Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seed-raising fun

I had a very pleasant childhood flashback this morning. Just a little one. I was patiently and carefully pulling out overcrowded coleus seedlings and suddenly I felt about ten years old again. It was that strong sense of playing quietly and contentedly on my own that I suddenly remembered so clearly. Way back then there was nothing I liked better than getting absorbed in some little project on my own. Part science, part play. And that's how it felt this morning.

I can't help but look upon raising seeds as play. It's so much fun. Here's my little seedy headquarters. I have two of these mini greenhouses (and for Aussie readers they're as cheap as chips, too, just $8.49 at Bunnings). In this one I'm raising seeds of coleus and quinces. The other is tomato land. The little sliding vents in the top allow you to control the humidity levels.

Progress so far is excellent for both the coleus (on the left) and the quinces (right). I only found out recently that coleus seeds shouldn't be covered at all – they need sunlight to germinate, and germinate they have, in a bit over two weeks. The quinces are just a whim. I was in the supermarket a few weeks ago and bought a late-season quince just so I could extract the seed and have a go at propagating them. At this stage I'm still not sure if I'll go ahead and grow the best quince seedling on to become a potted fruit tree. I haven't researched that bit yet!

Within a few seconds of cutting open quinces the flesh starts to brown (in the kitchen, if preparing them for cooking, to stop them browning you usually rub them with lemon juice or toss them into 'acidulated water' – ie, water mixed with lemon juice). As I just wanted the seeds, that didn't matter. As the seeds were biggish, I planted them about half an inch deep in seed-raising mix.

The delight in seeing seeds sprout never fades. Just like eating ice-cream on a hot day, it's always the same simple thrill of pleasure. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you quince seedlings, 17 days after planting.

Coleus seeds are very fine and so overcrowding is pretty well unavoidable. Having learned to simply scatter the seeds over the soil surface and water in, the germination rate has been great, and is faster that the three weeks mentioned on the seed packet. As the seeds were crowded in so closely, and are still quite tiny, I used tweezers to gently remove the weaker ones to give the stronger ones room to grow. It was while I was doing this that I had my little childhood flashback.

I'll probably do a second thinning of the coleus seedlings in another fortnight, as they get bigger and somewhat more crowded together again. I'm hoping to hold off on a final thinning until I get some idea of each plant's foliage colour, as I'd love to have as rich a variety of colours as possible, which is the great thing about coleus.

This is what I mean about coleus's foliage colour variety. This is the spot I call 'Coleus Corner', in a photo taken last summer. It's in almost full shade and the coleus has put on such a good show from about January through to April in the past few years. Unfortunately, this spot is taken now, by our new clivias, but I have several other shady spots where a clump of coleus will be allowed to do their fabulously colourful thing for a few summer months.

As mentioned earlier, my other mini greenhouse has tomato seeds on the go, although I have managed to squeeze in a tray of lettuce seeds as well, and out in the garden I just sowed another couple of tubs of purple sweet alyssum seeds. While I do often buy seedlings from nurseries to get a quick head-start with growing various vegies and flowers, nothing comes near the pleasure of raising plants from seeds. It's the complete gardening fun package!


prue said...

That seed raising mini greenhouse looks awesome, and might just be the cure for my seedlings which get infested with fungus gnats so quickly. If they are covered then there is less chance of that! I agree, germinating is all about fun and play. I still get excited each time a new seed germinates.

patientgardener said...

I adore growing things from seed - I find the whole process very theraputic and having read your post I am really relate to that feeling of playing quietly. Enjoy your seedlings

Lanie said...

Thanks for the seed raising blog. I think that I will sow more seed and thin with tweezers. I am using a large plastic crate with peat pots at the moment - I'll take a few pics and post them. I am quite fond of it as I got it from a neighbour's council cleanup pile.