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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seed Viability Charts

There are various simple tests for viability. One is to dampen a plain white paper towel and fold it in half, place a few seeds on one half of the towel and fold it in half again over the seeds, enclose it in a zip lock sandwich bag and place it in an environment appropriate to the seed's germination requirements (light, dark, warm, cool, etc.). After a week or so, check to see if any sprouts have appeared. Usually, for large tests, make 10 rows of 10 seeds.  All that germinate will give you the percentage of viability.  

Carol Deppe - one of my seed saving/seed starting heroes - says the only thing she learned from seed viability charts was that onions barely last a season and everyone disagrees about all the other life expectancy figures.  Sometimes wildly.  If your project is very important, do a seed germination tests - we call them "germ tests" for short.

Some seeds, such as peas, can be tested for viability by placing them in a bowl of water. Those that float are sterile (contain no embryo and are therefore lighter); those that sink are likely to be viable.

Seeds Simplified

Seeds Simplified
For Class
1. New lecture notes
2. Roster
3. Pruners etc
4. Find seeds to test for germination
5. Find seeds to plant
6. Discuss different sizes of seeds for planting
7. The quiz (START)
8. Germ tests
9. Planting

    "To 'keep the seeds alive'—both literally and metaphorically—they must be planted, harvested, and replanted, just as human culture must become truly engaging and meaningful to the soul, as necessary as food is to the body. The viable seeds of spirituality and culture that lie dormant within us need to “sprout” into broad daylight to create real sets of cultures welcome on Earth." From a book review for The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive by Martin Prechtel

Our choices as a society have never been so starkly clear nor so hotly contested as they are now. In a case before the Supreme Court regarding the patenting of seeds, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts asked “Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” neglecting, I suppose out of absent-mindedness and not out of ignorance, that this is precisely the model that humankind has followed since we first began to save seeds, and therefore, most of the food we eat today was developed along that model.

    What does comidification equal? Enslavement?

Single celled plants
Multi-cellular plants that were very little more than an aggregate of cells, no circulation system, liver worts, lichens, preparing the atmosphere for animals over thousands of years – Native American cosmologies

Advent of ferns and others: spores – central systems

Finally the gymnosperms

Then the angiosperms (Magnolia)
The plants we save seeds from are all angiosperms
Seeds only come from female flowers


Individual plant sexuality
    • Many plants have complete flowers that have both male and female parts in each flower – botanists have called these “Perfect” flowers
    Hermaphrodite, a plant that has only bisexual reproductive units i.e. flowers, In angiosperm terminology a synonym is monoclinous from the Greek "one bed". Dioecious refers to a plant population having separate male and female plants.
    • Others only have male or female parts: Monoecious, an individual that has both male and female reproductive units that are separate (flowers, conifer cones, or functionally equivalent structures) on the same plant; from Greek for "one household".


Many plants have complete flowers that have both male and female parts others only have male or female parts still other plants have flowers on the same plant that are a mix of male and female flowers.

Some plants even have mixes that include all three types of flowers, where some flowers are only male, some are only female and some are both male and female.

Hermaphrodite, plants whose flowers have both male and female parts, usually called 'perfect flowers.'

Monoecious plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. A plant population where the male and female organs are found in different flowers on the same plant. Examples of monoecious plants include squash, cucumbers, corn,

Dioecious, all plants are either female or male. Spinach,

About 11% of all angiosperms are strictly dioecious or monoecious. Intermediate forms of sexual dimorphism, including gynodioecy and androdioecy, represent 7% of the species examined of a survey of 120,000 plant species. In the same survey, 10% of the species contain both unisexual and bisexual flowers.

Flower morphology

The Asteraceae or sunflower family with close to 22,000 species, have highly modified inflorescences that are flowers collected together in heads composed of a composite of individual flowers called florets. Heads with florets of one sex, when the flowers are pistillate or functionally staminate, or made up of all bisexual florets, are called homogamous and can include discoid and liguliflorous type heads. Some radiate heads may be homogamous too. Plants with heads that have florets of two or more sexual forms are called heterogamous and include radiate and disciform head forms, though some radiate heads may be heterogamous too.

