One of my favourite horticultural tasks during the winter months is sowing seeds giving a helping hand in bringing new plants into life!
Seeds come packaged by nature with their own food supply in the form of endosperm so the first thing to remember is that the compost mix needs to be low nutrient. A good universal seed germinating mix could consist of 50 % coir & 50% perlite or vermiculite to maintain an open structure & to increase water holding capacity in the compost. You could also add in some composted bark for extra structure.
The task – to extract seeds from their protective capsules so that they can be stored in a fridge slowing down their respiration rate & thus prolong viability for sowing in the New Year. The experience of doing this simple task required mindful patience that revealed a profoundly remarkable sense of how sophisticated seeds truly are. Seemingly specks of dust are cosmic ‘micro chips’ ‘powerhouses’ of growth technology encased in sophisticated capsules that man can only try to imitate.
Reminding me of William Shakespeare’s quote –
In Nature’s infinite book of secrecy, a little I can read.
Lycopodiaceae spores on a leaf from the Club Moss family.
For the past few weeks my daily walk to the sea has involved witnessing an alarming cry from this herd of cows.
On closer inspection I recognised that all the cows were females & separated from their sons.
The sons having been contained in the green roofed hanger down the road & are equally vocal. I have no qualifications on animal psychology but nevertheless, my intuition has been telling me that both are protesting at the injustice of this painful separation.
To humans the sons are commodified as ‘bullocks’ ready for the slaughter-house.
And then there is Game shooting, which has become increasingly popular in recent decades. There is an exclusive hunting lodge immediately neighbouring Logan Botanic Garden & groups of rich shooters from all over the world have been steadily flowing up here since October to shoot pheasant, partridge, geese & duck. The cottage I live in directly overlooks fields where there is currently shooting going on – its right on my door step! All the animals shot have been brought in, mainly from France & are reared for this season of shooting till February. How does this nurture sustainable biodiversity?
I find ‘Idyllic’ rural country life in the UK is often punctured with episodes of this kind.
As far as the eye can see there is nothing but deforested grass fields with continued grazing, keeping the land devoid of trees.
But this was not always the case. For about 7000 years, following the end of the last Ice Age, nearly the whole of Britain was covered with forest mostly consisting of broad-leaved trees such as oak & elm. Then, about 5,000 years ago, Neolithic tribes in Britain began to clear the forests using flint axes. Later the Celts arrived with their more advanced farming techniques. They began to create fields for crops & meadows for cattle. Much of our remaining forest disappeared during the 16th & 17th centuries to provide timber for boats & charcoal for the iron industry. During this century, even more of our woodlands have been cleared. Very few to today’s scattered woodlands date back to prehistoric times, except remnants of the ancient Caledonian pine forests of Scotland, made up mainly of coniferous Scots Pine.
And deforestation continues on a global scale. So much rich abundant ecologically sound forested land is destroyed & designated to rear cattle despite damning reports from the UN stating how rearing cattle produces more greenhouses gases than driving a car!
With affluence comes increased consumption of meat & dairy – but the earth simply cannot sustain it.
I am inviting us all to consider our consumption & perhaps to limit it, modify it, simplify choices that are respectful of all sentient life & their dignity.
It never ceases to amaze me just how smart plants truly are. I marvel at their complexity, their feats of engineering & effortless artistry. Much can be learnt from these noble ancient lifeforms. The above, seemingly simple seed holds such complexity & potentiality for life is staggering.
I find this one of the most satisfying horticultural tasks & a great way to increase plant stock.
Step 1. Select the right type of plant for semi-ripe cuttings.Its pleasantly surprising just how many plants can be propagated at this time of year by selecting semi-ripe cuttings. Healthy, vigorous side shoots without flowering buds from this years growth are best. The same method applies whether its a half hardy perennial (e.g. argyranthemum, osteospermum, pelargonium or fuchsia) or semi-tender or root hardy shrubs.
Step 2. Heel cuttings where the cutting is pulled away with a piece of stem from the stock plant have the added advantage of giving the cutting a kick start to root faster.
Step 3. The cuttings are vulnerable so need to be kept moist in a bag & put into growing media as soon as possible! Using a sharp clean cuttings knife, make clean cuts clearing away any foliage approx 2cm from the rooting tip this will help prevent the cutting from rotting.
Step 4. Dip the prepared cuttings into rooting hormone to further prevent the cuttings from rotting.
Step 5. Mark out a row in your growing media. Here at Logan Botanic Garden a peat & perlite growing media mix is used for all cuttings in a heated bench to 21 centigrade in a glasshouse. With a pencil thickness dibber mark out holes along your row & gently place a cutting into each hole & firm in as you go along to ensure the cutting is upright.
Step 6. Label, date & water cuttings. Then cover the entire heated bench with a plastic sheet to increase the right growing conditions of hot,humid & wet.
Step 7. Check every other day for four weeks watering as required, removing any debris, diseased or damaged cuttings as you go along.