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Plants and seeds

October 27, 2011
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere , Marshall Independent

As I was looking through a booklet about saving seeds, I found that there were some great tips and they did a great job with descriptive terminology so we can all understand what it is the authors are exactly trying to get across to us.

This is a good reminder for experienced gardeners, and for those who consider themselves less experienced or for those who are new to gardening, this information will help.

Open pollinated varieties (seeds) will produce plants that resemble the parent plant. The parent plants are genetically about the same. A hybrid variety is a plant that has been crossed in a controlled manner and produces a plant that is different then the parent plant. You will have very few plants that are the same as the first year that you grew the seeds. This is something to watch out for when you let, for example, pumpkins mix with your squash in your garden. The outcome is any plants that grow from seeds that fell into the soil in the garden will provide some strange looking and not so tasty squash the next year. I speak from experience.

An annual crop (seeds or plants) requires only one year or season to complete its lifecycle. A biennial crop (seeds or plants) will take two seasons to produce seed and complete its lifecycle. The first year we generally see a plant that we would eat such as cabbage. There are a set of rules that a biennial plant must meet in order to set flowers and make seeds. The plant must go through a cold cycle, a plant must be well sized in the fall (not too big or too small) and the plant must survive the winter. In our climate, this will be quite difficult. We normally would have to dig up the plant and place it in storage as a root. Then comes the tricky part, the storage temperature has to be between 35-38 degrees F with a relative humidity 90-95 percent. It is further suggested that the roots stored in the containers be covered with clean wood shavings such as cedar. Cedar has a high rate of anti-microbial factors than most other types of wood. If you happen to have a good root cellar (and not many of us now days has this), using moist, clean sand will also work and then storing your crop in the root cellar works wonders. The root is taken up from the storage area and then planted the next spring when it will grow, flower and produce seeds. In some cases we also call this "bolting." You may see this rather quickly in plants such as broccoli which are not a biennial plant.

As a side note to digging and saving root crops, at this point in our end of the growing season, it is time to start digging and storing potatoes. It is best to gently clean off as much soil from the potatoes as possible and then let them sit in a protected area for a few day to a week (without letting them freeze) to toughen the skins and slow down the growth of the potatoes. This one seemingly small part of digging potatoes will help to slow them down from growing again. Potatoes that you purchase in the store have been treated with a chemical to keep the potatoes from growing again. This is also why using store bought potatoes will not work all that well for planting in the garden. I rotate my potatoes from every two years of which whatever is growing come spring, goes into the garden the following year. The second year, I throw out any potatoes that are growing and purchase new potato seeds. This will help you to maintain disease control and some moderate amount of pest control in your potato crop from year to year plus save just a little bit more money.

Next time, we will talk about seed storage and how you can safely put away any extra seed that you have from this year so you can use it again next year.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at



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