You may recall that I covered how to raise plants from seed in a previous blog post back in July. I wanted to share a few further thoughts on propagating plants from seed.
The most important consideration, especially at this time of the year, is whether this is the right time to sow the particular seed you want to grow. The next issue is how it should be sown. Some seeds should be sown direct to the ground and others in punnets outside for transplanting later. Some heat-loving plants need to be propagated on a heat pad indoors and raised in a greenhouse, for planting outdoors when it is warmer. Failure to sow seeds at the right time and in the right way may mean that they don’t germinate and/or grow.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes a long time for seeds to germinate, even if you are using a heat pad or your hotwater cupboard to incubate them. Temperatures are quite cool at this time of the year and we are trying to defy mother nature by propagating heat loving plants such as chillies, tomatoes and eggplants. I sowed my first lot of capsicums and chillies on the 3rd and 4th of August and some of them have only just started to germinate, others have not surfaced yet (and I don’t think they will at this stage). Naturally I feel disappointed by this, but there’s nothing that I can do about it. Take heart. As temperatures increase during spring, germination times will speed up, too.
Chillies, capsicums, tomatoes and eggplants need a longer growing period to develop, flower and produce fruit, so it’s a good idea to start these first. I personally prefer to start with capsicums and chillies, as I find these less sensitive to the cold, followed by tomatoes and then eggplants. Cucurbits such as zucchini, pumpkins and cucumbers are faster-growing so they can be started later in spring. They are also more sensitive to cooler temperatures than chillies, capsicums, tomatoes and even eggplants, which is another good reason to leave starting them until later in the season.
On the same token, don’t be upset if you find that seeds sown outdoors take a long time to germinate at this time of the year as well. I sowed some Parella Rossa lettuce seeds from Franchi in punnets filled with a little seed raising mix on 5th August and left them in the patio on our outdoor table. They have only just started to surface now.
It’s a good idea to keep a record of when you sow seeds so you know what you’ve sowed and can see how long they took to germinate. If it has been more than three weeks and there is no sign of the seeds surfacing, it might be a good idea to re-sow them. When the garden used to be smaller, I found that the NZ Gardener’s garden diary was adequate for recording all my sowings. However, as the garden grew in size, I found there wasn’t enough space to fit everything in. Nowadays, I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep a catalogue of all my seeds. I have columns for the name of the seeds, brand, number of packets I have and the expiry date. There are also two columns to record the dates that I sowed them. If I reach the end of a packet of seeds, I simply cross it out (rather than delete it) so I can still see what I sowed that year. I find this system works well as it combines my seed catalogue and sowing diary in one place.
You might also want to give some consideration as to how you store your seeds. This is important as it can affect their viability. I tend to keep seeds in their original foil and paper packets and use files that I purchased from Paper Plus. I have two for veggies and one for flowers. Each file has a number of dividers with different sections and I write the name of each type of plant at the top.
If you have been having trouble getting seeds to germinate, bear in mind that seeds lose their freshness once the packet is opened, even if they aren’t past their best before date. For this reason, I try to purchase fresh seeds every season. Some seeds will germinate just fine if past their best before date, like my Principe Borghese tomato seeds from Franchi, which expired in 2017 but have come up just fine on my heat pad. It’s a good thing, too, because they’re no longer part of the seed collection on Italian Seeds Pronto’s website, the New Zealand retailer for Franchi seeds. I’ll have to remember to save some seeds so they can remain part of Anita’s Garden.
Now is a good time to tidy up your seed collection. It breaks my heart to have to throw away packets that aren’t viable, but be realistic. If it didn’t germinate this year, it won’t germinate next year!
If all else fails and you’ve given up on sowing plants from seed, Awapuni is a great place to purchase plants from. They wrap bundles in newspaper and deliver direct to your door. Visit https://awapuni.co.nz/ to find out more and shop online.