Search This Blog

25 January, 2008

Common Seed Viability

Approximate age at which seed of good initial viability stored under cool and dry conditions will still give a satisfactory germination. Seed stored dry and cool will last longer. Remember a researcher at UCLA germinated lotus seeds that had been found in a pyramid that was several thousand years old! Charts don't line up well with HTML, but I'm sure you can figure it out.

Common Name /Binomial /Family /~ Age

Asparagus Asparagus officinalis Liiaceae 3
Beans Phaseolus vulgaris (& others) Fabaceae 3
Beets Beta vulgaris Chenopodiaceae 4
Broccoli Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Cabbage Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Cardoon Cynara cardunculus Asteraceae 5
Carrots Daucus carota sativus Apiaceae 3
Cauliflower Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Celeriac Apium graveolens rapaceum Apiaceae 5
Celery Apium graveolens dulce Apiaceae 5
Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium Apiaceae 3
Collards Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Corn Zea mays Poaceae 2
Cress Lepidium sativum Brassicaceae 5
Cucumbers Cucumis melo Cucurbitaceae 5
Eggplant Solanum melongena Solanaceae 5
Endive Cichorium endivia Asteraceae 5
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare Apiaceae 4
Kale Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Kohlrabi Brassica oleracea Brassicaceae 5
Leeks Allium porrum Liiaceae 3
Lettuce Lactuca sativa Asteraceae 5
Muskmelons Cucumis melo Cucurbitaceae 5
Mustard Brassica cretica Brassicaceae 4
Okra Abelmoschus esculentus Solanacea 2
Onions Allium cepa Amaryllidaceae 1
Parsley Petroselinum crispum Apiaceae 1
Parsnips Pastinaca sativa Apiaceae 1
Peas Pisum sativum Fabaceae 3
Peppers Capsicum annuum Solanaceae 2
Pumpkins Cucurbita maxima Cucurbitaceae 4
Radishes Raphanus landra Brassicaceae 5
Spinach Spinacia oleracea Chenopodiaceae 5
Squash Cucurbita moschata; C. pepo and C. maxima Cucurbitaceae 4
Swiss Chard Beta vulgaris Chenopodiaceae 4
Tomatoes Lycopersicon esculentum Solanaceae 4
Turnips Brassica rapa Brassicaceae 4
Watermelons Citrullus lanatus Cucurbitaceae 4


A Short List of Seed Houses

These are some of my favorite places from which I order seeds. There are others that I use for more specialized ordering, but for 90% of all I grow, here's the goods!

BOUNTIFUL GARDENS; 18001 Shafer Ranch Road; Willits, CA 95490;
707.459.6410 Organic seed; open-pollinated

JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS; Foss Hill Road; Albion, ME 04910-9731; 207.437.4301 orders, 207.437.4357 Customer service

NICHOLS GARDEN NURSERY; 1190 North Pacific Hwy. Albany, OR 97321-4598; 503.928.9280

*PEACEFUL VALLEY FARM SUPPLY; PO Box 2209; Grass Valley, CA 95945; 916.272.4769

PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS; PO Box 300, Rt. 100; New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207.926.3400 THE best for a homegardener – small packets of very current seed, a very good value

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE; Rt. 3 Box 239; Decorah, Iowa 52101; 563.382.5990 Membership fees $15-$25. Free brochure. Some organic, but ALL open-pollinated.

SEEDS OF CHANGE; 621 Old Sante Fe Trail, #10; Santa Fe, NM 87501; 505.438.8080 Catalog is listed at $5, but I’ve never paid for one. Organic, open-pollinated…pricey.

THOMPSON & MORGAN INC.; PO Box 1308; Jackson, NJ 08525-0308 Phone 908.363.2225; 800. 274.7333 for orders Not organic, but possibly THE MOST extensive listing of seeds you’ll find on this continent!

TOMATO GROWERS SUPPLY; P.O. Box 60015, Fort Myers, FL 33906; 888.478.7333 not organic, but who can resist looking at ALL these tomatoes??


