A Gardener’s Diary

The largest seed most of us has to handle in Guyana is the coconut. No shrinking violet this seed. As hard as old boots and the perfect answer for any gardener who is basically bone idle. It falls off its tree, and germinates where it falls. No special seed compost required. No need to worry about shade or watering. All you have to do is to raise your glass to it occasionally!

John Warrington
John Warrington

The orchid, petunia and busy lizzie seeds are at the other end of the scale. When you buy a packet of seed nowadays there is generally another packet inside. The outer packet is usually brightly coloured and designed to attract the eye. It also has growing information and the price.

The packet inside is hermetically sealed to keep the seed fresh until it is opened. This is particularly important in Guyana. Larger seed like peas and beans and those of similar size have the ability to survive much better and are not sealed hermetically.

Nowadays there are hundreds of brands of compost for raising seeds on the market and choice is quite difficult. Seeds like busy lizzie (Impatiens) germinate poorly in seed compost which has a high nutrient value, and petunia seed really needs a high nutrient level once they have germinated, so you generally have to take pot luck. However, more and more peat free  composts are good enough to give good germination for a very wide range of seeds. But composts are only the half of it. Sowing technique counts for a great deal as well. Most gardeners have to be very careful when sowing seed. The slightest breeze, shaking hand, sudden cough or sneeze can blow petunia seed clean away. In my experience the first thing to do is to make the surface of the pot/box a lighter colour so that seeds show up as they are sown. I always give the surface a light dusting of chalk or finely ground brick dust. All seeds will show up on these surfaces as they are sown. Some of us open the packet and gently tap it until the seed starts to fall onto the compost. Others empty all the seed onto a piece of white paper and fold it so that seed has a tiny channel to move along as the paper is tapped.

Whatever method is used the seed has to be allowed to fall gently and evenly as it is moved over the surface of the container, but even so, most of us get it wrong occasionally.

Having sown your seed it has to be watered. The only safe way to do this is to place the container in water so that it can be taken up by the compost. This is especially important with fine seeds as watering with a can may result in seed being washed away completely or washed to the side of the pot/box. Larger seed such as lettuce and tomato can be sown easily by most of us.

Germination: Fine seeds present you with a different problem once they start germinating. Whilst most ‘ordinary’ seeds are handled (pricked out) as soon as the first leaves are large enough to pick up, seedlings from fine seeds germinate less quickly, and remain smaller for longer. They are normally ‘patched’ out in small clumps of several dozen to give them the chance to grow without so much competition, using the tip of a knife, and placed in a small depression made by the reverse end of a pencil.

Eventually they all grow up and behave normally. Until next time take it easy and may your God go with you.