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Serious Seeds: Inside Nature’s Seed Starter Kit

Acorns are seeds, too! Acorns are seeds, too!


It’s seed starting time again! While researching which plants to grow, don’t forget to find out about the seeds themselves. Seed coat, cotyledon, endosperm and embryo — that’s what little seeds are made of.

Starting with the outer shell, known as the seed coat, seeds contain future plant tissue and packets of nutrients for initial growth. Starches, amino acids and DNA are key ingredients. Contained within the seed are one or two leaf-like components known as cotyledons. These are the “seed leaves” that first appear on a new seedling. Cotyledons are food storage packets. They give up their reserves as the plant begins its life.

To hit the start button on a seed, it needs water, oxygen and a nurturing temperature. Most seeds do better in total darkness until the seed pops.

Some species of seeds will also contain endosperm. This is a layer of stored starches that provides quick energy once growth is initiated.

Last but not least is the embryo: a small amount of tissue with the potential to become a young plant. The embryo has the genetic information required to grow the entire plant, from roots and stem that leaves and flowers.

Fresh or properly stored seeds are said to be viable, or alive. Viable seeds are dormant, meaning their metabolic processes are just barely functioning. Unlike actively growing plants, which are over 90% water, seeds contain around 2% water or less. Basically, they stay on pause unless introduced into an ideal seed-starting environment.

To hit the start button on a seed, it needs water, oxygen and a nurturing temperature. Most seeds do better in total darkness until the seed pops. Check seed packets for plant-specific information.

If a seed is viable, water can initiate germination, which is evidenced when a fat white root tip, known as the radicle, pops out of the shell. Most of the seeds in our gardens have one pointed end. Plant the seed with that end facing downward, as the radicle will emerge from the point. The blunt end will rise up out of the growing medium, lifting the cotyledons and embryo into the light.

Keep in mind that seeds and seedlings are fragile. Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place, and start them in a warm, moist, dark place. With the right combination of applied science and TLC, these babies can be the beginning of many future harvests.

Categories and Subcategories of Seeds

Seed bearing plants are divided into two categories: gymnosperms and angiosperms.

Pine trees are among gymnosperms, and produce seed cones without the type flowers we see in most plants.

Angiosperms, the more common category, produce seeds inside a pollinated flower. The seeds of angiosperms are hidden, while the seeds of gymnosperms are exposed. Basil plants, which are angiosperms, produce seeds inside their sweet-smelling flower buds. Similarly, tomatoes contain the seed inside the fruit, which started as a flower.

Within angiosperms there are two subcategories: dicots and monocots. The number of “seed leaves”, or cotyledons, determine one from the other. When seedlings first pop up, dicot species have two cotyledons and monocot species have only one. Culinary herbs and fruiting plants are typically dicots, while grains and grasses are examples of monocots.

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Roots? Seeds? Sounds like a hydroponics-friendly group to us.
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 17:49

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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