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.
Herbaceous Perennials are not demanding plants, but trimming them after flowering finishes in late autumn/early winter helps improve their appearance and flowering. However, some stems can be left over winter to provide homes & food for wildlife, & then trimmed back in spring.
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.