Propagating from seeds (Sexual Propagation) has a number of advantages over buying plants from a garden centre or mail order company.
Firstly; it allows the gardener the opportunity to get the growing season off to an early start!
It is also accepted as being the least expensive method of raising large numbers of plants.
Plus there is a greater amount of varieties to choose from.
Prior to purchasing your seeds there are a number of things you should consider;
- Do you have the facilities to grow them?
- Do you have a suitable heat source?
For example; Hotbed, Propagator, Windowsill, Airing cupboard.
- Do you know the sowing dates?
Once you know this it is advisable to sort out your seed packets out in order of sowing, this is not essential, but it can help to ensure that you you do not miss a 'sowing date'
- Do you have somewhere to harden off your seedlings until planting out time?
For example; Cold frame, Cool greenhouse or Conservatory.
- How many plants of each variety will you require?
- Are they hardy, half hardy, biennial or perennial?
Initially these questions may seem somewhat inane, but in the fullness of time you will find that by following them you will often save yourself much heartache and disappointment.
The first four questions appertain to the welfare of the seedlings, and to ensure that they have the optimum conditions to develop in!
The remaining two questions basically point out that; there is no point in growing more plants than you need, for the simple reason;
'The more half hardy plants you sow, means the more heated and frost free space you will require until 'planting out time.'
When purchasing seeds buy the best quality seeds you can afford!
Joining a Gardening club or specialist society can often help to keep costs down.
Quite often these societies and clubs have negotiated substantial discounts with Seed Merchants, which they generally pass on to their members, thus allowing the members to purchase top quality seeds at a reduced cost.
A typical example is; F1 varieties which are often quite expensive, can work out at a similar price to standard varieties in a garden centre once the discount has been applied, meaning; the member gets better value for money
This does not mean you should buy only hybrid varieties, far from it, as many of the cheaper open pollinated varieties will still give you satisfactory results at less cost!
When purchasing seeds; it is advisable to only purchase sufficient seed for one year's use, as viability decreases with age.
What is a seed?
A seed consists of three primary components:
Cross section of a seed
The embryo plant, is produced from the fertilisation of the ovules within the ovary (female part of the flower) with pollen from the anthers. (the male part of the flower)on to the stigma.
This generally happens in one of two ways;
Cross section of a flower
Occurs when the pollen from the anther is transferred to the stigma on the same flower
This results in each of the seeds in the ovary having the same genetic makeup as the original parent plant (barring mutations)
This is when the pollen from one flower is transferred onto the stigma of another flower.
This results in the seeds in the ovary carrying a mixture of genes, with some originating from the egg parent plant that bore it, and others from the pollen parent plant that was the source of pollen.
Where cross pollination has taken place, you may find that the resulting plants differ greatly from their parents.
Plant breeders often take advantage of this occurrence to raise new varieties, by manually cross pollinating plants.
Having said that; it is not as simple as it may seem to produce a variety of plant that has attributes superior to the parent/s.
To achieve this might take numerous acts of cross pollination to produce the desired result.
Fortunately, most plants produce seeds from natural self-fertilisation, and develop into plants which more or less replicate the parent plant.
Such seed strains are said to be 'true to type'
F1 hybrid seeds; are the result of two pure bred strains that have been crossed to give plants with desirable genetic traits such as increased vigour and uniformity.
F1 is a first generation strain, and the seed produced from these are classified as second generation strain, or F2's
When an F1 parent plant produces seed, the genetic make up of this seed may not be the same as the original seed that produced the parent plant.
Meaning that the F2 strain may have lost some of the traits the parent plant had, and it is for this reason that saving seed from hybrid plants is not recommended!