Seed sowing seems a simple operation, yet there are some gardeners who quite regularly obtain good results from, and others who almost as frequently fail.
The difference is due to lack of understanding, and sometimes to lack of care.
Seed sowing is Nature’s method of obtaining new, healthy plants, and also of obtaining new varieties. The natural ways ofare extremely varied and interesting. Some seeds are dispersed by the wind, some are dispersed by birds or other animals and a large number are dispersed by the simple method of being dropped or thrown on to the near the parent plant.
In any case the natural time for seed sowing is usually immediately the seed is ripe, and the gardener finds in practice that this method is very satisfactory. That is to say, if new seeds can be obtained just after the season of flowering and sown at once, practically one hundred per cent, of the seeds will germinate and make new plants.
In some cases, however, it is not convenient to sow the seed immediately it has ripened. Even in nature, certain seeds will he dormant during the winter months and only waken to new life during the spring.
The gardener uses seeds of plants which are not hardy enough to stand in the open garden all winter in this country. To sow seeds of this type in late autumn would often be fatal. The chief seed-sowing time of the gardener’s year is therefore the spring.
Why Good Seed is Costly
The novice in gardening sometimes looks at the forming seed pods on his garden flowers, and noticing how prolific Nature is, he begins to inquire why seeds of certain flowers and vegetables are so costly in the shops.
The reasons are many. In the first place the seed which the gardener receives in seed packets is harvested, properly ripened, cleaned and packeted, and this involves a certain amount of labour, apart from distribution costs. But these costs are relatively small compared with the amount of work put into the production of seed of good quality.
Every seed is a new life, a new individual that re-inherits a combination of the characteristics of two parents, thus each seedling may differ from the plants of any preceding generation. If seed is gathered from an ordinary garden where several varieties of flowers are grown the probability is that the two parents, whose characteristics are being passed on into the next generation, are different in colour or form.
The offspring, or new seeds, may in such cases, be like one or other of the parents, or partly like each, or they may show the characteristics of grandparents, or of generations even further back.
This means that seeds gathered from the ordinary garden probably vary considerably in form and colour. Seed which is obtained from horticultural seedsmen is protected as far as possible from varieties caused by cross-fertilization. Seed of single variety is grown in each seed bed, and “rogues,” that is, plants which differ from the type, are regularly taken out before they seed. In this way seed is produced which comes practically true to type in every case.
In addition to this care about the variety of the strain, there is an enormous amount of work put in by special raisers on the development of new forms in flowers. New varieties, the seed of which is scarce in commerce, are naturally more costly than older varieties, the seed of which can be obtained freely from a number of sources.
It is this work which is paid for in the expensive seed packets, and the money paid is well invested.
It takes the amateur gardener as much time and trouble to raise a packet of cheap seeds of inferior quality, as it does to raise plants of good quality from the best seed. It occupies just as much garden space, and the results are in no way comparable.
The importance of obtaining the best quality seed cannot therefore be over-rated.