Seeds only happen in female flowers.
Pollination (Sex with flowers) (Birds and the Bees)

Ways plants are pollinated:
Self – perfect flowers (hermaphrodite)
Animals zoophily including bats, birds,
Insects Entomophily bees, wasps and occasionally ants ,beetles, moths and butterflies 
Air Anemophily or wind pollination dominate in grasses (i.e. grain) Abiotic
Water  Hydrophily  Abiotic

The American Institute of Biological Sciences reports that native insect pollination saves the United States agricultural economy nearly an estimated $3.1 billion annually through natural crop production;[30] pollination produces some $40 billion worth of products annually in the United States alone.
Pollination of food crops has become an environmental issue, due to two trends. The trend tomonoculture means that greater concentrations of pollinators are needed at bloom time than ever before, yet the area is forage poor or even deadly to bees for the rest of the season. The other trend is the decline of pollinator populations, due to pesticide misuse and overuse, new diseases and parasites of bees, clearcut logging, decline of beekeeping, suburban development, removal of hedges and other habitat from farms, and public concern about bees. Widespread aerial spraying for mosquitoes due to West Nile fears is causing an acceleration of the loss of pollinators.
The US solution to the pollinator shortage, so far, has been for commercial beekeepers to become pollination contractors and to migrate. Just as the combine harvesters follow the wheat harvest from Texas to Manitoba, beekeepers follow the bloom from south to north, to provide pollination for many different crops.


A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant. The formation of the seed completes the process of reproduction in seed plants (started with the development of flowers and pollination), with the embryo developed from the zygote and the seed coat from the integuments of the ovule.

Metabolism in seeds
    Seeds are metabolizing all the time – they breathe because they are alive. This respiration is very slow and slight. Still, a large quantity of beans in a sealed container can exhaust the available oxygen in the jar can render all the seeds nonviable.
    Germination is the growth of a plant contained within a seed; it results in the formation of the seedling, it is also the process of reactivation of metabolic machinery of the seed resulting into the emergence of radicle and plumule. The seed of a vascular plant is a small package produced in a fruit or cone after the union of male and female reproductive cells. All fully developed seeds contain an embryo and, in most plant species some store of food reserves, wrapped in a seed coat. Some plants produce varying numbers of seeds that lack embryos; these are called empty seeds[1] and never germinate. Dormant seeds are ripe seeds that do not germinate because they are subject to external environmental conditions that prevent the initiation of metabolic processes and cell growth. Under proper conditions, the seed begins to germinate and the embryonic tissues resume growth, developing towards a seedling.

Seed germination depends on both internal and external conditions. The most important external factors include right temperature, 
oxygen or air 
and sometimes light or darkness. 

Conversely, saving seeds requires almost the opposite – seeds must be stored in dry, cool, and dark conditions. Like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault - The seeds are stored in four-ply sealed envelopes, then placed into plastic tote containers on metal shelving racks. The storage rooms are kept at −18 °C (−0.4 °F). The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging. The permafrost surrounding the facility will help maintain the low temperature of the seeds should the electricity supply fail.

Various plants require different variables for successful seed germination. Often this depends on the individual seed variety and is closely linked to the ecological conditions of a plant's natural habitat. For some seeds, their future germination response is affected by environmental conditions during seed formation; most often these

Germination rate and germination capacity

In agriculture and gardening, the germination rate describes how many seeds of a particular plant species, variety or seedlot are likely to germinate over a given period. It is a measure of germination time course and is usually expressed as a percentage, e.g., an 85% germination rate indicates that about 85 out of 100 seeds will probably germinate under proper conditions over the germination period given. The germination rate is useful for calculating the seed requirements for a given area or desired number of plants. In seed physiologists and seed scientists "germination rate" is the reciprocal of time taken for the process of germination to complete starting from time of sowing. On the other hand, the number of seed able to complete germination in a population (i.e. seed lot) is referred as germination capacity.

Dicot germination
The part of the plant that first emerges from the seed is the embryonic root, termed the radicle or primary root. It allows the seedling to become anchored in the ground and start absorbing water. After the root absorbs water, an embryonic shoot emerges from the seed. This shoot comprises three main parts: the cotyledons (seed leaves), the section of shoot below the cotyledons (hypocotyl), and the section of shoot above the cotyledons (epicotyl). The way the shoot emerges differs among plant groups.[2]

General Propagation Methods and Application

Lecture: General Propagation Methods and Application; Pages 47-91; pests and diseases and methodology to deal.
Demonstration: Sharpening Knives and Pruners

TEST: Primarily on Cuttings and Safety

Grow seedlings/cuttings that are healthy. Take from healthy plants. Make sure the seeds have been stored properly within the time limits of the species you are working with.

