Let’s Plant Some Herbs ~ Explaining Propagation Terminology

plantpropagokSeed-starting is one of the easiest and enjoyable parts of herbal gardening, but some seeds require special consideration and procedures to ensure germination.

Cotyledon: The first leaf or one of the first pair of leaves to unfold as a seed germinates. Cotyledons generally do not resemble the plant’s actual leaves.

Damping Off: A fungal disease that causes seedling stems to shrivel and collapse at the soil level.

Dark-dependent germination: Seeds that need a light barrier in order to germinate. Most times, if there’s not quite enough darkness, the germination level may be reduced, but many seeds will still germinate.

Germination: The initial growth of a seed.

Inoculant: A bacterial microbe, usually found in powder or liquid form, that is applied directly to seeds in the Fabaceae {legume} family to improve germination.

Light-dependent germination: Seeds that require light to germinate. These seeds are pressed onto the surface of the soil and kept moist until germination occurs.

Multi-cycle germination: Seeds that require a warm cycle, a cold cycle, and another warm cycle before they germinate. This can sometimes require more than a year for germination.

Rooting hormone: A synthetic version of a natural plant hormone that can encourage root formation on stem cuttings. Commercial rooting hormones are available in garden centers and online in powder form, but they are not approved for organic use.

Scarification: The process of abrading the seed surface to make it more permeable. Some seeds have hard seed coats that need to be broken down so that they can germinate. In nature, this happens when they pass through the digestive tract of an animal or are exposed to rough, changeable weather conditions. You can mimic this process by gently rubbing the seeds with sandpaper, nicking them with a sharp knife {if they are large enough} or dropping them in boiling water and then letting them cool to room temperature.

Seed: A plant embryo and its supply of nutrients, often surrounded by a protective seed coat.

Seedling: A young plant grown from a seed.

Stratification: Exposing seeds to a period of cold to break dormancy. Cold stratification helps germinate seeds that would naturally go through freezing temperatures in the winter. You can either sow in the fall and leave the flat outdoors, where it will experience the natural rise and fall of the seasonal temperatures, or, if your winter is not frigid, you can artificially create those cool conditions: In a plastic bag, mix the seed with moist sand or vermiculite, label the bag, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 weeks. You can also place the bag in the freezer occasionally to simulate winter weather.