24 January, 2008

Invitation to Kitchen Gardeners International

Those who find something to relate to in these pages here may also enjoy Kitchen Gardeners International. I have often used their site in the past for references and was quite pleased when in the past few weeks they added a MySpace kind of section where gardeners can have their own page and photos and blog and all that good personal stuff. As the webbie for my band's MySpace page, I know how valuable these connections can be as we build virtual communities among like-minded friends across continents.

There is a blog feature there as well and I think I'll move my course materials to that site and return my musings on this site to my original intent - back to a much more creative bent of things that just weren't getting published anywhere else.

Hope you like it.


23 January, 2008

A Bibliography for Plant Propagation

As promised - in alphabetical order...

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, Deppe, Carol, ©2000, A plant breeder with a science degree and avid gardener all rolled into one, Deppe knows her stuff.. This is a lighter read than that makes it sound, but it is firmly into the science of plant breeding and she doesn’t dumb it down. A good and thorough book even if not light reading.

Creative Propagation; A Grower’s Guide, Thompson, Peter, ©1989, Timber Press, Not nearly as exhaustive as other books presented here, but if you are short on change and can only get one book this one has a lot to recommend it. Thompson covers all of it but perhaps not to the depth of other books, so it’s small and makes good reading for the attentionally challenged.

Making More Plants, Druse, Ken, ©2000, Clarkson Potter Publishing Part coffee table photo book and part text, the beauty of this book does not detract from the science it disseminates. It also could have been the text for this course, but all that delicious art work makes for an expensive book, and I am loathe to require expensive books and it lacks the extensive lists that I think make the A-Z book so valuable. However, if you have the extra moola lying around, this is a gorgeous, to drool for book and it is no slouch in details either. Druse is a knowledgeable writer who is adept at presentation and he’s made a yummy book

Plant Propagation A to Z, Growing Plants for Free, Bryant, Geoff © 2003 Firefly Books, Probably the best organized and most concise of the books presented here. I find the charts especially helpful and I like the clean easiness of the whole thing. I suggest, if you intend on propagating a lot of plants, get it in hardbound.

Plant Propagation, Browse, Philip McMillan, ©1999, Octopus Publishing, Both this book and The Grafter’s Handbook bear the stamp of the Royal Horticultural Society, and both live up to the rigors of that group’s high standards. Like ‘Grafter’s’ it has those Englishisms, but also like ‘Grafter’s’ it is full of a wealth of information.

Seed Propagation of Native California Plants, Emery, Dara, ©1988, Santa Barbara Botanical Garden The only book I know on the growing of most California Native Plants from Seed. If going native is your bag, this is your book

Seed to Seed,
Ashworth, Suzanne ©2002, Seed Savers Exchange Primarily concerned about saving seed more than planting it, this book is a wonderful introduction to the subject. The author is concerned primarily with heirloom vegetable varieties not being lost and that is the focus of the book, but the lessons she presents so eloquently are universal in dealing with any seeds. The only thing I dislike is the book’s organization by plant family which can make finding the information you want NOW a little more abstract than it needs to be.

The Complete Book of Plant Propagation, Clarke, Graham, et al, ©`992, Cassell Paperbacks A British offering and has a great little section on history of plant propagation, which is nice if you like that sort of thing – divides all plants into hardy and tender for referencing which can be arbitrary and less than helpful, but otherwise well written and illustrated. Could have just as easily been the text for the course if it had been available hardbound. (It is my conceit that all reference books have to come hardbound – they last longer.)

The Grafter’s Handbook, Garner, R. J. ©1988, Distributed in the US by Sterling Publishing First published in 1947, this book has stood the test of time. While there are some little British oddities with the English language that can confuse a little, the illustrations and the enthusiasm of the author are wonderfully clear and inspirational. This book is golden.

The Grape Grower, Rombough, Lon, ©2002, Chelsea Green Publishing If grapes are what you want to propagate, this is the definitive book on grape culture and has chapters on propagation and breeding your own grapes. A concisely written text that is a delight to read or browse.

The Home Orchard, University of California Press, ©2007, Though not really a propagation book, it has a marvelous discussion of grafting and is a one of the many really remarkable horticulture books coming out of UC’s ANR. If you are into fruit trees, this book belongs on your shelf in a handy spot.