Pests of seedlings/cuttings

damping off – fungal from a number of different pathogens; conditions for growth: cold damp soil, old seed, and lack of air circulation
Treatment: use fresh seeds, keep the temperature closer to ideal temperature of that plant and use a fan to encourage decent air circulation

fungus gnats – small airborne insects; conditions for growth: very wet soil with decaying organic matter; adult flies do not harm plants – but the larvae can damage your seedlings
Treatment: don't over water or overfeed with fertilizers, keep air circulating, avoid any manure in fertilizers; there is a commercial dunk that

If you get a disease or insects, minimize the damage by acting quickly and decisively. Those containers affected should be sterilized before reuse!

Points of growth

2016 CRFG Scion Exchanges

Asian Citrus Psyllid/Huanglongbing is a widespread problem in California, Arizona and Texas. Thus no citrus or citrus family (including curry leaf) material is allowed at CRFG scion exchanges. Chapters can order guaranteed clean citrus material from the Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP). How to order from CCPP:

Tips for attending a scion exchange: 
  • - To repeat: DO NOT bring citrus or citrus family (e.g. curry leaf) plants/plant material.
  • - DO NOT bring scionwood from patented varieties. You can search the US Patent and Trademark Office site to be really sure something's actually out of patent.
    US Plant Patents last 20 years from the date of filing. If you cannot definitively prove it's not under current patent, don't bring it to the exchange. Lists of varieties still under patent, although neither list is complete: 
    Jason Sutor's list and Dave Wilson's List
  • - If you're bringing scions, make sure you label them by species and variety. (e.g. Apple 'Hudson's Golden Gem'). If you don't know the variety, just say something like "Mystery apple" but add what you know about it like its harvest time. Sanitize your pruners when clipping scions to prevent spreading plant diseases.
  • This video covers in detail how to collect, store and label your scions.
  • - Bring plastic bags, a permanent marker or labels so that you can keep track of what you're picking up at the exchange. Maybe even bring a shoulder bag to put the labelled baggies into as you amass more material.
  • - Ask your chapter in the weeks ahead if they need any help. Volunteers often get in early and get first pick of the scions as reward for their help. Volunteers are what keep CRFG running!
  • - Make sure your CRFG membership is up-to-date because many chapters have discounts and/or members-only hours for their exchanges.
  • - Bring cash. Sometimes there are things for sale and the seller/chapter has no way of processing credit cards or the time to hassle with checks. Making sure you've got cash will save you from disappointment.

Winter 2016 Propagation Checklist


Sow small seeds (one six pack)

Sow medium seeds (one six pack)

Sow large seeds (one quart)

Pot on seedlings


Plant Type
Divide perennial 1

Divide perennial 2

    * Initial means instructor's initials


Plant Type
    1st rose

2nd rose

Fig tree ( 4 cuttings)

Grape (6 cuttings)

Pomegranate (4)

Root stock (8)

Leaf cutting

Grafting (three only)

Scion/Root stock
Chip Budding


Saddle graft

Cleft or Bark Graft

Whip Graft

The Winter Syllabus

(I thank you for your patience for the time it has taken to get these posted.  I was sick for over two weeks in February and only now am feeling human again.  This post will be followed by many others leading up - in a couple of hours from now - I hope to be completely current by the end of today...")


Instructor: David King
Phone: 310.722.3656

There are no prerequisites for this course, although some knowledge of basic botany is extremely helpful. We meet on Sundays from January 11 through March 29 for 10 meetings, nine on Sunday and one Saturday field trip.
In our field trip we will attend the WLA chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers meeting on February 14th, from 10:00 to noon. This is the day of their annual ‘Scion Exchange’ and is not to be missed if you can help it. There is no other forum in Los Angeles that offers a better introduction to grafting!
All other meetings are on Sunday 1:30 to 4:30 PM to The Learning Garden, at the Venice High School campus. This site is close to the ocean and because we meet outside or in a poorly heated classroom, please dress appropriate to the weather, which is invariably colder than one would imagine. We will do what we can to mitigate the cold and rain, should it come, but the material of the class is best covered with live plant material in the garden – which, of course, is outside.
We will also be working with potting soils and cut plant material in almost every single class, gloves will probably be desired. Dress so that you can comfortably get dirty and still stay dry. Dressing in layers is probably the best idea when it comes to being outdoors at The Learning Garden.

Course Purpose

This course is an introduction to the principles and practice of plant propagation, both sexual and asexual, and the science and art of grafting and budding.

