Almost time for serious seed planting

Published 12:01 pm Monday, May 7, 2018

Reckon how many seeds folks will sow over the next couple of weeks?  Note: I didn’t ask per garden, yard, acre, county, state or per anywhere.  But assuming the “Easter cool snap” just passed and the rain is about to let up, it’s almost time for serious spring planting. 

Wheat and mustard greens had their planting turn. We are close to opening the seed sacks and packets of everything from butterbeans to cotton to centipede grass to zinnias. 

Seeds don’t need much to spout.  They don’t need soil. They don’t need sunlight. They don’t need fertilizer. Seeds only need water and the right temperature to germinate, aka sprout. Well, oxygen is also needed for seed sprouting but oxygen is almost everywhere all the time, the exceptions being when seeds are planted way too deep or in a waterlogged spot. 

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I’m referring to the seeds of the common plants we grow in this area. 

There are exceptions to everything, of course.  Seeds in some exotic or harsher environment than ours might need more than water and temperature to sprout. 

For example, there are plant species in very tall, shaded forests whose seeds will only germinate where a rare spot of light hits the ground because some light will be necessary for new seedlings to live. Plants are not really so smart to figure things like that out.  Eons of natural genetic selection did it.

The reason seeds don’t need soil or fertilizer to sprout is because there is food aplenty within a seed to feed the plant developing within. 

We like to keep it simple and say a viable seed contains three parts; root, shoot and a leaf or leaves. But most of the space in a seed is taken up by protein, carbs, enzymes and other chemical compounds with the sole purpose of getting the embryonic plant up and going.

Once the plant emerges into the real world, it becomes responsible for pulling nutrients through its roots up the stem to leaves for processing into growth components. 

Likewise, sunlight is not needed as long as a plant has not come up; it’s supposed to be dark down there. But photosynthesis kicks in soon after emergence and light becomes absolutely necessary throughout the growing season.

Our job as gardeners or farmers is to give seeds their best chance of sprouting quickly and strongly by working within those needs of temperature and moisture. Waiting an extra week or even two for either one to get right will usually mean a healthier start. 

We shouldn’t get locked in to a calendar day or week every year. Go with the flow. Plant when sprouting conditions get right.   

We tamp down the row after putting seed in the shallow trench we dug is for one reason; to press and hold moisture around the seed. 

Large modern planters that sow cotton and soybean seeds have press wheels doing the same thing on top of each row for the same reason. And so did the mule-drawn ones. 

Terry Rector is spokesman for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.