The New Seed Starter’s Handbook, Bubel, Nancy, ©1988, Rodale Press If you want to grow from seed, this is THE authoritative text on the subject. None better, even if it’s getting a little old. I found mine for $3 or so on a throwaway shelf at Borders. It is the best three bucks I’ve ever spent.

10 January, 2008

Plant Propagation: Meristem and Terms

Meristem is a group of cells specialized for the production of new cells.

Apical meristem
is located at the tips of the plant, both above and below.

Basal meristem is located at the base.

Lateral meristem
is located all along the sides of a plant.

A node is horticultural speak for a concentration of meristematic tissue.

Growth in plants is an extremely complex phenomena. Botanists divide growth according to two different patterns:

Primary Growth
– growth occurring at the apical meristem (the tips of roots and shoots) which is primarily observed as stems moving more or less up and roots moving more or less down.

Secondary Growth – which is an “increase in girth” – occurring at the lateral meristematic tissue, which is called the cambium – that thin layer of life actively growing and dividing. It is the tissue that creates the cells that differentiate into secondary xylem (a.k.a. wood) and to the inner bark

Stock plants
many of us will use garden plants (or the neighbors!)

Ideally: Cut plant back several months before taking the real cuttings.

softest, youngest tissue - hardest to work with in a non-professional situation Most readily available in spring/early summer

Semi-ripe no clear dividing line softwood that is a little more mature will dry out less quickly late summer/fall

Hardwood - last year’s growth – most difficult to root, but sometimes the only way to root

Plant Propagation: A Short List of Seed Houses

I have copies of almost all these catalogs in my office - Peaceful Valley Farm Supply catalogs will be available for each of you in a few weeks when we get the new 2008 edition.

BOUNTIFUL GARDENS; 18001 Shafer Ranch Road; Willits, CA 95490;
707.459.6410 Organic seed; open-pollinated

JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS; Foss Hill Road; Albion, ME 04910-9731; 207.437-4301 orders, 207.437.4357 Customer service

NICHOLS GARDEN NURSERY; 1190 North Pacific Hwy. Albany, OR 97321-4598; 503.928.9280

*PEACEFUL VALLEY FARM SUPPLY; PO Box 2209; Grass Valley, CA 95945; 916.272.4769 One of my favorite companies - also sell a lot of the tools.

PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS; PO Box 300, Rt. 100; New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207.926.3400 THE best for a home gardener – small packets of very current seed; a very good value.

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE; Rt. 3 Box 239; Decorah, Iowa 52101; 563.382.5990 Membership fees $15-$25. Free brochure. Some organic, but ALL open-pollinated.

SEEDS OF CHANGE; 621 Old Sante Fe Trail, #10; Santa Fe, NM 87501; 505.438.8080 Catalog is listed at $5, but I’ve never paid for one. Organic, open-pollinated…

THOMPSON & MORGAN INC.; PO Box 1308; Jackson, NJ 08525-0308 Phone 908.363.2225; 800.274.7333 for orders Not organic, but possibly THE MOST extensive listing of seeds you’ll find on this continent!

TOMATO GROWERS SUPPLY; P.O. Box 60015, Fort Myers, FL 33906; 888.478.7333 not organic, but who can resist looking at ALL these tomatoes??

Plant Propagation: Tools

Each student shall provide:
Pair of pruners – secateur type, like Felco #2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 or 13. No anvil pruners allowed EXCEPT for those students with hand pain or arthritis that must use the ratcheting type of pruners. Felcos, especially the number 5, can be bought on the internet (eBay) for much less than locally. Coronas are ok. If you have ever used Felcos, you will be able to appreciate why I favor them
Pruning knife – only used for plants. It is suggested that everyone also have a second knife for all the other needs in a garden. If one does not plan on doing a great deal of propagation needing a sharp knife, an inexpensive knife with break-away blades may be used. Grafting knives and horticultural knives are also found for reasonable amounts on eBay and other internet connections.
Pair of gloves – leather is preferred.
Pencil, sharp

You will need to take notes, so paper is necessary – may I suggest you take notes in pencil because it won’t run if it gets wet and a pencil is a wonderful small dibber in a pinch. 

