on something that I can get a good deal on, not because I actually have any use for it, but merely because I got a good deal on it, . . . or because I believe that I may not be able to find it for sale again later.
Now, I have more than two hundred seed for Pygmy date palm, Phoenix roebelenii. They certainly were inexpensive, costing less than a few dollars. Most of the expense was for postage. It really was a good deal. However, I have no plan for so many Pygmy date palms. I do not expect all to germinate; but I have no plan for just half of them. Actually, I have no plan for just one.
The other seed to the right in the picture are for muscadine and scuppernong, Vitis rotundifolia. Although I purchased them as a ‘mix’, the seller kindly separated the two varieties. They are easier to accommodate than two hundred palms, and I really do have plans for them. I know growing them from seed is riskier than growing known cultivars, but I wanted them to be ‘wild’.
Regardless, I really should not have purchased even muscadine and scuppernong seed while there is so much other seed here that can not be accommodated. I really must sow all of the old seed this autumn or winter, whether I have plans for it or not. I suspect that most will not germinate. Some of the most questionable seed can be sown out in the garden rather than in flats.
No more eBay!
By now, I can safely assume that any of the various old seed that were sown late last February that have not yet germinated are not likely to do so. They were all so old that I knew at the time that their viability was questionable. Nonetheless, I could not discard them without confirming that they were no longer viable. Four months later, this empty flat just about confirms it.
So far, the sole survivor is a seedling of a California fan palm, Washingtonia filifera. It looks silly all alone in the otherwise empty flat. Yet, even if no other seedlings germinate, the effort will have been worth this dinky palm seedling. California fan palm happens to be my favorite palm; but I would have been just as pleased with something that is not a favorite.
This little seedling is still too young to be pulled and canned. It will therefore wait and grow in the flat for now, and perhaps until autumn. I still hope that other seed will germinate during that time. Even if they do not, the empty flat will get set aside where it will continue to be irrigated as needed until late next spring. Viable but old seed may be unusually slow to germinate.
I can not help but wonder if some of the seed did not get enough chill after they were sown late in February. Maple, ash, elm, birch and arborvitae might require more of a chill through more of winter to be convinced that the warm weather afterward really is spring. I am not quite ready to give up on them yet.
There are still many more very old seed to sow this autumn. For most, I do not expect germination to be any better than it was for this previous batch.
Tomato, pepper and eggplant plants should be out in the garden by now. They typically get planted only a few weeks after the last threat of frost, so that they can start to disperse their roots early. Growth above ground accelerates as the weather gets warmer. Fruit develops and ripens through summer.
These three types of vegetable plants get planted as seedlings for two main reasons. First, when they go into the garden, seedlings are bigger and more established than seeds that need to take time to grow are. Secondly, the cost of the few plants needed for an average garden is not much more than the cost of seeds.
Now, zucchini, melon and summer squash can be done either way. Not many plants are needed, so the expense of seedlings is minimal. However, seedlings are a bit more fragile than those of tomato, pepper and eggplant. Seeds grow so efficiently that they get established almost as readily as seedlings do, so are just as practical.
Regardless of how they get planted, the weather has been so odd this year that there has been only minimal advantage to planting seedlings and sowing seed on time. Tomato, pepper and eggplant plants that were planted early may not be much more mature than what could be planted now. Harvest will be delayed either way.
Bean, cucumber and corn all grow best from seed. Seedlings take more time to recover from transplant than seed take to germinate and grow. Besides, so many plants of each type are needed that seedlings would be expensive. A single package of seed is cheap and goes a long way, so is probably sufficient for an average garden.
Corn is one of those vegetables that produces on a rather tight schedule. Seed that gets sown at any particular time matures at the same rate, so that all the fruit finishes at about the same time. This is why corn gets sown in phases. If timed properly, a subsequent phase begins to produce as the preceding phase gets depleted.
Winter squash, including pumpkin, are similar to summer squash, although they are more tolerant of unusually cool spring weather. They too can either get planted as seedlings or sown as seed. They take their time to produce fruit that ripens by autumn, so have more time to catch up.
This was not planned very well. Actually, it was not planned at all. While sorting through the seed for a vegetable garden, I found a can of seed for winter squash that was a few years old. They might be close to five years old. I really do not remember. I did not expect them to be viable, but did not want to discard them without at least trying to test them for viability.
Rather than just put them in damp rag for a few days, I plugged a few seed into a spider plant on a windowsill, and forgot about them. I really did not expect to see them again. When the first one emerged, I though it was a weed, so plucked it out. When I realized what it was, and that it came out intact, I felt badly for it, and like the original seed, could not discard it.
I do not remember why, but at the time, I did not want to go out to can it in a real pot. Nor did I want to plug it into the garden while I was still getting other seed situated. I therefore planted into an empty eggshell from those drying for coffee. I scraped a bit of medium from a potted bromeliad. It was happy on the windowsill for maybe a few weeks.
The other seed germinated too, but were more carefully removed and plugged into the garden. Since the seed was still viable, I sowed more around the junipers outside. Somehow, in the process, I neglected to put the little seedling in the eggshell out into the garden with them. It has not been happy in here, so has not grown much at all.
Now that the winter squash are already growing well outside, and the summer squash are already producing, this unfortunate seedling still needs to go out to join them.
If I were to grow seedlings inside again, I would do so in some of the cell packs that we recycle from work. They are more efficient, less wobbly, and they do not look so ridiculous.
