Monday, March 3, 2008

Starting Plants from Seeds

Erv Evans, Extension Associate
Frank A. Blazich, Professor
Department of Horticultural Science, NC State Univ.

Growing your own transplants from seeds indoors can give you a head start on the growing season. In some cases, it may be the only way to obtain plants of a new or special cultivar (variety) that is not widely available through garden centers.

To obtain vigorous plants, start with high-quality seed from a reliable source. Select cultivars which provide the plant size, color (flower, foliage, or fruit), and growth habit you want. Choose cultivars adapted to your area. Many vegetable and flower cultivars are hybrids. They may cost more than open pollinated types, but they usually have more vigor, more uniformity, and better growth than non-hybrids.
Purchase only enough seed for one year's use, because germination decreases with age. The seed packet label usually indicates essential information about the cultivar, the year in which the seeds were packaged, the germination percentage, and whether the seeds have received any chemical treatment.

If seeds are obtained well ahead of the actual sowing date (or are surplus seeds), store them in a cool, dry place. Laminated foil packages help ensure dry storage. Paper packets are best kept in tightly sealed containers and maintained around 40oF in low humidity. A good storage location would be an air-tight jar or a sealed, Zip-Lock-type bag in the refrigerator. Some gardeners save seed from their own gardens, but these may not produce plants similar to the parents; this is especially true of hybrids.

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