Course Objectives

  1. Understand the care and safe use of tools in plant propagation.
  2. Understand the biology of sexual and asexual propagation of plants.
  3. Understand and use the different styles of propagation of plants.
  4. Be able to create or craft and use a plant propagation system.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the above by propagating different species of plants.
  6. Understand the physiology of plants sufficiently to be able to successfully bud and graft a variety of plants.


The materials presented in this course will enable the student to start plants from seeds and cuttings, in an amateur or professional setting and graft woody plants with a working understanding of the scientific underpinnings of the process. While we are working mostly with food plants, these techniques cross easily to ornamental plants.

Text for this course

Plant Propagation A to Z – Bryant; Firefly Books, 2003 It is readily available online or in the appropriate UCLA Bookstore. There will be many additional handouts from the instructor. Reading assignments in this syllabus are from this book only. Please note, The Grafter's Handbook – Garner; Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013, has been reprinted. It has been and still is the most authoritative book on propagation in or out of print. This book is a wonderful reference book for someone involved in grafting. Unlike the modern books that only show a few grafts, this one shows grafts for all kinds of plant work and as such, is essential for one who wishes to make this work a part of a skill set.
All material for in class will be available online at Additionally, I invite all of you to join the group, Greener Gardens, on Facebook. Handouts are put there as well, and students use the group to contact one another – I also post other items of interest for you. I try to not have handouts in class to avoid wasting paper printing handouts you may not care to keep and using the internet allows us to use videos (especially of grafting) you may find helpful.

Class Meetings

To each class meeting, in addition to any note-taking tools you deem necessary (paper, camera, tape recorder etc), each student should bring propagation tools that will be described in our first class meeting; please don't purchase a lot of stuff until then. You will need pruners, a grafting knife, a regular pocket knife (or one knife with two blades for different purposes), a black, permanent Sharpie, a sharp pencil and a sturdy pair of gloves – leather preferred. If you are unsure of what to buy, buy NOTHING until after the first class meeting – we will not be using most of these items until later.


Your grade in this class is based on a checklist you will keep and two short exams. You need to be able to perform each of the tasks on the log with sufficient skill and understanding of the process in order to receive a passing grade in this course. The completed checklist must be turned in the last day of class unless other arrangements have been made before hand with the instructor. I reserve the right to administer quizzes throughout the course to insure comprehension. They will count in your participation score.

Instructor’s Office Hours

Please avail yourself of my willingness to meet with you at any time to discuss your progress in the course or to clarify instructional material or to answer any difficulties you are having. My preference is to meet with you at my office at The Learning Garden where we can cover material without distraction but I am willing to meet with students anytime, anywhere to assist you in learning; after all, that is the point your taking the class and my teaching it. It is my wish that all students learn and are profited by their enrollment in this course. Do not struggle; I am here to help.

At The Learning Garden:


Remember its location.
I’m very serious... So far only two students have had to have emergency medical treatment. I don't like adding to that number. It's hard enough to get students without killing them off.

A garden is filled with uneven surfaces, rocks, plants with thorns and other armaments and an infinity of possibilities for injury; most of the time in this course we will be using very sharp tools which deserve your utmost attention at all times, please give due attention and consideration of this. Remain on pathways and do not walk into planted beds unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not pick anything without permission.

Food and drink are allowed, but the removal of any trash or waste is entirely incumbent on the eator and/or drinkor. I will hold you responsible.

We will probably have hot tea and coffee to mitigate the cool weather we anticipate needing to endure. Bring your own cup or mug and any eating utensils you feel you need. I drink my coffee black – if you want sugar or cream, it's on you.

Appropriate clothing is essential. Remember, Venice can be hot and cold by turns. Layering is suggested; a jacket or sweater close at hand is essential. We will meet regardless of weather. If it is a light rain/mist, we will continue work. If it is a gully-washer (as though we get those in Southern California), we will meet in a classroom and carry on.

Point Assignment

For Credit Students. It is more important to me that you learn the material above all other considerations. I will endeavor through point assignment, lecture and demonstration to teach you in a way that will facilitate learning the material. If you aren’t understanding, please allow me to help you.

Tools You Will Need

Each student shall provide:

Pair of pruners – secateur type, like Felco #2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 or 13. No anvil pruners allowed EXCEPT for those students with hand pain or arthritis that must use the ratcheting type of pruners. Felcos can be bought on the internet (eBay) for much less than most local sources; I am also a Felco distributor and carry several models at a very competitive price. Coronas and other secateur pruners are OK, although if you have ever used Felcos, you can appreciate why I am so fond of them.

