Although it has been a milder winter in south west Scotland, the thought of spring still brings the feeling of spring cleaning, sowing seeds and thinking of the warmer days you hope will be ahead.
I started cold sowing for the first time this year, not being certain of how things would turn out. My own thoughts are, plants do perfectly well for themselves, they already have a fairly efficient reproductive system – man did not invent it. This may be bad news for those who think they have. If a plant grows, produces flowers followed by seeds, there usually is a way in nature for those seeds to germinate.
The astounding sequoias in Yosemite National Park depend on fire to crack open their seeds. Naturally occurring forest fires did that, but humans intervened and tried to stop the fires and they have only just realised how much they were interfering with nature. Now to make amends, they deliberately start controlled fires to bring back the natural growth sequence of the sequoias. Australian mistletoe depends on birds for removal of the seed from the parent plant and it’s dispersal. All around, nature is doing it’s bit for the environment, whilst we humans think we are wonderful if we throw a packet of purchased seed on the ground and suddenly think we are gardeners.
We can still help nature out, as long as we realise nature is it’s own boss (and to some extent, ours). Nature is our mentor, we can collect seeds ourselves and replant them, and there is more satisfaction growing plants from home harvested seeds. Most of the seed companies I use encourage you to collect your own seed but not all of them do. Some plants have their own enzymes naturally inhibiting germination until conditions are favourable. If you know or feel commercial seeds bought have some sort of germination inhibitor, you can soak the seeds for a few hours to remove it and you may be able to collect seeds from it as normal when the time comes. The other problem is hybrid species. Not content with nature’s choice, man interferes once again to produce a plant which could be a million miles away from the original – the Frankenstein of horticulture!
I’ve been using water bottles, milk bottles and some plastic containers to sow seed in. Although a bit early for some of the seed, putting them in their own sheltered environment outside would be a big help for space saving in the greenhouse. Already the tomato seeds in the windowsill propagator have germinated and on checking the outside containers, I was pleased to see good germination in some of the bottles already.
More of the world has opened up to us with plants and produce bred to grow in our own area’s climate. Sweet potatoes are something difficult to grow in our colder northern hemisphere, but one company in the north east of Scotland has found varieties which they can grow in a polytunnel. My attempts in a covered container last year didn’t quite reach the mark but I was delighted at getting results at all. Unfortunately I don’t have the space and I was really surprised mine survived to the stage they did. You will never know what you can do, unless you try.
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