In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
July, 2008
Regional Report

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Night-blooming cereus seeds line up like a marching band inside its 2-inch-long chambered seedpod.

Seeding and Reseeding

Unlike our northern neighbors, July means seeding and reseeding many favorite plants. So, the hornworms ate your tomatoes? Big deal. It's time to start seeds for fall tomatoes and other crops to set out next month in the tropical parts of our region. It's time to shop for transplants of the warm-season favorites along the southern coasts. Coastal gardeners can also start broccoli seed now to set out in a few weeks, and prepare the spinach bed by adding lime in time for it to mellow before September.

To start seeds most efficiently at this time of year, use sterile seed-starting mix to fill peat pots or use popular dehydrated pellets. Water your choice of planters just once before sowing seed of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Careful not to bury small seeds; simply press them into the damp surface and cover lightly. Soak Malabar and any other large seed for 2 hours before burying 1/2 inch deep.

Every plant, even seedless watermelon, makes at least an occasional seed, intended to start the next generation and thus preserve the species. Most make many more seed than necessary to simply continue their existence, and some can go dormant for years awaiting favorable conditions. Reseeding in place is a sweet habit of annual plants like Mexican hat, begonia, zinnia, and cleome. Simply remove the mulch from around these plants and watch for new babies after seedpods mature and fall.

Collectors' Favorites
Vigorous reseeders offer plenty of seed to save and share. It's important to know what you're passing along, particularly whether its flowers will be exactly like its parent. Hybrid plants result from the crossing of two strains, so the seedling from a hybrid may look like its parent, or one of its parent's parent. When a seed is described as a stable hybrid, like 'Sweet 100' tomato, its seeds will produce offspring like the parent.

Some open-pollinated seed, including species and many heirlooms, produces offspring like the parent, while others, like four o'clocks, can be counted on to "break" freely. This results in a crop of the seeds from one plant blooming in a variety of colors. Still others, such as petunias, nearly always revert to attributes two generations back, and seedlings can reveal interesting qualities like fragrance and pastel colors that were lost in the parent.


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