Propagation by seed

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Propagation by seed is an inexpensive way to raise many types of greenhouse plants, although in the case of slower-growing Species ii may take much longer to obtain a worthwhile specimen. Generally, individual plants raised Irom seed are not identical to

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their parents nor to one another, but such variation is often scarcely noticeable because, over a period of years, seed raisers select the 'truest* strains. You will find that catalogues from reputable seedsmen contain more and more seeds that are offered as F hy brids that is, the first-generation seed offspring of two pure-bred strains. Although they arc more expensive (lie-cause they are the result: of pollination by hand), they produce more vigorous, healthier plants. As a general principle, always ensure that any seed you buy is fresh, and try to synchronize your seed-buying and seed-growing activities.

There is less chance ot transmitting disease from one generation to the next when seed is used, and although there are seed-borne diseases many seedsmen treat the seed before sale to prevent any such diseases from spreading. Different species of seeds vary enormously in the time they take to germinate. A guide to germination periods is given in many seed catalogues, and n is a good idea to take note of these periods so that you can use the propagating space in your greenhouse to greatest advantage. It is best to use a seed pan if only a few plants are required and to use a seed tray So mm (2 in) deep for larger quantities. l>o not sow too thickly, for crowded seedlings tend to damp off. Some gardeners Use a thin metal template with holes drilled in it, placing 11 over their seed trays to indicate correct spacing. Templates of S holes by > holes (40 seeds), 9 holes by 7 holes (63 seeds) and 10 holes by 8 holes (Ho seeds) are useful. Sowing at Stations in this manner may save prick-

Above ted Seed sowing a box o1 this size will takf ?&0 seeds til most Right A propagating case heated by low voltage cables In rhe foreground is a capillary watering unit

Seed Propagation Greenhouses

Propagation bv seed after sowing cover seeds Thinly with compost then cover tray with sheets of polythene and brown papei ing out. After sowing, the seeds should be covered by a thin layer of compost, This is firmed with .1 presser. The pan or box is next watered, preferably by standing it in a tray of water 20 mm (•[ in) deep for about 30 minutes. It is then removed and covered with a sheet of glass or polythene and a piece of brown paper to exclude the light.

The covering materials should be removed as soon as the majority of seeds have germinated; from now 011 the seedlings must have good light con

ditions or spindly plants will result. However, many seedlings will tolerate a slightly lower temperature from this stage onwards.

In the case of seedlings such as bedding plants which are ultimately to be planted in open ground, it is important to make sure that they are prepared for the move from the warmth and protection of the greenhouse to outdoor conditions. This is the conditioning process known as hardening off, and

Siefn cuttings 1 Remove boitom leaves from cuttings 2 Plant cuttings around edge of B pot tilled with a cutting compost 3 Place poi in e heated propagating frame

Siefn cuttings 1 Remove boitom leaves from cuttings 2 Plant cuttings around edge of B pot tilled with a cutting compost 3 Place poi in e heated propagating frame

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it involves moving the plants to a closed frame, and then increasing the amount of ventilation they receive on warm, sunny days until the frame top is left off altogether at first during daylight hours ;md eventually around the clock. Do not forget to provide weak liquid feeds at this time, for competition in seed trays can be severe. Although it is common to sec bedding plants on sale that are already in flower, it is not desirable to let them reach this stage before planting out.

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