How do seeds know when to germinate?

A seed is a plant embryo, ready to germinate and grow into a new individual. Although seeds cannot move on their own – instead relying on forces like wind, water, and animals to carry them around – they are able to detect when conditions are favorable to begin their new life.

Since a seed can only germinate once, after which it is fixed to its location, survival depends on making a good choice about when to germinate. The question of when, in this context, includes both place and time.

The basic requirements for a plant’s survival are soil, sunlight, and water. Thus, a seed will not germinate until it detects that it has good contact with soil, access to light, and a little bit of water. This one fact is very valuable for a gardener to know. To encourage a seed to begin growing, simply provide it with these three things. To prevent seeds from germinating, arrange your garden so that no location provides all three of these factors to any seeds that may arrive.

In addition to detecting conditions, plants can also track experiences. This helps them to avoid germinating at unfavorable times, in order to increase their chances of getting a good start in life. For example, the seeds of some plants will not germinate until they experience a cold period, followed by a warm period. This process, known as stratification, helps a plant ensure that it is germinating in the spring, so that it can maximize its growth before the arrival of the next winter.

Some seeds are equipped with a tough outer coating, and require a process called scarification to break through their shells and begin to grow. In nature, this requirement is normally satisfied by a trip through an animal’s digestive tract. That is, some seeds have evolved to not only survive being eaten, but to benefit from it! A gardener can mimic this process by rubbing seeds between two sheets of sandpaper.

Starting a garden from seed is fun and economical. Reputable seed sellers will provide information on what special conditions each type of seed needs in order to germinate.

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How do seeds know when to germinate?

What is seed saving?

Seed saving is the practice of collecting seeds and storing them to plant later.

In nature, of course, seeds distribute themselves, and new plants grow wherever their seeds happen to land. The purpose of collecting seeds is to carry them further than they would travel on their own, and plant them in carefully-chosen locations.

Seed saving has a long history in agriculture. In the past, farmers saved seeds so they could replant their crops the next year. Buying new seeds each spring was prohibitively expensive.

Today, it is often illegal for farmers to save seeds. This is because the crops they are growing are GMOs – genetically modified organisms. Because these plants are engineered, rather than naturally occurring, they and their genetic information belong to the company that created them. Since seeds contain these patented genes, they too belong to the company. This means that a farmer who saves seeds is engaging in theft of intellectual property.

Since backyard gardens usually don’t contain GMO plants, this generally isn’t a problem for homeowners. Seeds can be saved, planted in new locations around the yard, and shared with friends.

Seed saving is just one way in which natural yards help us become wealthy. Unlike cars, computers, houses, and other things of value, plants quietly make more of themselves. We can harvest this abundance and use it to provide for ourselves and our neighbors.

What is seed saving?

What is Diggers Hotline?

Diggers Hotline is a free service that locates and marks buried utility lines on your property.

To avoid expensive and dangerous accidents that can result from striking underground pipes or wires, it’s important to know where these lines are before doing any kind of digging, including digging related to gardening.

Diggers Hotline can be contacted at their website or by calling 811. Within a few days, they will send someone to your property to mark the lines with flags or paint. After that, simply avoid the marked area when digging in your garden.

When making a garden plan, it’s also important to look up! Avoid establishing tall plants, especially trees, under overhead lines.

While utility lines aren’t usually considered a type of site condition, being mindful of what plants you put near them can save a lot of trouble in the future.

What is Diggers Hotline?

What are all these birds?

All over the planet, birds are on the move. While some species tend to stay put year-round, others are known to migrate thousands of miles, across continents and hemispheres, between their summer breeding areas and their warmer winter homes.

This Saturday, May 14, people in over 100 countries will take part in a birdathon, aiming to observe as many bird species as possible. In last year’s event, participants were able to spot a total of over 6,000 bird species.

While there aren’t so many species here in Wisconsin, this week That Yard hosted four new types of birds, bring the local total to 43.

The new visitors are:

  • The brown thrasher, a loud but reclusive relative of mockingbirds.
  • The indigo bunting, an unmistakable bright blue songbird.
  • The ovenbird, recognizable by its slow, calm movements along the ground.
  • The Nashville warbler, a small yellow bird that moves quickly through low vegetation.

Adding in the eight mammal species that have been observed, That Yard has now recorded over 50 species of vertebrates. (There are definitely no fish, and no amphibians or reptiles have been confirmed.)

None of these animals have caused any damage or trouble. Sharing space with other beings is a joyful way to live!

What are all these birds?

How do you get rid of dandelions once and for all?

The answer to this question is the topic of the previous post: natural succession.

Dandelions are the type of plants that characterize early stages of succession. As anyone who has battled with them knows, they prefer areas with lots of sun and little competition.

The secret of getting rid of them, then, is to eliminate these conditions.

Most lawns, if left to their own devices, would move away from these conditions by turning into forests. Mowing prevents this progression by serving as an artificial disturbance. By preventing any plants from growing more than a couple of inches tall, mowing maintains a site characterized by low competition for light and space at ground level – exactly the conditions that dandelions love! So  long as a yard is kept in an early succession stage, early succession “weeds” will continue to move in.

In a natural yard that mimics a prairie, with native plants adapted to grow 2-3 feet high and thrive in Wisconsin’s climate, dandelions have no place to squeeze in. They cease invading such a yard, simply because the conditions there are not inviting to them.

How do you get rid of dandelions once and for all?