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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for ' Seeds'

PAL Questions: 13 - Garden Tools: 4 - Recommended Websites: 1

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Keywords: Native plants--Washington, Seed companies and seed sources, Seeds

PAL Question:

Where can the public, not agencies, purchase seeds of Pacific Northwest plants? A Missouri school teacher would like to sprout them in her classroom.

View Answer:

Once the teacher has a list of plants she is seeking (a list which could be developed by looking at books on Pacific Northwest native plants, or by visiting some of the sites linked below), there are a number of ways of finding sources, shown below.

Washington Native Plant Society's list of plant and seed sources

More lists of plants:

Native Plant Resources for the Pacific Northwest

Native Plant List - Western Oregon and Western Washington

Pacific Northwest Native Wildlife Gardening

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - search by state, and select the box for 'seeds.'

Plant Information Online - search once you have specific plants in mind.

Businesses which specialize in native plants:

Native Plant Nurseries in Washington State

Nurseries - Washington

Season All Season
Date 2007-11-09
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Keywords: Vaccinium parvifolium, Vaccinium ovatum, Huckleberries, Seeds

PAL Question:

I live in the UK, and I have been given some of your Huckleberry seeds. Can you advise me on how to grow huckleberries from seed?

View Answer:

I am guessing that you mean that you have seed for one of the native Pacific Northwest huckleberries, such as the evergreen (Vaccinium ovatum), or red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium). It would be helpful to know which species you are hoping to grow from seed.

The website of Plants for a Future has propagation information for propagating Vaccinium species in general:

Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse in a lime-free potting mix and only just cover the seed. Stored seed might require a period of up to 3 months cold stratification. Another report says that it is best to sow the seed in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Once they are about 5cm tall, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Here are additional links to information:
Evergreen Huckleberry, or Vaccinium ovatum
Red Huckleberry, or Vaccinium parvifolium

Apparently, growing our native huckleberries from seed is challenging, as the information cited here, from a propagation course at the University of Washington, indicates: "Evergreen huckleberry can be propagated through hardwood cuttings or by seed, however seedling establishment is rare in most Western huckleberries."

The United States Department of Agriculture has this to say:

Seeds of most Vaccinium spp. are not dormant and require no pretreatment for germination. Seedlings first emerge in approximately 1 month and continue to emerge for long periods of time in the absence of cold stratification. However, seedlings of most western huckleberries are rarely observed in the field. Seeds of evergreen huckleberry usually exhibit fairly good germination under laboratory conditions, but early growth is generally very slow.

Season All Season
Date 2007-12-07
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Keywords: Frost, Seeds

PAL Question:

This year is my first in a house with a yard. I'm very excited to try my hand at growing some food this year. Many of my seed packets say to plant after the last frost or when the soil reaches certain temperatures. Having never planted anything at the beginning of a season before, I have no idea when any of these temperatures happen around here! Can someone give me some temperatures and approximate times when they are normally reached?

View Answer:

The last frost date in Seattle can be as early as March 22, but to be on the safe side, April 15-20 would be more definitive. This information can also be found on the web site of local gardening expert, Ed Hume. The web site also provides further details. Excerpt:
" The last frost date for an area is the last day in the spring that you could have a frost. The average last frost day is the date on which in half of the previous years the last frost had already occurred (so about half of the time it will not frost again and it will be safe to plant tender plants). Most planting directions are based on the average last frost date. The calendar based directions I give (Now it is time to... etc.) are usually based on an average last frost date of April 1st. An important thing to realize about last frost dates is that the actual date of the last frost is different every year. It can be much earlier than the average or much later. This is especially important for tender plants that can be killed by a frost. For hardier plants, the average last frost date is more an indicator of general growing conditions than a danger sign. "

The closer to the water the garden is, the milder the temperatures. The moderating effect of Puget Sound or Lake Washington, for instance, which results in milder winter temperatures, extends inland for some distance. If your garden is more than a mile or so from water, that moderating influence could vary. The last frost date for Vashon Island is April 5; for the Sea-Tac area, April 9. Again, add at least a week and check your own garden temperatures and patterns.

Season Spring
Date 2008-03-15
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Keywords: genetically modified seeds, Organic gardening, Seeds

PAL Question:

I read an article recently that said some of my favorite seed companies are now owned by Monsanto. I don't want to use genetically modified seeds in my home garden, so I'd like to know where I can find more information on the sources seed companies use for the seed I am buying.