Many of us who are still sowing spring seed know the doubt. Seed for warm season vegetables and bedding plants is presently scarce. Consequently, we doubt that all the varieties that we want are still available. Many unusual varieties that we purchase by mail order or online are sold out. Some more popular and reliably obtainable varieties in supermarket seed racks are going fast too.
Home gardening is very suddenly more popular than it had been for a very long time. Those who can not work at their respective professions have much more time to work in their gardens. Many want to grow a bit more produce at home, in order to shop amongst others in supermarkets less frequently. Many who have never enjoyed gardening before are now taking a serious interest in it.
This adds a few more complications to planning the garden. Choices really are limited. Some of us must be satisfied with what we get. Instead of trying new and unusual varieties, we might need to try old and common varieties. It might be a new and unusual experience, and an interesting way to learn why they have been so popular for so long. This applies to young plants as well as seed.
Although more varieties are available online and by mail order, it is now more important to purchase them early. Delivery is not as prompt as it was prior to this increase in popularity of gardening. Seed providers are overwhelmed by the demand. Since it is already late in the season, it is probably too late to order seed that start in spring. It is not too early to start procuring seed for autumn.
It is also a good time to share surplus with friends and neighbors who may be experiencing the same scarcity of seed and seedlings. Although it is too late to wait for delayed delivery of seed that gets sown in spring, it is not too late to sow some types if they are already available. If left outside to avoid personal interaction with recipients, seed might need protection from rodents and birds.
Anyone who is experienced with gardening knows that it involves challenges. This is certainly a new one.
Apologies for the delay of posting something for noon as I typically do.
These are just two pictures of two species that were not interesting enough for my Six on Saturday post this morning. Now that it is past one as I write this, it will be scheduled to post at two, hence Two at Two.
Most of what we propagate or recycle here has some potential to be used in the landscapes. Sometimes, we salvage something just because it it too appealing to waste, even if there is no plan for what will be done with it later. For example, we now have five nicely canned but otherwise useless Norway maples, just because they needed to be removed from a landscape.
I canned the four specimens of unidentified Rhus in the picture above because I thought I knew what they are, and that I wanted to plant them somewhere. Now that I realize that I have no idea what they are, and that the one thing I know about them is that they are invasive, I really do not know what to do with them. For now, they will stay canned right here where they are.
The buckeye in the picture below were grown just because the huge seed were too compelling to discard. Although I know what species they are, I also know that they are not very popular. Actually, because they defoliate and seem to be dead through summer, they are rather unpopular. They will likely just get planted in a bare spot on the bank of Zayante Creek right outside.
That is part of the problem of enjoying our work a bit too much. We take horticulture a bit too seriously, and feel compelled to find homes for all the unwanted flora that we can salvage.
31,800 years or so ago, busy arctic squirrels of northeastern Siberia stored more campion seed than they could consume. Of a store of more than 600,000 such seed, which were found deep below permafrost, three immature seed contained viable embryos. These three embryos were extracted and grown into plants that bloomed and produced new seed as they would have 31,800 years ago.
A 2,000 year old date palm seed, which was found in the palace of Herod the Great on Masada in Israel, is the oldest known intact and mature seed to germinate. It was approximately 29,800 years younger than the miraculously viable embryos of the Siberian squirrel stashed campion seed, but is ridiculously older than the oldest of the old seed in my partly neglected collection. There is hope.
Some of the seed that I saved is not dated because, at the time, I figured that they would be sown during the following season. A few of those that are dated are embarrassingly from five years ago. I know that canna seed lasts much longer than that. So do seed of some of the most aggressively invasive exotic species, such as broom and Acacia dealbata. Vegetable seed are not so fortunate.
However, I cannot discard them without giving them a chance. If they do not germinate on schedule, replacements will be sown immediately.
The two cans of seed to the left in the picture above are for two unknown varieties of pumpkin, and might have been three years old last autumn. Butternut squash seed to the upper middle is about the same age. Hyacinth bean seed to the lower middle is perhaps a year older. Blue dawn flower seed to the upper right is at least five year old. Parsley seed to the lower right was packed for 2015.
This is worse than the various seed that I happen to collect at work. It is worse than the seed of various species that I brought back from Oklahoma. These are seed that I purchased online and then misplaced . . . for a few years . . . or actually several years. Some were already old at the time, so are about a decade old now. There are leftovers from seed that were sown in 2010.
There was not much expense involved. Back then, they were even less expensive than they would be now. Those that I got a significant volume of were purchased mainly because they were so inexpensive. I figured I could find homes for the surplus that grew from them later. Most of the seed were purchased from eBay. Some were randomly collected for free from my job sites.
With few exceptions, these seed are not remarkably rare. Some are common within the regions from which they were obtained. Some are in small batches of only a few, while there are more than a hundred or a few hundred of others. There are seed for several palms, many yuccas, all but one of the North American firs, and all of the North American spruces. Not all are pictured.
Neither the expense nor the scarcity of these misplaced seed is a problem. What bothers me is that after so much effort to acquire them, and after so many others put the effort into sending them to me, and after the parent plants put their effort into producing all these seed, they were wasted. As I mentioned about the palm seed yesterday, few are likely viable after a decade.
Nonetheless, all will be sown. Even if none germinate, it will be more tolerable than discarding them without trying.