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SEEDING Author: Bruce Coetzee Plants have formed the staple diet of many cultures through the ages and have walked along with humankind through our hallowed ancestral lineage to the civilised status we now claim. From humble beginnings foraging wild foods to the modern agricultural cultivation techniques now utilised globally, coupled with the massive range of domesticated crops available, it has culminated in an insurgence of home growers, "blooming", at the awakening of a natural, new era! Some of the challenges early farmers faced are now a distant memory of the heydays, and most celebrated, are guarantees afforded through easy access to seeds and cuttings just a click away. Online seed dispensaries offer a proficient and easy method of finding just what you need without complications, and parcels are dispatched expediently, often overnight. Most of the commercial plant food varieties on offer at your local market that we use daily are from subspecies that produce seeds naturally and germinate proficiently once planted. Still, many rare and often unknown hybrids are now readily available.
Some plant species will exhibit significant changes when the seeding stage is underway, and it does require a good understanding of plant biology to facilitate the production of viable seeds domestically, as in the case of annuals, where circumstances dictate a forced seeding stage. Some species require specific environmental or nutrient changes to enter the seed production stage of growth. In many cases, this is seasonal, and changes in light and temperature spark the process. Often seeds are encased within the edible part of the vegetable or fruit. In contrast, others may be protected within woody shells designed to buffer the softer growth tissue, as in the case of sweet peppers and Gardenia tree species. These plants that produce seed without a nudge in the right direction are commonly referred to as self-seeding plants and have become popular due to the ease by which seed can be collected and stored for future endeavours. Certain principles motivate home growers to continue their crops by collecting and storing seeds. Where Heirloom varieties of specific plant species are required to remain genetically intact, seeding and the events proceeding with the production are carefully monitored. Self-pollinating vegetables have no trouble maintaining seed availability for future crops. However, those in the squash, particularly the pumpkin family, tend to hybridise readily, diminishing preferred genetic traits.
Opting to use only open-pollinated seed has become a trend most noticeable in cases where organic farming methods are required. Natural adaptive and evolutionary processes essentially groom species to facilitate the best vegetable or fruit production available based on environmental factors endemic to specific geographical locations. Selective breeding of botanical species isolates preferred genetic traits, and the result is what we refer to as F1 hybrids. The desperate need for food crops, which offer resilience to pests and disease, has witnessed momentum gain in support of exploring Mother Natures' resources in all possible ways. The science of seeding plants through numerous nutrient or environmental manipulation techniques has been a common practice for centuries. Each plant species has a unique set of prerequisites that any gardener can aspire to emulate in preparation for purposeful seed production. A good reference is to observe and note the daily progression of plant growth. With a detailed understanding of species-specific requirements, it will undoubtedly see you seeding with science soon enough!