View Answer:

You may be referring to the January 2009 issue of the PCC Newsletter regarding Monsanto purchasing many of your favorite garden and farm seed catalogs. Territorial Seeds, Johnny's Seeds, Park Seed, Burpee, Cook's Garden, Spring Hill Nurseries, Flower of the Month Club, and Audubon Workshop are not owned by Monsanto or Seminis. PCC has posted a retraction online.

The folks at Organic Seed Alliance are a great resource on this issue. Here is what they suggest:
"For gardeners interested in buying non-GMO seeds, the best bet is to purchase seeds from seed companies who sell only organic seeds and who have signed the Safe Seed Pledge. The Organic Seed Alliance maintains a list of companies who sell organic seed. It includes both companies that sell some organic seed (as well as conventional seed) and companies who sell only organic seed.

For further reading on the subject, see this February 2005 article by Matthew Dillon from the Rodale Institute on Monsanto's purchase of Seminis. Environmental News Network also has information about a September 2008 discussion forum with writer Michael Pollan and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant.

Season All Season
Date 2009-01-09
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Keywords: Ophiopogon planiscarpus 'Nigrescens', Vegetative propagation, Seeds

PAL Question:

Last year, I collected and propagated seed from my black mondo grass. I now have about a hundred healthy starts which are green in color, with leaves thicker than those of the parent black mondo plants. Is this just their immature color, or do they not come true from seed?

View Answer:

Most of the resources I consulted recommend propagating Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' by division of clumps in fall or late winter, but The Plantfinder's Guide to Ornamental Grasses by Roger Grounds (Timber Press, 1998) says the following:
"The flowers are mauve, but the berries are black, and if sown will produce about one-third black seedlings, the rest being green."

If all of your plants came up green, I would guess they will stay that color (in other words, they must have reverted to the species, Ophiopogon planiscapus, which has wider green leaves).

Season All Season
Date 2009-03-28
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Keywords: Yucca, Seeds

PAL Question:

I live in New Mexico, and I'd like to harvest Yucca seed to share with the local cactus and succulent society. Last time I tried, I didn't find any seeds at all. I want to go about this the right way--can you tell me what I should do?

View Answer:

In searching for an answer to your question about how and when to collect seed from Yuccas, I came across several articles on the interdependence of Yuccas and Yucca moths. Here is one example, from Emporia State University:
Excerpt:
"... the yucca plant and yucca moth are the textbook case of coevolution. First, the yucca plant has no ability to reproduce seeds without the moth. Yuccas can propagate small rosettes around the parent plant, but these vegetative sprouts are copies of the parent. Over decades, the plant cannot move but a few feet, and there is no possibility for genetic variation. Without the moth, the whole flowering effort (expensive to the plant in energy terms) is a total waste. The only pollinator of the plant is the yucca moth; bees are not attracted and neither wind nor bees can pick up the sticky pollen.
The yucca moth is likewise dependent upon the yucca plant. There are no alternate host plants known for the yucca moth; the yucca moth caterpillars must eat yucca seeds or starve. Without the plant, the moths die off in one generation. Without the moth, the plant cannot reproduce variation or disperse; given any major climate changes, it too will go extinct. The system is therefore tightly coevolved.[...] You can watch yucca moths pollinate flowers between dusk and midnight. The female gathers pollen from the flower anthers by using her specially adapted mouthparts, called palps. She forms the sticky pollen into a ball which she carries between her tentacles and her thorax (under her "chin" so to speak). The pollen ball is then "stuffed" or "combed" into the stigma of the various flowers she visits. The stigma is the receptive tip of the female pistil. Without this process, the yucca flower will not develop into the fruit or pod with seeds."

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum states that Yucca may not set seed every year:
"Biologists have only recently determined that almost every species of yucca has its own species of yucca moth; some yuccas have two moth species. Such a tight mutualism has risks for both partners. Emergence of adult moths must coincide with yucca flowering for the reproductive needs of both species to be met. However, the synchronization of moth emergence with flowering is frequently poor and seed set and moth reproduction in such years are low. Furthermore, yucca populations may flower sparsely or not at all in dry years. Yuccas don't have to set seed every year because they flower many times in their long lives."

