Seeds are magic. Hold one in your hand and you might mistake it for a grain of sand, a fleck of dirt, nothing very impressive. Yet a seed is a compact package of nutrients, enzymes and genetic information needed for plant reproduction. With soil, water, sun and a little TLC, in about two weeks (sometimes months or years for wild herbs) a seed will transform into a seedling, or baby plant.
Under a waning Aquarius moon we planted seeds today. Inula helenium, Arcticum lappa, Althea officinalis and Echinacea angustifolia was written on little signs as we prepared rich dark soil for the little guys. A general rule of thumb for seeding is to bury the seed twice as deep as the seed is thick. We scratched the dark earth held in seed trays, dropped in one or two seeds and tamped down. Tamping is the act of securing the seed tightly into the soil by pressing down. Many small seeds like Valerian (Valeriana officionalis) and Maca (Maca peruviana), are so little they can be placed on the surface of the soil, tamped and covered with a thin layer of fine soil.
Many seeds have special needs. To propagate Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) I soaked the berry overnight in cool water. In the morning I separated the seed from the berry’s flesh. To simulate an overwintering, I am storing the seeds in my refrigerator for about 90 days. Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) prefers a cool shaded environment while Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) enjoys consistent warmth for germination. Almost all seeds want consistent moisture to germinate, so regular watering is crucial.
Plant propagation can occur from a seed, cutting, rhizome or root division. However only a seed provides a new and unique set of genetic information. In this way, seed collection is an important part of a sustainable garden because it provides a strong genetic pool and the security of new plants. Seeds can often be collected from the flower or fruit of a plant in fall and stored in cool, dark conditions until late winter or spring of the next year.
Horizon Herbs is a fantastic source for organic medicinal herb seed. Their website is packed full of information on propagation methods, tips and picture of tiny herb sprouts. So cute!
In a medicine garden seeds are the solution to future dis-ease. The Echinacea we planted today will be harvested for its root in the fall of 2017. There is foresight, excitement and so much potential in seeds. Future blooms, future medicine. As we round the bend of winter, I am sowing seeds in my mind too. It all starts with a seed.
Pictured: Seeds of Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis).