In gardening we are not talking about nuts and bolts or how fast you might want to chase away garden pests. The term “bolt” is more commonly used to describe plants that send up flowers and set seed too early. There are some plants that you don’t want to flower (and subsequently set seed). Vegetables like carrots, beets and lettuce, for example, will become woody or bitter as soon as the flower shoots begin to develop. Certain varieties of plants are more prone than others to “go to seed” or “bolt” if temperatures warm too much or vary from ideal and plants feel rushed to complete their annual or biennial life cycles. Starting plants early enough that they can comfortably finish their growth rather than rushing into flower will prevent the problem. Choosing varieties that are bred for your climate will help, too.
Growing heirloom flowers and edibles is currently very popular. There are many plants now bred for perfection on the market, but some people feel there is still a superior quality to the “good, old-fashioned” varieties. Heirloom seed comes from plants that have been grown for generations, the seed being open-pollinated, for the most part. Most have been selected to adapt best to local climates and conditions. These plants are less likely to have disease resistance bred into them. Some people believe the efforts made to produce strong, decorative and easily grown plants has all too often sacrificed beauty or flavor. Heirloom seed offers an alternative to the more heavily cultivated plants that dominate today’s gardening. Not all heirloom seeds are organically grown.
Hardy and tender plants and seeds
“Hardy” is used opposed to “tender” when describing how well a plant can handle frosty temperatures. Technically, it should also refer to the ability to tolerate all climatic adversity like heat, flooding, wind, lack of water and other conditions, but it is most commonly used for cold tolerance. Although most gardeners consider a hardy plant to be one that can tolerate a fair amount of frost and temperatures that can fall at least several degrees below freezing, the amount of hardiness depends on the plant. A true hardy plant can survive a hard freeze whereas a half-hardy plant is willing to flirt with a light frost or two without calling it quits. Hardy seeds can be planted when soils are warm enough to work even if there remains a threat of frost. Tender plants will die under 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but also can vary in their tolerance to cold. Some will die from cold in much warmer temperatures (like many true, tropical plants). Seeds from tender plants need to be planted indoors with protection when weather is cold or started outdoors only after it is warm enough to safely accommodate the needs of the particular plant.
The term ‘rosette’ is commonly used to describe plants that grow leaves around a central growth point making a circle of layers, much the way petals unfold in a rose. Some plants that grow in a rosette look flower-like, others are less obvious. Succulents like aloes, aeoniums and agaves (Century plants) demonstrate the spiral form of growth clearly whereas the lettuce is a little harder to notice. Most plants that grow in a rosette form are neat-looking in the garden. They conform well to container growing and can be used to good effect in a formal or controlled landscape design.
Anything perennial is something that happens over and over on a regular basis. Perennial plants are those that take a rest period every year, then continue to grow when conditions are amenable. A perennial plant should be chosen carefully and planted into the landscape with its mature size in mind. Some perennials stay small whereas others, like trees, grow to take up considerable space. Perennials bloom and set seed, but always save some energy to keep them alive through rest periods. Bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes are perennials just like shrubs and trees. Plan the living foundation of your garden with perennials, starting with the largest (like trees) and working down to the smallest (groundcovers and miniatures). While you wait for your perennial to grow, you can fill in vacant spaces with annuals or biennials. Often perennials will grow better with mild feeding as they can deplete soils where they live over a period of time.
Organic seeds are produced and harvested from organic plants – plants that are free from exposure to hormones, inorganic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. There are strict requirements for foods and seeds that are certified organic which include careful, detailed records making sure organic materials are not exposed to sewage sludge, synthetic chemicals, and other prohibited substances. Not all countries have the same regulations for certifying seed as organic.
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