Garden Gnome: Book has helpful tips on seeds

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough

I was a little late for work the other day because just as I was getting in the car, I spotted the white puffs of seeds on the butterfly weed.


Considering how expensive the plants were, I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to harvest seeds. I have a collection from various flowers now, so much that there is no way I can use them all. Perhaps we could start a seed exchange. Let me know if you would like to join.

Thanks to Storey Publishing, which sent The Complete Guide To Saving Seeds, I have a better idea of how to turn all these seeds into plants.

The book by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough came out last summer, but summer is full of chores. I finally got a chance to give it a read this week. From basic botany to specific advice on individual plants, this is one cool book.

It explains how germination works. That’s the key to growing plants from seed. In nature, seeds fall weeks and months before germination can begin.

They remain dormant until conditions are right for the plant to develop. To convince seeds that the time is right requires stratification – a process of keeping seeds moist at specific temperatures best for each.

For example, Swiss chard seeds need to be soaked in water overnight before planting, according to the book – something not mentioned on the packets of seeds I have bought with dismal results.

Seeds from various irises I’ve collected need to be shaken in sharp sand or rubbed with sandpaper. They will need to germinate for a month, soaked for another then set at 50 degrees.

A toad lily that has done well for a couple of years in a large pot in the shade garden had seeds this year. According to the book, the seeds should be sowed at 68 degrees for a month, stratified for a month then moved to 50 degrees to germinate.

The note on toad lily says they are usually propagated by division, however.

I’m still going to give it a try.

I can’t count the number of avocado seeds that have sat half submerged in water at our place. Not a single one ever sprouted roots. According to the book, dipping the seed in hot water, 120 to 125 degrees, for 30 minutes before planting will reduce pathogens. And they allegedly will germinate readily if planted in soil. No more avocado torturing at our place.

Check out the local bookstores for a copy of The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds.

You also can order from the publisher: (413) 346-2100 or


Jan. 14 is the next session of the basic horticulture classes presented by the Augusta Council of Garden Clubs. Trees and shrubs will be the topic presented by Cathy Black, Suzanne Thomas and Laura Sheets. The $25 class also includes a tour of Augusta State University, lunch and snacks. To register, contact Ginny Allen at (706) 736-6793 or



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