Tuesday, February 26, 2013

OH performs seed surgery

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I started the day saying, I think I'll scarify those seeds. Shouldn't take long (common intro to foreshadowing). From top left: Prunus sinensis, Canna indica edulis, Smyrnium olusatrum, Hibiscus palustris, Tinantia erecta and Callirhoe involcrata. P.S. I'd wager that remembering how to spell botanical latin is better than cross words for the old noggin.

Most of the seeds grown in the average salad garden* grow without much coaxing, so much so that gardeners are often perplexed when seeds show low or erratic germination. Others make you work a bit harder to see the fruits of your labor.

Some have hard seed coats that must be broken down essentially by weathering whether that be from freeze-thaw, soil organisms or more. To speed up the process, you can carefully scarify.

Here is a selection of pre-conditioning I did on seeds today.

Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum may not be hardy here but that rarely stops me from trying especially if I am sent some seed. Heck, optimism is the gardener's middle name, right? It had the simplest instructions: rub off black husk:

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Alexanders emitted an lovely aromatic odour while being pre-conditioned for germination.

Next came various 'mallows' including roselle, Hibiscus sabdarilla, and Rose Mallow, Hibiscus palustris. I'll complain about poppy mallow in a moment. They were nipped them with nail clippers.

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Another blogger that I came across calls these love bites. I can't find her/his blog now but when I do, I'll ref. See the instrument in the background?

Widow's tears, Tinantia erecta, were a bit harder to hold so I tried scratching them on an emery board. We'll see if that does the trick. 

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Me thinks these knobbly seeds were insufficiently scratched and should just be wintersown. We'll see.

Prunus sinensis came with instructions to crack the seed coat with a vice. Done:

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Done after crushing the first two in pliers, then flinging one down the stairs as I headed for the garage and another somewhere on the garage floor as it was poorly placed in the vice. Finally I got success.

Then I had to pop off the outer seed coat from Callihroe involcrata. This picture does not really give you a sense of how small and hard those *&^* were. I was supposed to follow this up by scarify the itty bitty inner coat which indeed was very hard. I tried with itty bitty nail clippers then had to go and do something else. I do have a life beyond nicking seeds you know.

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There must be a simpler way. So far, my luck with poppy mallow has been to lose most of them to slugs or earwigs once I finally did get them germinated...

Some of them now sit in pots or baggies to await the hard won germination. Others are imbibing water on my window sill.

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Drink seeds drink.

I"ll report back on the results. 

P.S. Hardy species seeds could just be sown in a propagation bed to allow for nature to do the work for you however long that takes. I suggest labels. 

* Salad gardens are those that mostly contain tomatoes, cucumbers and greens for use during the growing season. They are among the most beloved of back (and front) yard growers. Most of the common annual veg will readily spring to life though some herbs may require a bit more attention. The most common issue with veg starting is that they are sown at the right soil temperatures, at the right time (similar yes), in a bed that is kept moist until establishment and with the hope that seed/ling predators say away. 

Some other methods of scarification Apparently you can freeze then drop in boiling water. Yikes. Perhaps this should be called seed torture techniques. 

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