Going To Seed

Carousels jam-packed with bright envelopes of vegetable and flower seeds are sprouting in all the garden nurseries, farm supply shops, and big box stores around town.  Meanwhile warming days turn a gardener’s thoughts to the yard whether it is big or small.

Every vegetative seed consists of a baby plant called an embryo, surrounded by a built-in food supply called the endosperm, both snuggled in a testa or outer coat which conserves internal moisture–sometimes for millennia.  The embryo has 3 primary parts: its root, stem, and rudimentary bud that consists of 1 or 2 leaves called cotyledons.

Cotyledons differ from a seedling’s second or true leaves which have the distinctive shapes botanists and gardeners use to identify their plants.  Tomato true leaves, for example, look very different from feathery carrot greens, and neither can be mistaken for fan-shaped ginko tree foliage.  Professionals call seeds with single primary leaves monocots, and their dual leaved cousins are dicots.

Seeds arrived on this planet in a mind-boggling array of sizes, and ever since have been sold in bulk as well as those cute little commercial packs we pick up at the stores.  For example, it takes about 5 million rhododendron seeds to weigh in at 1 pound, but a lone coconut can, believe it or not, tip the scales at a whopping 50 pounds.

Flowering plants possess male and female parts, sometimes on the same plant.  Seeds result from the union of guy cells found in pollen grains, and gal cells located deep inside the base of each bloom.  Like people, plant sperm cells contain half of the future seed’s gene-bearing chromosomes, and plant egg cells contain the other half. Pollination is how plants beget seeds, to use an old English term, and with the exception of strawberries, the seeds ripen inside a fruit.

The devil is in the garden details because not all the available seeds will grow in your patch of earth.  That single pound of rhododendron seeds wants seriously acid (low pH) soil, and that 50 pound coconut wants to live on a tropic island.  North central Texans must discover what seeds birth plants that do well in our soils and climates.

Celebrity tomatoes and an array of peppers and eggplants love our summers if they get consistent water.  Broccoli and cauliflower are happy campers until mid-July if they get off to a cold start. Lettuces wake in February, and can survive frosty weather under a layer of straw.  Beans and cucumbers speak Texan.  Garlic bulbs and onion slips snooze underground all winter then take off with a bang when the soil warms in the spring.  Carrots say howdy if they can stretch out in friable (crumbly) soil.  THEN we can throw Lone Star gardens into reverse at the end of the summer, and get a second harvest late in the year.

The same thing applies to landscape seeds and plants.  A big box garden department may have a great deal on lilacs, but there’s a reason you don’t see them in local landscapes so consider crape myrtles.  Just because a vendor sells certain seeds and plants doesn’t mean they flourish locally, so informed gardeners are happy gardeners.

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