The Garden (or instructor) will provide:
Cactus mix and potting soil to be used as needed
Watering devices
Root stimulating gel
Other tools and supplies as needed
Oil, sharpening devices, cleaners and rags for pruner and knife maintenance
Alcohol wipes and hand soap.
Plant material/seeds
First aid kit
Sharpies and plant markers

If you forget your pruners or knife, I do have a few of each, and while I do have gloves, a pair that fits your hand is preferred (and a pair of gloves are somewhat personal too). I can sharpen your pruners or teach you how.

Plant Propagation Course Syllabus

Instructor: David King
Phone: 310.722.3656 (Please leave a message)


Plant Propagation for Gardeners; BIOLOGY X497.35

There are no prerequisites for this course. We will meet from January 05 through March 22 for 12 meetings. We will take a field trip to The Huntington on February 09, from 9 AM to 1 PM. Those who desire, might want to make reservations now for the Huntington Tea Room as we will be on the grounds already; this will be a popular day at The Huntington because of the shows that will be in progress there. There will be one other field trip to Theodore Payne Foundation where California Native plants are propagated by the hundreds and we will work there to propagate some of those plants with their staff and volunteers; details are TBA, right now. All other meetings will take place Saturday 9:00 to 1:00 p.m. at The Learning Garden, on the Venice High School campus. This site is close to the ocean and because we will usually meet outside, please dress appropriate to the weather. We will do what we can to mitigate the cold and rain, should it come, but the material of the class is best covered with live plant material in the garden – which is, of course, is outside.
We will also be working with potting soils and cut plant material in almost every single class. Dress so that you can comfortably get dirty and yet stay comfortably dry. Dressing in layers is probably the best idea when it comes to being outdoors at The Learning Garden.

Course Purpose
This course is an introduction to the principles and practice of plant propagation, both sexual and asexual, and the science and art of grafting and budding.

Course Objectives
1. Understand the care and safe use of tools in plant propagation.
2. Understand the biology of sexual and asexual propagation of plants.
3. Understand and use the different styles of propagation of plants.
4. Be able to set up and use a plant propagation system.
5. Demonstrate an understanding of the above by propagating different species of plants.
6. Understand the physiology of plants sufficiently to be able to successfully bud and graft a variety of plants.

The materials presented in this course will enable the student to start plants from seeds and cuttings, in an amateur or professional setting.

Text for this course:
Plant Propagation A to Z – Bryant; Firefly Books, 2003 It is readily available online or in the appropriate UCLA Bookstore. There will be many additional handouts from the instructor.

Date Week TOPIC

01/05 1 Lecture: Introduction – roll, Extension policy, meeting time and place, attendance and tardiness, tools etc. Tool selection and care. Setting up work area. Sexual and asexual propagation defined; the why of asexual propagation; its advantages and disadvantages; Pages 10-46
Demonstration: Working environment; Safety and tool use
01/12 2 Lecture: General Propagation Methods and Application; Pages 47-113; pests and diseases and methodology to deal with them.
Demonstration: Division of perennials
Practical: Dividing perennial plants
01/19 3 MLK HOLIDAY - No Class
01/26 4 Lecture: Seeds, structure, germination and viability, collection, storage. Proper Planting; Return to pages 47-74; seed starting problems and their solution.
Demonstration: Scarification/Seed sowing
Practical: Sowing seeds of different sizes
02/02 5 Lecture: Meristematic tissue and the principles of propagation by cuttings; Return to pages 92-113
Demonstration: Different kinds of cuttings
Practical: Making cuttings
02/09 6 Field Trip to The Huntington’s Propagation Area
02/16 7 HOLIDAY - No Class
02/23 9 Instructor out of town – No Class
03/01 8 Lecture: Grafting and Budding
Demonstration: Grafting and budding
Practical: Grafting and budding
03/08 10 Lecture: Non-commercial Tissue Culture
Demonstration: Solution for tissue culture
Practical: Making material for tissue culture
03/15 11 Field Trip to Theodore Payne Foundation
12 Lecture: Grafting and other propagation techniques, Pages 75-91 and 114-123
Demonstration: Grafting a fruit tree
Practical: Graft a fruit tree

Class Meetings
To each class, in addition to your text, and any note-taking apparatus you deem necessary, each student should bring:
A ‘secateur’ type pruner (NOT an anvil pruner)
Gloves – leather are best
A grafting knife

These items will be described in our first class meeting.

