here to download a PDF of the contents of this page.
Bedding Plant Calendar (click on above right) consists of dates
and common variety plants grown in our area, and has been the
successful basis for the commercial crops of annuals and perennials
distributed for spring bedding transplants.
This calendar does not include the culture
for vegetative cuttings of geraniums, fuchsia, or other popular
By following this seeding plan, you will
quickly develop your own custom reference of seeding dates, particular
to the conditions and projected crop fruition.
As with any endeavor you want to succeed,
a certain commitment of involvement should not be ignored. Because
we are working with dormant seeds that have to be artificially
'awakened', then knowing what to do with them once they become
part of the family, requires simple but important factors that
must be considered before we take on the odious task of early
We have the desire, but we also need a
work area in which to prepare seeding mix, transplant mix and
storage for immediate work related tools and supplies. A room
one third the size of the total area needed to grow your crops,
until bedded outdoors, is an optimum formula for success.
Unlike the writing of a document or the
painting of a wall, in most cases, we can't re-do the procedure
of seeding and conditioning the seedlings until we get it right.
"There are no secrets in this business,
only the belligerence of individuals to recognize a problem,
then learn, and adapt".
To truly appreciate the wonder (and consternation)
of germination, we should know the properties and potential of
In botanic terms: a seed is the ripened
ovule of a flower that is covered by a husk, and contains food
that sustains a miniature dormant plant. In 'real world' terms:
a seed becomes a silent and demanding obsession that begins in
January and tests our resolve until May.
Successful germination of seeds require
the natural availability of light, temperature, moisture and
oxygen. It is the combination of these conditions that dictate
the success rate, and future, of these plants.
We should be aware that annual seeds and
perennial seeds are vastly different. Perennial seeds discussed
in this session will be of native species to Alberta.
To guarantee the future of plants and their
continued growth by seed, nature has provided varied and ingenious
methods of controlling rampant germination, thus ensuring the
Seed germination depends upon the environmental
conditions of temperature, light, humidity and gas. Contrary
to some opinion, the smaller the seed, the longer it will survive
in a dormant condition. Because of the compactness and hard seed
coating, there is less chance of moisture or air invading the
embryo to cause germination, rot, pest contact or desiccation.
There are the seeds of corn and legumes found in the ancient
pyramids that are still viable, but only because of their hermetic
condition of storage. It is unlikely these same conditions are
prevalent 'in the field'.
Hard seed coats of our perennials are one
of the best defenses against total germination, by : depriving
the seed of water, depriving the seed of gasses, and by mechanically
restricting the growth of the embryo.
Depriving the seed of water is a method
attributed to the legume family of plants. This is accomplished by having
a waxy coating upon the seed and is a first defense to the seed.
A back-up system is in place: if the wax is removed or beached,
and water or high humidity becomes a threat, small openings in
the seed husk are protected by 'valves' called Hilar fissures
that open and close, keeping the water out when wet, and opening
to expel humidity from the embryo when conditions are dry. Our
perennial lupine is endowed
with this ability.
Not quite as high tech as the Hilar system
of protection, is the thickness of the seed coat; or thickness'
of the seed coat. Seeds of one variety of plant may have various
layers of coats, so the conditions of germination may be optimal
for some seeds but not others. Our own canola seed, which is
a relation to the turnip and radish, has as protection against
total germination, a coating of oil of varied thickness' over
Depriving the seed of gasses sounds complicated
or impossible in the home, but is really quite common, and necessary.
Introducing oxygen to the seeding tray may make the difference
between acceptable results or not. Conversely, retarding the
oxygen supply from the seeding tray, will severely hamper the
germination rate of seed, such as salvia, nicotiana, coleus,
fuchsia and geraniums. Oxygen to the seed, erodes a natural inhibitor,
Mechanically restricting the growth of
the embryo by the plant, is probably the most difficult to overcome
for the home grower. Although water, oxygen and light may be
available to some perennial seeds, the seed coat is so strong
that the embryo cannot expand with enough effort to break apart
the coating. Time and natural scarification will eventually succeed
in grinding enough of the husk away to permit germination. The
gas plant (Dictamnus alba) is the common perennial that needs
mechanical scarification; either by organic solvents or by hand.
Other chemical scarificants are sulfuric acid for evergreen cones.
Acetone or alcohol may also be used on specified seeds.
Now that we know some of the facts of perennial
seeds, it opens the way to understanding at least some of the
reasons for problems and successes you may have endured while
'growing your own'.
In recent years, a dramatic increase of
home gardeners has had an impact upon the seed distributors,
but more importantly, the seed suppliers. To sell their product
of annual and perennial seeds, the suppliers have had to package
their seed with the same consideration as when packaged for the
commercial grower. This consideration involved a process of seed
husk cleaning, pelleted seed and de-fuzzing the seed. These terms
may not seem familiar, but mean most seed varieties have been
de-husked, scarified, coated with fertilizer, or the 'hairs'
taken off to ease seeding either by hand or by mechanical means.
Our annual seed varieties do well when
germinated under home conditions, and the procedure associated
with perennial seeds need not be as daunting as the seeding of
There are, however, constants that need
recognition and adherence when seeding annuals.
- A clean neat orderly room, supplied with
good light, both for growing and to work by. Water supplied by
tap or reservoir, and a dependable heat source, with back-up
necessary in case of power or gas failure.
- Work bench(s) of solid construction with
under storage room for the daily necessities.
- The use of a circulating fan to maintain
air quality suitable for you and your seedlings.
- If not a window in at least one wall for
natural light and fresh air, at least a vent pipe from the outside
that can be dampered for oxygen and air control.
- Heating source for germination can be
that of heat tape or pad, or even a heat lamp directed under
the 'flats' from below.
Don't forget your plan, your seeding
schedule, and your diary. It really is worth the time, trouble,
worry, expense and effort.