Having recently created the Gardening With Angus seed range with the aim of bringing some of our uniquely beautiful Australian plants to the home gardener, I would like to make this newsletter about growing plants from seed. The thing about raising many plant species from seed is that each seedling is a genetically unique individual in the same fashion as human beings (think of a family of siblings, not counting identical twins!). Raising plants from seed helps ensure that natural biodiversity is perpetuated and conserved in our gardens to complement the often-shrinking plant populations in the wild.
At a practical level, buying established plants from the nursery is one way to populate your garden, but growing from seed can be a cost-effective way to get more ‘bang for your buck’, with many potential plants encased in one pod or packet! Most of us think of commercial seed packets, but there are more sources of potential seeds all around us that will only cost your time and patience.
If you have never saved your own seed before, it is a good skill to learn, as it ensures a level of self sufficiency for gardeners. Plus, you get to say what you grow on in following years. Seed companies are more and more being dominated by large multinationals who tend to carry the most profitable and easy to grow lines. This means a less diverse range of plants growing in gardens and parks, which in turn supports less diversity of the associated fauna that rely on the plants in your garden as habitat such as butterflies, birds and bees, both native and exotic. Even those insects that cause damage to our plants such as aphids can also provide food for beautiful birds such as wrens and finches.
Planting a range of species with all sorts of characteristics such as colour, form, smells and flavour, and with various flowering and fruiting times will attract and feed many different pollinators, birds and other creatures. It also helps support the often hidden wildlife of fungi and bacteria which are so important to our soil health.
I’d like to encourage more growing and seed saving from not only annual flowers and vegetables (which helps to conserve heirloom varieties), but also native plants, as these support Australia’s unique wildlife species such as birds and pollinators. Our native bees are one of our hidden gems for example. Would you like to know more about our 1700 + native bee species? Click here for more info!
Native bees have evolved in Australia to feed from our own native plants, and can find it less attractive to forage on exotic plants, which will lead to more introduced bees dominating the local population. Introduced honeybees will not pollinate some native plants, leading to them not producing seed, and thus leading slowly and subtly to a change in our bushland. Or even worse, honeybees chew through the base of bird-pollinated flowers such as kangaroo paws to get to the nectar at the base, resulting in the flower being unable to be pollinated at all. You can skew the balance back to our native bee and bird populations by growing more local provenance plants, and one good way to do this is by propagation by seed.
Seed collecting for beginners
I could write some good tips on it, but the people from a not-for-profit called Rivers of Carbon have done a cracking good and thorough job, I recommend reading this before you start collecting and growing- https://riversofcarbon.org.au/handy-how-to-guide-collecting-and-caring-for-seed-from-australian-native-plants/
For one of my articles on growing natives from seed, read here>>>
Back in the days when I taught horticulture at TAFE level I was initially frustrated by the lack of plant propagation books that spoke from an Australian point of view. SO I decided to write on and use Australian plant examples to illustrate and educate on each propagation technique. For all sorts of propagation information why not purchase a copy of Let’s Propagate for your horticultural reference library https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au//product/lets-propagate/
I will also urge you to join the Australian Native Plants Society, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to Australian plants, where you will be able to learn so much about Australian plants, seed, propagation and more-
Bring on that biodiversity!