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I was supposed to send someone seeds from my Achillea millifolium 'Paprika.' I let the flowers dry on the plant, then tried to gather them over a white piece of paper, but I'm not sure what's seed and what's just fluff from the dried flower (I've never collected seeds before)! There are hundreds of similar looking little things that I think might be tiny little seeds, but I'm not sure, and I don't want to send dead flowers rather than seeds. If these aren't seeds, then apparently my plant didn't produce seed this year, because there's nothing else that even remotely resembles a seed. I'll post two pictures of them. If you have achillea seeds that you could compare these to, or if you're very familiar with seeds, please let me know what I've got!
GardeningMommy, I had the exact same problem last year the first time I harvested seeds from my Achillea for some friends. I had no idea if I had any seeds or if it was all just chaff! I found it useful to compare what I had to the picture on this site http://theseedsite.co.uk/db1.html - it is the fourth entry down on the page.
In the end, I still wasn't really sure, so I gave each person a lot more than usual and told them there was a lot of chaff mixed in and I was unsure if the seed was viable or not. Turns out it was :-)
Ginny, thank you so much! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one having a tough time figuring out what's what. That was a great site that you linked me too--too bad the picutre of the seeds isn't a little larger. Oh well, their description/photo pretty much matches what I've got, with the exception of the "black handle" part. But I'd read elsewhere that the seeds are all tan, which mine are . . . I'm just going to have to send them, because it's all I've got, and hopefully they'll be viable! Oh, and thanks for letting me know what that "fluff" is really called! :o) LOL
If it's one of your favorites, you must do a lot of stuff from seed. If so, maybe you can give me a little advice. Basically, do you need a seed-growing setup complete with lights and the works to be a successful seed starter, or can most seeds just be sown outside with no fancy prep work?
Uh oh! I didn't mean to ask a loaded question! I guess that just shows how new I am! Feel free to eat your lunch out or whatever if you weren't originally planning on spending it at your desk--you can answer whenever you get time.
Hi Christy. Sorry this is late - my lunch break got delayed :-) Here goes.
I have tried - and still use - multiple methods of starting seeds. First, as experiments to see what method worked best with which seeds. Now, to hedge my bets so to speak.
There are some types of seeds that perform best when sown directly to the garden at the appropriate time, either because they need cooler temperatures to grow successfully (lettuce is a good example) or because they germinate so fast anyway (Ornamental Millet and Hemp both come up in just a few days) or because they absolutely dislike being transplanted (Morning Glory is one of these, although there are ways around this). A rule of thumb I've come to follow is that if the first sowing instruction for the seed is "Sow direct..." then that's what I do - usually. I wouldn't be a gardener if I didn't often try to do things my way :-)
When I want to skip as much muss and fuss as I can I tend to winter sow. That is, I sow seeds into containers (usually 2 liter pop or juice bottles or milk jugs) holding about 4" of soil in mid-December or January and set them outside to get snowed on for the winter. For more information on this method you can go to the Winter Sowing forum if you are a paid subscriber: http://davesgarden.com/forums/f/coldsow/all/ . I find that plants I start using this method are very healthy and hardy, but can sometimes be slow to start growing again after transplanting to the garden in the spring. Seeds suited to this method would be hardy perennials and hardy annuals, and any that say they will self sow or require cold stratification.
I start indoors anything that requires a long growing season to mature, is tropical or tender, or that I really want to make sure I get decent germination and protection from critters.
In my first attempts I had no elaborate setup and just sowed seeds into little plastic cups and set them on my windowsill. I didn't have great luck with the windowsill method as it was too cool next to the glass.
The next year I purchased a few of those gooseneck desk lamps (cheap ones), put plant bulbs in them, and put my cups of seeds on a desktop under the lights. This worked a lot better - at least until the seedlings got too tall for the little lamps. That's when I discovered that I started them wayyyyyy too soon in my eagerness :-) Many grew too tall and leggy at that point and I ended up once again sowing direct to the garden in the spring - sighhhhh.
I finally decided to bite the bullet and bought an indoor greenhouse - but I still didn't go all the way. Constructed of pvc plastic and 4 wire shelves it also has a clear plastic cover with a zipper up the front, and it only cost me about $45 CDN. Then I bought and hung flourescent light fixtures above each shelf. This setup has worked really well, except that the shelves are not height adjustable, so I have two problems.
1) In order to keep the seedlings at the optimum level below the lights (about 4" or so) I have to stack books under them and gradually remove them as the seedlings grow.
2) Once I start potting up it doesn't take long before the combination of pot height and seedling height are too high for the fixed height of the light fixture. Then I'm back to putting my seedlings in front of a bright window and hoping for the best - sometimes works and sometimes not.
So, next year I will remove every other shelf and hang the lights by adjustable chains so they can be raised or lowered as required.
I guess this was all kind of a long drawn out way of saying that there is no right or wrong way, and you don't need to spend a ton of money to get a decent growing environment going. Some other things that might be helpful:
o I always soak large seeds overnight in warm water before sowing them indoors. If they haven't swelled by morning I gently poke them with a pin and repeat. Sometimes I'll poke first (or nick the seed coat) and then soak.
o There are many different kinds of seeds and many have different requirements for optimal germination. It's a huge body of knowledge that could never be addressed in a single post. It's best to request germination information about a specific type of seed you want to try :-)
o The people here on Dave's Garden are a wonderful resource and treasure trove of knowledge and information. Don't hesitate to ask for help or advice.
I hope I haven't overwhelmed you - I probably gave you a lot more than you really wanted. I'm often guilty of that.
Ginny, thank you so much! Your post was very helpful, and I'm very grateful that you took time from your lunch to help me out! I planted two things from seed outside this year (California Poppy and Nasturtium), and both came up, which was so great. I tried putting little pots in my window sill, which worked for basil, but the gourds got too leggy. And that's pretty much it as far as seeds go for me. I've heard of winter sowing, but did't realize it meant actually putting stuff outside for the winter. Is there a reason you can't put it in the ground as long as it's already outside in pots? I'm also glad to hear your idea about using books to get your plants closer to the lights. I'm sure it's a hassle, but buying lights with adjustable chains and stuff might not be up my alley quite yet! But I'm sure glad to hear that overall, it can be fairly inexpensive. Anyway, again, thanks for your help. I think I'm going to start with ones that can be sown directly outdoors, and then move on to winter sowing, and finally, eventually, starting them myself inside!
Quoting: Is there a reason you can't put it in the ground as long as it's already outside in pots?
There's just a little more to it than that :-)
The reason I use pop or juice bottles or milk jugs for winter sowing is because what you are trying to do is create little miniature greenhouses. When the seeds are sown in the soil you tape the tops of the containers back on (throw away the caps) before putting them outside. Now you have a little greenhouse for your seeds, complete with ventilation at the top, that will warm up much, much more quickly than the soil in the ground ever could, and having the top of the bottle in place also keeps the moisture in and the humidity nice and high as most seedlings will enjoy.
The earliest seeds will usually begin germinating around the last week of March in my zone and are often ready to transplant to the garden well before I would plant anything else. They'll be hardier and better able to withstand a late frost because they were grown outdoors, but were helped along by being in a micro-greenhouse so to speak.
That's the long answer :-) The short answer is, yes, of course you could plant the seeds directly in the ground, but you will not see the same early growth as with the winter sowing method.