There will be one final exam at the end of this course for credit students. It will consist of written material and a practical element as well. It will be incumbent upon credit students to notify the instructor as soon as possible of an emergency that prevents them from taking this exam and to supply the instructor with a verifiable excuse of absence. Upon fulfilling such requirements, the instructor will offer a make up exam which must, of necessity, be of a different form and content of the original exam. The instructor therefore assumes the prerogative of creating such make-up exam in any form of standard test procedures at his convenience and the fairness of such an exam his sole arbitration.

Instructor’s Office Hours
Please avail yourself of my willingness to meet with you at any time to discuss your progress in the course or to clarify instructional material or to answer any difficulties you are having. My preference is to meet with you at my office at The Learning Garden where we can cover material without distraction but I am willing to meet with students anytime, anywhere to assist you in learning; after all, that is the point your taking the class and my teaching it. It is my wish that all students learn and are profited by their enrollment in this course. Do not struggle; I am here to help.

Remember its location.

Guidelines for Meetings in The Garden
A garden is filled with uneven surfaces, rocks, plants with thorns and other armaments and an infinity of possibilities for injury; most of the time in this course we will be using very sharp tools which deserve your utmost attention at all times, please give due attention and consideration of this. Remain on pathways and do not walk into planted beds unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not pick anything without permission – it’s common courtesy.

A garden and the plants do not talk; I feel responsible as their spokesperson and take that responsibility seriously.

Food and drink are allowed, but the removal of any trash or waste is entirely incumbent on the eator and/or drinkor.

Appropriate clothing is essential. Remember, Venice can be hot and cold by turns. Layering is suggested; a jacket or sweater nearby is essential. We will meet regardless of weather. If it is a light rain/mist, we will continue work. If it is a gully-washer, we will be in a classroom and will carry on.

Point Assignment:
For Credit Students. It is more important to me that you learn the material above all other considerations. I will endeavor, through point assignment and the exam, in addition to lecture and demonstration to teach you in a way that will facilitate learning the material.
Checklist 30%
Final Exam 20%
Practical Application 30%
Class Participation 20%
TOTAL 100.00%

The Huntington
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108

Theodore Payne Foundation
10459 Tuxford Street
Sun Valley, CA 91352

02 January, 2008

Plant Propagation for Gardeners!

If you live in the Los Angeles area, it is possible for you to enroll in the UCLA Extension course, Plant Propagation for Gardeners that will meet on Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM at The Learning Garden. (You can contact me for directions.)

Of all the classes I teach, this is my favorite. It is held in the Garden because we DO plant propagation of all kinds. Starting with seed sowing, we move on through all the practical means of propagating plants asexually, including, cuttings of all kinds, division and grafting. Because the class is being held in Winter Quarter this year, we will be able to get rootstock and can graft apples from the trees in the Garden. We will propagate grapes, apples, figs, roses and some California natives plus a whole lot more. Field trips to The Huntington and Theodore Payne Foundation, where we get to see how they propagate, and even do some propagation at both places, are a part of the program. This provides students with several approaches to propagation and a wide variety of options that work, enabling them to find what works for them, rather than being presented only one right way.

The way I teach is to ask at the first meeting what the students want to learn and endeavor to teach them that so the class is completely accessible and useful to those who actually pay for the class.

The class meets on twelve Saturdays starting this coming Saturday, the 5th. And it IS a blast! Dress warm and be there at The Learning Garden this Saturday.

The Learning Garden is on the grounds of Venice High School (13000 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, 90066), directly at the corner of Walgrove Avenue and Venice Blvd. Enter the Garden through the gate on Walgrove closest to Venice Blvd. Prospective students may email me for my phone number if they wish more information.