Regarding seed collecting and preparation, a question similar to yours was answered by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:
"Gather capsules as they begin to dry but before they split. Allow to dry, then crush to remove seeds. Overwinter, keep seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator. For longer storage periods, keep in sealed, refrigerated containers.
At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we have collected and prepared yucca seeds for the Millennium Seed Bank. Crushing the pod to remove seeds is not as easy as it sounds. We found that pliers worked about as well as anything, but it was a struggle, either way. Inside the broken pod, you will find channels of seeds. They are flat, black wafers, very thin. As you pull out a stack of them, you may find a neat, round hole drilled up the center. This is the nursery for the larvae of the yucca moth, who have been munching on the seeds. However, the yucca moth is essential for the blooming of the plant."

Late summer to early fall (September/October) seems to be the time when some Yucca seeds ripen. Several places I looked suggested this is the case, including Plants for a Future database, which describes propagation for several species of Yucca.

Season All Season
Date 2010-07-01
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Keywords: Aquilegia formosa, Seeds

PAL Question:

When and how should I harvest Aquilegia formosa (columbine) seeds? My plant is long past bloom and the seed pods are drying out. Should I harvest the pods or seeds? Harvest them now or wait until they dry out?

View Answer:

According to the fabulous book Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants by Robin Rose (Oregon State University Press, 1998), Aquilegia formosa seeds can be harvested "from June to August [...] as soon as the seeds heads are dry and come off easily by hand. Gently crush the dried heads to release the remaining seed [...] Seeds can also be collected by cutting the fruiting stalk and placing in a bag before the follicles open. Dry the follicles in the bag for a few days and separate the seeds by shaking the bag."

Season All Season
Date 2010-07-28
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Keywords: Weeds, Seeds, Compost

PAL Question:

When is a seed a seed? My wife and I are in agreement on not putting weeds with set seeds in the compost (and the "Easy Compost" book says just that). However, we are less sure about weed flowers (probably OK), and what about seed cases that haven't formed seeds yet? I'm thinking in particular of foxgloves right now, as the flowers are coming to an end and leaving behind the undeveloped seed cases. I'm unsure whether to compost them or not. Just an aside: our compost pile doesn't get superheated.

View Answer:

That is a very good question. I found an article in Fine Gardening magazine which discusses harvesting wildflower seeds. It is relevant because it suggests that some unripe seeds may continue to ripen even after being harvested from the plant before maturity. Whether unripe seed will eventually germinate may have to do with the permeability of the seed coat: the more permeable, the more likely the chance it will germinate.

The book Seeds by Peter Loewer (Macmillan, 1995) says that plants with tough seed coats (like legumes and morning glories) "are virtually impermeable to water and must be nicked by the gardener or soaked in warm water for twenty-four hours before they germinate. If these jackets are not broken, scratched, or eroded, water never enters and germination never begins."

I have found several references to the immature seeds of invasive plants (Ailanthus, teasel, yellow flag iris, to name a few) being capable of germination. The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin (Storey, 2008) "weeds that show up in your garden are fair game for compost, even if they are holding seeds. [...] Weeds that have not yet begun to bloom and lack viable root buds that help them grow into new weeds can be added to any compost project, but it is important to keep weed seeds to a minimum every chance you get. [...] In every climate there are plant criminals known as noxious weeds [...] Unless you are confident and committed to processing the compost made from noxious weeds with a high-heat procedure, collect them in a black plastic garbage bag and subject them to various forms of torture before dumping them in an inhospitable place. Cook bags of them in the sun, add water and let them soak into slime, and keep track of what works and what doesn't. If your superweeds survive your torture methods and you don't have a spot in your landscape suited to use as a little landfill, discard them as garbage."

If you want to be on the safe side, avoid putting anything seedy (even green and immature) in the compost, especially if the pile is not going to get especially hot and speed the decomposition process.

Season All Season
Date 2011-07-12
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Keywords: Aquilegia, Seeds

PAL Question:

I harvested in mid July some columbine seeds (unknown Aquilegia cultivar). Can I plant outside now? Do I need to start indoors? Or wait?

