Notes from the garden shed: February 2018

Seeds: dead or alive?  In biology we usually look for the seven signs of life.

M - Movement

R - Reproduction

S - Sensitivity

G - Growth

R - Respiration

E - Excretion 

N - Nutrition 

So apart from the Mexican jumping bean (which doesn’t count as it’s a bug inside doing the jumping!) I can’t think that any of these seven signs that actually applies to seeds - of course they do but not on our terms!  

I suppose the best way to describe seeds is to say that they have the ‘potential for life’ and are just waiting for the right conditions to germinate and grow. This means that they are aware in some exotic sense – we know they’re sensitive to temperature changes, moisture levels and even day length.  I like to think of them having a row of virtual switches – one or a number have to be switched on to trigger growth.

Seeds ability to wait is extraordinary – a two thousand year wait for the seeds of a Judean date palm found during an excavation of Herold the Great’s palace on Masada, an isolated rock plateau in northern Israel.

 The original seeds © Live Science

The original seeds © Live Science

 The Methuselah tree  © GoTo

The Methuselah tree  © GoTo

We divide plants into two broad groups - angiosperms; the flowering plants and gymnosperms; more ancient plants like ferns, mosses and liverworts that reproduce by releasing tiny spores into the air. Angiosperms the flowering plants diverged from gymnosperms about 240 million years ago but the first flowers that led to seed production didn’t appear until 140 million years ago (humans by comparison have been around for a mere 6 million years).  

 Daffodils; the first part of the plants mechanism to produce seeds. © Paul Richens

Daffodils; the first part of the plants mechanism to produce seeds. © Paul Richens

Seeds come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and gardeners have developed many ways of handling them from adding sand to small seeds (cabbage seeds) to soaking them (parsley seeds) to putting them in the freezer to fool them that they’ve been through a winter or even burning them as if they’ve been through a fire.

 Maize Seeds

Maize Seeds

 Cabbage Seeds

Cabbage Seeds

Now’s the time to start collecting what seeds you need for the year, in recent times it’s become popular for people to swap seeds – you don’t actually buy them but swop your collection or join a club. This gets round some fairly restrictive laws that would ban you from selling ‘un-tested’ seeds. SEEDY SUNDAY Britain's largest community seed swap takes place every year on the first Sunday in February in Brighton.

 Brighton's Seedy Sunday 

Brighton's Seedy Sunday 

Global Generations new Gardens Manager Julie Riehl has been busy looking after the planters outside some of the King’s Cross restaurants, digging out plants that didn’t make it over the winter.   She’s been finding some interestingly large grubs that turned out to be the larvae of the Vine Weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus). It’s an interesting insect albeit a bothersome one for gardeners as the larvae eats plant roots. In this country only females are generally found (males being very rare), so they reproduce parthenogenetically (without males), they can’t fly (so how do they get around?) and each female can lay up to 1,000 eggs.

No chemical pesticides are used at the Skip garden or on any of our projects – but Julie has found an ally very willing to help out!

 The Skip Garden robin is always keen to lend a bill  © Julie Riehl

The Skip Garden robin is always keen to lend a bill © Julie Riehl