New for 2013, is the expanded seed area …an area of 80 feet of A.E McKenzie, Bow Seed and Thompson and Morgan seed products.
McKenzie seeds are Canada’s premier supplier of packaged seeds and have been serving Canadian gardeners since 1896. In the rows of seeds you will find organic, Heirloom, Heritage, Herb Collections, Asian vegetables, Gusto Italia, Heritage bulk packs, seed tape, wild flowers, ornamental grasses, perennials, annuals and many assorted fruit and vegetables. There are also McFayden Select and McKenzie Collections.
Bow Seed, also a Canadian company, provides proven hardy seeds to northern climates, jumbo packs as well as international flower and vegetable seeds. Bow Seed has taken a stand for the Safe Seed Pledge (non GMO).
Thompson and Morgan (T&M) carry a large assortment of sprouting seeds, sprouters, microgreens and micro green growing kits, container gardening, jumbo packs, organics, herbs, assorted flowers, fruits and vegetables. T&M seeds have also taken the Safe Seed Pledge (non GMO).
Information found on a seed packet
The seed packet contains all the necessary information for you to choose the best plant for the purpose and space.
The front of the package always provides the name of the plant and depending on the seed company will give additional information such as speciality characteristics (perennial, annual, climbing vine, height, growth habit, sun exposure and/ or days to maturity).
The back of the seed packet gives approximate days to germination, spread, bloom period, when to sow, spacing, days to maturity, planting depth and/or light requirements for germination. There is usually a description of the plant and also any cultural requirements that would benefit the germination and growth. Sometimes, as in edibles there is a mention of the nutritional value once consumed.
Definitions of terms often used when describing plants
- Heirloom: a pre WW11 open pollinated cultivar that has been handed down through the generations, they are easy to grow, retain the same characteristics from one generation to the next, are of high quality, usually have more flavour and are not hybrids.
- Heritage: an heirloom variety that has cultural or ethnic importance.
- Hybrid: a cross between two unique parents of different species, genera, hybrid or varieties for a desired trait. The seed collected will either be sterile or resemble one of the parents.
- Annual: true annual plants complete their lifecycle, from seed to flower to death, in one season.
- Biannual: plants that complete their lifecycle, from seed to flower to death, in two seasons.
- Perennial: an herbaceous plant that lives for more than two years.
- Days to Maturity: an estimate of time from when the plant is transplanted outdoors to harvest.
- Determinate: are usually more compact, do not need pruning and the fruit ripen around the same time then usually die.
- Indeterminate: vining, require support and fruit over the progression of the season.
- Stratification: often native seeds to cold climates require pre-chilling in order to break dormancy. This can be accomplished by artificial means in a refrigerator (not freezer) or outdoors in the fall.
- Scarification: some seeds need to have their impermeable seed coat altered physically by drilling, scratching, softening or breaking. This will allow the seed to imbibe moisture improving germination.
- Pricked out and growing on: separating the strongest seedlings when they have their true leaves into their own individual pot. Handle the seedlings by their leaves not their stems which may become injured and do not damage the roots, it is very delicate business.
- Hardening off: the gradual plant acclimatization to a harsher environment must be done to lessen the shock and reduce stress to a plant prior to its transfer to that location.
Things to consider prior to sowing
In order to have a positive experience growing plants from seeds you must be able to provide the necessities of life.
There are 5 things that seeds need in order to achieve germination and growth:
- Growing medium: a soil-less mix that contains sphagnum moss, vermiculite and perlite is recommended. Do not use a mineral soil (garden soil) as this is usually too heavy and may contain pests or diseases. The growing medium supplies support to the subsequent roots of the plant.
- Correct Temperature: consistent warmth benefits germinating of seeds. This can be accomplished by utilizing a propagation mat under seeding trays. Temperatures required may vary.
- Moisture: an important requirement of seed germination is moisture. Always keep the growing media moist not wet. Using a fine mist sprayer when watering, not a watering can, allows control over the moisture levels, using a dome or plastic wrap will increase humidity and keep the moisture rather than evaporating. Allow the water to sit a day to allow chlorine to dissipate and the water to become room temperature.
- Light Requirements: most seeds do not require light to germinate. There are some seeds that do geminate better with exposure to light such as petunias and snapdragons. These are usually pressed into the growing media only, not covered.
- Nutrition or fertilizer is not necessary during the germinating stage as the seed coat supplies enough energy for the embryo. Once the germinated seed has true leaves then a weak fertilizer solution can be applied and a routine maintained for the growth phase of the plant.
Growing your own seeds rather than purchasing them as plants does have its benefits. One benefit (besides a significant decrease in cost), is that you are able to grow plants that are not always available in the colour, variety or growth habit that you are seeking. In this way you can put together your ideal container, indoor or outdoor landscape or garden.
Prior to sowing seeds, it is very important to always use reputable seeds, and pay attention to sanitation for soil and also trays or containers. Good cultural practices lessen the frustration and disappointment of a failed crop due to disease or pests.
Common mistakes that cause disappointment
- Starting seeds too soon too early in the season.
- Planting too many seeds, you do not have to plant every single seed from the seed packet; seeds can be stored in a cool, dry and dark location.
- Not enough light: even a south facing window does not provide sufficient light to grow seedlings successfully. Purchase a grow light and a timer as they require 12-16 hours of good light per day. Place the light just above the seedlings.
- Watering too much or too little: use a fine mist once the seeds are sown. Once the roots have developed, water from the bottom. Use a self- watering tray, check your seeds periodically throughout the day, use a dome to reduce the chances of drying out but at the same time too much humidity or moisture can cause other issues such as root rot, grey mold, or mildew.
- Planting too deep: always err on the shallow side if you are not sure how deep to plant the seeds.
- Too cool of a location while germinating. After the seeds have sprouted, most seedlings can handle some fluctuation in temperature.
- Poor record keeping and labeling.
Growing successfully from seed takes patience and experience; learn from your mistakes and keep on growing.