View Answer:

A great book resource used to find this answer was Seeds: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully from Seed by Jekka McVicar. In the book, McVicar recommends "sowing fresh seeds in early summer into pots or modules using standard soil-less seed compost (substrate), either a peat free proprietary blend or composted fine propagating bark. Cover with perlite or vermiculite. Place under protection at 50F (10C)" If the seeds are old (viable for 5 years), "sow seed in autumn into pots. Use standard loam-based seed compost (substrate) mixed with coarse horticultural sand. Mix to a ratio of 1 part compost + 1 part sand. Cover lightly with compost and place outside, exposed to all the weathers. Germination takes place the following spring but can be erratic. May flower in its first or second season." (p.145)

Season Summer
Date 2011-07-21
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Keywords: government assistance, Edible plants, Seeds

PAL Question:

I receive a food stamp benefit, and I've been able to use it to buy food plants to grow in my garden, but I would like to be able to grow food from seed. Do you know if the benefit covers seeds for food crops?

View Answer:

Thanks for pointing out that food stamp benefits can be used for food plants! I consulted with legal experts at Seattle’s Solid Ground and found out that the benefit does include seeds. Here’s the Washington Administrative Code where this is stated:

Excerpt from section 2, part c., line vi.:
"You can use your food assistance benefits to buy items such as: Seeds and plants that produce food."

According to the historical information on the website of SNAP Gardens, this benefit has existed since 1973, when the Food Stamp Act was amended to include "seeds and plants for use in gardens to produce food for the personal consumption of the eligible household." You would still need to obtain the seeds from an existing vendor who accepts the food stamp benefit.

Season All Season
Date 2012-06-07
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Keywords: Salvia hispanica, Seeds, Quirky

PAL Question:

Chia seeds: what are they, and what are they good for, besides sprouting on clay animals (Chia Pets!)? Lately, I'm seeing them promoted everywhere for their health benefits. Is there any validity to this?

View Answer:

The common name Chia refers to several species of Salvia, and to Hyptis suaveolens. The species that is imported into the United States is usually Salvia hispanica. Purdue University’s New Crops database has information about the uses of chia seeds:
"The seeds of chias have been eaten for centuries by native North Americans, either raw or parched. They are used in sauces and as thickening agents. When soaked in water the seed envelops itself in a copious mucilaginous polysaccharide, excellent for digestion, and together with the grain itself forms a nutritious food. Mixed with orange juice the gel-like seeds make a nutritious breakfast and can help to control excess weight. Users report that a glass full of orange juice with a teaspoon of presoaked seeds leaves one feeling full and without hunger until noon. The plant explorer Edward Palmer wrote (1871): 'In preparing chia for use the seeds are roasted and ground, and the addition of water makes a mucilaginous mass several times the original bulk, sugar to taste is added, and the result is the much prized semi-fluid pinole of Indians and others—to me one of the best and most nutritive foods while traveling over the deserts.'"

The New York Times published an article (11/24/2012) on the current trend for consuming chia seeds as a nutritional supplement (purportedly high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids). More studies are needed to substantiate the health claims, as this information from Columbia University’s "Go Ask Alice" website points out:
"People eat chia seeds for diabetes, high blood pressure, and to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, there is currently no good evidence to support chia consumption for these uses. People have also tried using chia seeds as a weight loss aid, as the high fiber content is thought to suppress appetite and ultimately help with weight loss. There’s not much support for this claim. One study found that eating chia seeds had no effects on body weight, body fat, or changes in appetite over a 12-week period. However, studies have shown that a particular variety of chia seeds, marketed under Salba, can reduce certain risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, clotting factors, and inflammation."

Season All Season
Date 2013-03-23
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Keywords: Guizotia abyssinica, Seeds, Ethnobotany

PAL Question:

I bought some shiny dark seeds at an Ethiopian grocery store. The proprietor said they were good for sore throat. The name of the seed sounded something like 'nuk.' Can you tell me what plant they are from? And is it safe to use them?

View Answer:

By guessing at different possible spellings, I came across a plant whose Amharic name sounds like 'nuk' or 'noug.' I also showed your sample seeds to an Eritrean colleague, and confirmed that they were familiar to him for their high oil content, but also for steeping in hot water to make a kind of tonic. I can't recommend consuming them medicinally—you would need to speak to a medical professional. But I can tell you that the plant source is Guizotia abyssinica. It is in the daisy family (Asteraceae), and has a yellow flower that might remind you a little of a yellow daisy. There is research being done at University of British Columbia’s Botany department on this plant and its potential as a crop to increase food security and alleviate poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Purdue University researchers are looking into cultivating this plant (also called Nigerseed) in the Midwestern United States.