Pruning knifeonly used for plants. It is suggested that everyone also have a second knife for all the other needs in a garden. If one does not plan on doing a great deal of propagation needing a sharp knife, an inexpensive knife with break-away blades available from many local stores may be used. Grafting knives and horticultural knives are also found for reasonable amounts on eBay and other internet connections; I also have a selection of inexpensive pruning knives from Swiss Army. No one should feel pressured to buy my items – I only have them because they can be hard to find locally and often all you can find are the really expensive Felcos which you don't need.

Pair of gloves – leather is preferred, some folks like to have more than one.

Sharpie – fine point, only black will not wash off

Pencil sharp, wooden (the Learning Garden does have a sharpener)

You will need to take notes, so paper is necessary – may I suggest you take notes in pencil because it won’t run if it gets wet and a pencil is a wonderful small dibber in a pinch.

The Garden (or instructor) will provide as needed:
Cactus mix and potting soil
Watering devices
Root stimulating gel
Other tools and supplies as needed
Oil, sharpening devices, cleaners and rags for pruner and knife maintenance
Alcohol wipes, Listerine and hand soap.
Plant material/seeds
First aid kit
Plant markers

If you forget your pruners or knife, I do have a few of each, and while I do have gloves, a pair that fits your hand is preferred (and a pair of gloves are somewhat personal too). I can sharpen your pruners and we will learn how in this course.

Lecture: Introduction – roll, Extension policy, meeting time and place, attendance and tardiness, tools etc. Tour Garden. Tool selection, care and safety. Sexual and asexual propagation defined. Introduction to the different arts of propagation. Botany as applied to propagation.
Demonstration: Cutting scions for the exchange
Practical: Harvesting scionwood
Lecture: Meristematic tissue and the principles of propagation by cuttings; Pages 92-113; soil mixes for propagation
Demonstration: Different kinds of cuttings
Practical: Making cuttings

Lecture: General Propagation Methods and Application; Pages 47-91; pests and diseases and methodology to deal.
Demonstration: Division of perennials
Practical: Dividing perennial plants
TEST: Primarily on Cuttings and Safety *
Lecture: Seeds, structure, germination and viability, collection, storage. Propagation, pages 47-74; seed starting problems and their solution.
Demonstration: Scarification/Seed sowing
Practical: Sowing seeds of different sizes
Field Trip to California Rare Fruit Growers


Lecture: More grafting and possibilities/Budding
Demonstration: Another graft & budding
Practical: More grafting
Lecture: California Native Propagation
Demonstration: Fire scarification of a California native
Practical: Transplanting seedlings
TEST: Grafting Principles and Seeds
Lecture: Propagating ornamentals; Katarina Ericksen
Demonstration: Ornamental propagation
Practical: Propagating something unusual.
Lecture: Covering all things left uncovered.
Demonstration: As dictated by circumstances.
Practical: Work on your checklist. (Student evaluation of instructor/course…) FINISHING REQUIREMENTS FOR CREDIT STUDENTS

Our Class Meeting Locations

The Learning Garden

13000 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
310.722.3656 (my cell)
The Garden is located on the south east corner of Walgrove Avenue and Venice Blvd. It is the first gate on Walgrove south of Venice – there is a small amount of parking inside the gate, there is no other secured parking, other than those few spaces, you are on the street and on your own. DO NOT PARK ON THE CAMPUS PROPER.

California Rare Fruit Growers, West Los Angeles Chapter

Scion Exchange meeting on February 14 10:00 AM, Veteran's Community Building, Overland Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232 *subject to change – depending on the CRFG's arrangements.

Tool Suppliers:
Search online at eBay and other buying services, but the following companies, in addition to myself, reliably have the tools you need and prices that are competitive. I know of no local company that supplies the ones I think are best.
A.M. Leonard (AKA The Gardeners Edge) They have everything and they make good house brands of knives and pruners.
Frost Proof Garden Supply A good source for many common garden tools including pruners and grafting knives and associated supplies. If you really want to splurge, they sell the Tina line of grafting knives. Truly beautiful works of art.
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Felco and Corona pruners, inexpensive Swiss Army grafting knives. A good choice.
Scoring For Grading in This Class

In Person Participation

Attendance alone is insufficient for full credit in this assessment section.
Propagation Checklist

Online quizzes


* Please note: ALL students take both tests even the not-for-credit students, I want to gauge your learning/my effectiveness in teaching this material. The same is true of pop-quizzes when given.

Contents of this site, text and photography, are copyrighted 2009 through 2017 by David King - permission to use must be requested and given in writing.