Seed is the undeveloped embryo and food reserve of a plant enclosed in a protective covering. A scar on the seed coat, called the hilum, marks where the ovule was attached to the funicle. A pore, called the micropyle, opens to the outside during seed germination.
Seeds travel by wind or water, with some seeds (like orchids) having wings that help them drift away. They can also be carried in animals’ fur or by bird droppings.
What is a seed?
A seed is a fertilized ovule that can grow into a new plant given the right growing conditions. It has a hard protective outer shell (called a seed coat) and stored food inside called endosperm. An embryo, which is the beginning of a tiny plant, is also inside the seed.
A seed gets all the nutrients it needs from the endosperm while it is in a dormant state. It takes water and breaks down the storage material into simple compounds that are then absorbed by the embryo during a process called imbibition. This dormant state can last a long time depending on the species and environment. Once it has the energy it needs, a primary root grows from the embryo (called the radicle) into the soil during a process called germination. Seeds are classified into two groups based on how their cotyledons develop: gymnosperms, which have naked seeds, and angiosperms, which have seeds enclosed in ovaries.
What are the benefits of seeds?
Seeds are one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the plant world. They’re loaded with fibre, healthy fats, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
In addition to providing a source of plant-based protein, seeds are rich in magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and antioxidant polyphenols. They’re also a good source of the essential vitamin manganese.
Studies show that flaxseeds contain lignans, compounds that act like the female sex hormone estrogen and may help reduce cancer risk. They also support heart health by helping to lower cholesterol by binding with bile acids in the digestive tract.
Seeds are a simple and easy way to add a nutritional boost to any meal. Whether it’s chia seed pudding, roasted pumpkin seeds or pine nut pesto, there are endless ways to incorporate these tiny superfoods into your diet.
Where can I buy seeds?
A number of garden retailers sell a wide variety of seeds. Most have easy-to-navigate websites and detailed product information, including growing tips, key attributes, and when to plant for your climate. Some also offer a garden consultant service to help you pick the right seeds and answer your questions.
A worker-run cooperative in Mineral, Virginia, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange specializes in heirloom varieties well-suited to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast USA. Its online store includes a full selection of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants.
ILGM is a good option for first-time growers, thanks to its Buy 10 Get 10 Free deals and low shipping rates. They also have great customer support via email and an active forum with experienced growers who can answer your questions.
Burpee is another popular retailer with a large selection of seeds and supplies. They have a simple shopping interface and a good return policy. They also have a large selection of strains, including some high CBD options.
How do I start my seeds?
As gardeners, we love to flip through beautiful seed catalogs, each page filled with enticing vegetables, herbs and flowers that will grow well in our gardens. But before you buy, read the seed packet.
Most seeds have instructions on how and when to start them indoors or direct sow them in the garden. Look for phrases like, “start indoors eight weeks before last expected frost date.”
Fill a seed starting tray with a soilless seed-starting mix that is lightweight and easily drains. Then add water until it is moist but not wet. This allows the sterile seed-starting mix to retain moisture while allowing roots, when they form, to easily absorb water from above.
Very small seeds and those that need light to germinate should lie directly on the surface, rather than covered with a growing medium. As the seeds grow into seedlings, keep a planting journal to note when you sowed, their germination dates and how they fared in the garden.