Thrills and ills of seed trading
By Dinakar KR (Dinu) March 16, 2008
Thrills and ills of trading seeds
I've mentioned how I got into the DG-fold in my DG homepage and also a bit of seed trading there. But as years pass, I've learnt a few lessons on the way esp. about seed trading, sowing, growing and waiting.
When I was new to DG, I used to read about the word ‘trade' in discussion forums [there were hardly 20 then!]. I used to wonder what it could be. Gradually, I came to know that it was the same thing what we called in my stamp-collecting hobby before as "stamps-exchange". I had initially thought that trading meant ‘with payment'. But I was pleased to know that exchanging seeds was really possible across continents and I visualized it as a great new chapter in my gardening. I'm no specialist in gardening having not followed any stringent methods that I read in articles and posts in DG due to lack of spare time, but I saw a really new possibility of having a colourful garden! But alas! that was not to be! Read on.
My first trade was with Evert who was a 14-year young lad from Finland and I was astounded by the knowledge he had in gardening at such a raw age and he had some seeds on offer. I ‘googled' to know how those seeds grew. He had sent me Delphinium, Mirabilis [from his tour of India] and Freesia bulbs for my Clitoria double blue seeds. It was as much a thrill to receive the packet safe by mail as it was to pack my single item and mail it away. Later he wrote to me that the clitoria did well in his garden. But I had a sorry story to tell, but for the Mirabilis - which became invasive [still is!] in my garden, seeds of which naturally suited here! I did not know then, what this temperature zone was. I got to know through my inquiry ‘why those two failed' about the different classifications of zones of the world. Only then I got a hint.
Failures of those two increased my desire to trade more and try out newer seeds as by now there were many that came my way to offer in exchange mostly for my Clitoria [which I believe was a hit]. I began carefully collecting the seeds for trading. I had nothing much to offer, but those who sent me were all generous in the variety they mailed. I learnt how to pack seeds and label carefully so that it reaches the recipient ship-shape.
As my trading became frequent, the wait for the postman became another thrill - much like the time I was active in the hobby of penfriendship some years before, where the postman was the much awaited person everyday!.
Now I did not know much about sowing methods. Some seeds were so fine that I could not handle. I just did what I knew - poke a hole and put the seeds in the soil, ordinary soil. Then sprinkle water. I did not know each variety of seeds required different methods. Some did not like full sun, some wanted more moisture, some half dry, some to be sowed deeper, some finer ones just a thin soil cover. I had bought a seed tray and I used to sow them in the slots using part of the soil in the garden. I used to mark on paper the row number and the name of the seed that went in. I did not know then that weed seeds would be in such soil and that it hampers. Watering brought those up first and I thought they were the ones I had received, sprouting! But as the seedling became bigger, I used to get disappointed that it looked like a familiar weed! So I changed over to soil picked up from a place with no weeds to some effect.
Failure after failure did not deter me from asking from those who offered a wide variety of seeds, because the enthusiasm of having a colourful garden was at its peak and I felt there was nothing wrong in trying. I did not realize in the initial part that zones mattered much. Too many failures, much to my disappointment led me to conclude that I should not simply jump into asking seeds because they offered. I later began to check to which zone they came from. I have now nearly stopped asking after learning lessons like that. Sow the seeds, sprinkle water... sprinkle water every day... yet, no growth seen at all even after four weeks, si x weeks! This put me off and taught me a valuable lesson. Do not ask! Because I'm in the tropics and most traders were from much colder zones and the seeds would not do well at all. Even if they germinated grew, they were feeble and weak before dying. Some bulbs though flowered once on arrival, have failed to survive the rains and the heat before rotting away.
I must say that all my 30+ trades have been successful both ways, only in terms of the packet reaching destinations. I wish the success rate was at least half of this when it came to germinating. Due to paucity of time I never thought of taking especial care because most of my time in the garden involved in weeding or tidying up, what with other things to do. But I am happy to note that whatever seeds I sent [except for the Barleria seeds to one friend in the US did not succeed] over have all done well half way across the world.
Of the few successes, I can boast of the Plumeria -they have grown really well from seed- two of them [seen in the top picture], triple yellow datura, the chaste tree a couple of morning glories [pictures below] and one or two others are here to remind me of the trades I had with kind friends.
On the way I learnt many names of plants, temperature zones, gardening and sowing methods, caring for the seedlings, transplanting, pruning.... Those are some of the positives that enriched me. But the disappointment of those failed seeds haunt me because of my ignorance I troubled the other party in quest of having many colours in my garden. But first and foremost positive turns out to be getting to know a set of wonderful, generous people here on DG! If many seeds did not germinate -no problem. It has germinated excellent friendships across the globe. My garden is mostly ‘uncolourful' but the friends ‘it' has given are ‘evergreen'. It's been just like life!
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