Wikipedia has additional information about this plant.

Season All Season
Date 2014-08-06
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Keywords: Heirloom varieties, Seeds, Seed exchanges

PAL Question:

Are there any seed libraries or seed exchanges in the Seattle area?

View Answer:

Yes, there is the King County Seed Library which currently has three locations:
Seattle Farm Co-Op 1817 S Jackson Place Seattle, WA 98144
Pickering Garden 1730 10th Avenue NW Issaquah, WA 98027
Hillman City Collaboratory 5623 Rainier Avenue S. Seattle, WA 98118

You might also look out for local celebrations of National Seed Swap Day, which happens on the last Saturday of every January.

The best-known national organization devoted to seed-saving and distribution is the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. Another example is the Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York State. Both of these organizations sell heirloom and unusual seed varieties.

You might see if your local public library (the kind which lends books and other materials) is interested in following the example of Tucson, Arizona’s Pima County Public Library, which maintains a seed exchange.

Some local horticultural organizations have organized seed exchanges among their members, such as the Hardy Plant Society of Washington and the Northwest Perennial Alliance, but these are primarily seeds of ornamental plants. You can also start your own informal exchange by learning about seed-saving and passing along that knowledge (and its fruits--that is, seeds!) to your friends. The Miller Library has many excellent books on saving seeds. You can search the online catalog, using keywords such as 'seed saving.'You can also check the calendar of plant sales and gardening events that the library maintains, as sometimes there are seed-sharing opportunities posted.

Season All Season
Date 2014-10-30
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Keywords: Seed dormancy, Propagation, Shrubs, Seeds, Perennials, Herbs, Grasses, Ferns

Garden Tool: A book by Jekka McVicar called Seeds: the ultimate guide to growing successfully from seed (Lyons Press, 2003, $22.95) will help you turn your seedy hopes into plant reality. Thirteen chapters are divided by types of plant including ferns, grasses, shrubs, perennials and herbs. The practical information that applies to all kinds of seeds, such as what type of soil to use, and how to break seed dormancy, is included in the last chapter. Color photos illustrate throughout. For online tips for seed starting go to:
http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/pnw0170/pnw0170.pdf from Oregon State University.

Season: All Season
Date: 2006-03-01
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Keywords: Seedlings, Indoor gardening, Seeds

Garden Tool:

Seed racks are sprouting up at nurseries and grocery stores across the city - it's time to start seeds. One reason to start your own transplants is to save money. One packet of 50 marigold seeds typically costs the same as one 4" little start. The budget growing may extend into seed growing supplies by using recycled plastic pots from last season or even reusing individual yogurt containers or other comparable containers. "Growing chambers" can be made on the cheap from clear plastic bags and chop sticks to keep the moist plastic off emerging sprouts. The frugal gardener will be tempted to put those seedlings in a south facing window, but beware: Pacific Northwest windows are NOT bright enough to produce healthy, sturdy seedlings.

Invest in a 4 foot fluorescent shop light from the hardware store. It is worth the small amount of money. Buy one 40 watt cool tube and one warm tube, or if you're feeling extravagant buy the full spectrum grow lights, which will cost more. These lights should be replaced every year or at least every two years. Once your seedlings are up, the lights should be about 2 - 4 inches above the leaves. This can be tricky if you have plants growing at different rates. Try placing a platform under the short seedlings.
For a full explanation of fluorescent lights for seedlings go online to: http://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=817

Season: Spring
Date: 2007-04-03
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Keywords: Seeds

Garden Tool: For a free introduction to starting seeds look to Thompson and Morgan's Guide to Germination. You will find the secrets to growing plants from seed including details on pre-treatments, coping with tiny seeds and hardening off your seedlings for life outdoors.

Season: All Season
Date: 2003-01-30
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Keywords: Seedlings--Transplanting, Seeds

Garden Tool: Starting plants from seed is a fine way to save money, but it requires a bit of patience and commitment to see the seeds through germination to planting out weeks or months later. The book Gardener's A-Z Guide To Growing Flowers From Seed To Bloom by Eileen Powell (Storey, 2004) will arm you with the knowledge you need to successfully transform tiny seeds into healthy flowering plants. Entries for individual plants detail planting depth, recommended temperature and the best time to transplant outside.

Season: All Season
Date: 2003-01-29
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December 12 2014 11:33:49