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Old 09-30-2014, 10:41 PM   #1
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Default Potting up seedlings

I've done quite a bit of cold stratification in my fridge this summer. Some species were more successful than others, and I've had some issues keeping things thriving once I pot them up.
Here's my method:
Moist sand in a ziplock bag in the fridge for the proper time frame. Then bags are placed, closed, on a window sill until after germination. When I get a decent germination I open the bags and let things grow a bit, spraying frequently but not dousing in water. When I'm satisfied I won't be getting any new plants coming up I delicately remove the seedlings from the bag (often taking the little ball of sand with the roots) and potting in a topsoil, sand, peat, perlite mix. I can't tell you proportions because I usually just wing it while mixing. I water from the bottom and keep them in the shade outside.

This is when things usually start dying. Even the ones that have made it a couple months haven't thrived at all and are barely hanging on. I've got to be doing something wrong. Am I missing a step? Am I adding something I shouldn't? Leaving something out? How do you transition your bagged seedlings to pots?

I thought the hard part would be getting them to germinate, but as this bag of Lobelia siphilitica shows, Potting up seedlings-image.jpg I've got germination down pretty good on most stuff. Which brings me to my second question, how do you separate such TINY seedlings?! I was afraid to pull apart my joe pyes, and I waited so long they died in the bag I can't think of anything precise yet delicate enough to tease them apart. In the future I will try to put fewer seeds in the bag, but they're just so tiny.

I've got a lot of seedlings almost ready to pot up, and now I'm scared I'll kill them all. What should I do?!

FYI on my most recent potting attempt I did use some time release fertilizer pellets and plan to keep that as part of my routine, unless someone has a better idea.
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Old 10-01-2014, 03:39 PM   #2
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You might try rinsing to separate them in a shallow tray of water, maybe a folded wet paper towel on one of the tray to segregate your babies onto, I wouldn't try to rinse the whole clump at once, maybe just a spoonful at a time.

Once potted, some mild liquified fertilizer in your sprinkler can might come in handy. Calcium carbonate is used for strong leaves & stems. I can't say for sure 'this is what I do' because I haven't had much luck yet with baby plants, but I keep trying...I like your sand in a bag idea.

If those babies are as small as the ones in your picture, after potting them, I would cover with a light layer of leaves.

ww
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Old 10-01-2014, 05:04 PM   #3
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Sorry that you are losing so many after such success.

I have never tried cold stratification in the fridge, I just gather seed, store them, and plant them out in potting soil mid-winter--but note, some species' seeds can't be stored and must be planted immediately...I believe bloodroot is one of them...not sure what else may fall into that category.

I'm not sure if you would find better results if you tried this method...letting nature provide the freezing and thawing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by disuhan View Post
I can't think of anything precise yet delicate enough to tease them apart. In the future I will try to put fewer seeds in the bag, but they're just so tiny.
I saw something about using an old fork to tease the crowded seedlings apart...and tried that this spring. It seemed to work well, but I didn't have enough patience to do them all singly, but even a clump of 3-5 seedlings or so isn't bad when one has hundreds of seedlings.

Let us know how things work out.
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Old 10-01-2014, 05:11 PM   #4
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If you want to read up on how I've been planting my seeds and seedlings, check these out:

A Native Backyard: planting seeds

A Native Backyard: seedlings

A Native Backyard: seeds germinating
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Old 10-01-2014, 07:46 PM   #5
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Thank you for sharing your links dap. I am going to try your process this winter. I bought some potting soil, seeds, and I have lots of pots I can use. Your instructions and pictures were very helpful. I'm really hoping mine will work as well as yours have.
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Old 10-02-2014, 08:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EllenW View Post
Thank you for sharing your links dap. I am going to try your process this winter. I bought some potting soil, seeds, and I have lots of pots I can use. Your instructions and pictures were very helpful. I'm really hoping mine will work as well as yours have.
I'm so glad that you found them helpful, Ellen. I know you've been wanting to try growing your own lately. Hopefully, now, you have a clearer idea of what I did...and I didn't have to try typing it all up again from memory.

Lately, I've been wanting to try to grow species with berries, but I have to learn what kind of treatment they require.
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Old 10-03-2014, 08:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dapjwy View Post
Lately, I've been wanting to try to grow species with berries, but I have to learn what kind of treatment they require.
Berries are easier than you might imagine.

1. Ripe berries
2. Crush them with you hand into a strainer (smaller holes than the seeds) and mash the pulp.
3. Rinse out as much pulp as possible.
4. Let sit out and let the remaining pulp rot off the seed.
5. Plant according to stratification needs.
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Old 10-05-2014, 10:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockerBOO View Post
Berries are easier than you might imagine.

1. Ripe berries
2. Crush them with you hand into a strainer (smaller holes than the seeds) and mash the pulp.
3. Rinse out as much pulp as possible.
4. Let sit out and let the remaining pulp rot off the seed.
5. Plant according to stratification needs.

Thanks, rockerBOO...I'm going to have to try it some time--why should I keep putting it off!?!

I guess I thought that some of them required the stomach acids of birds for them to germinate--or an approximation of it if we do it ourselves. I guess the "Plant according to stratification needs." is what has been holding me back.
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Old 10-05-2014, 09:28 PM   #9
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Disuhan, you might have better success if you just winter sow most of your seeds in milkjugs or pots (like Dap does). I directly plant almost all of my seeds in pots or milkjugs because tiny seeds produce tiny seedlings, and I feel that disturbing those roots once they germinate is just too stressful on tiny plants. There are a few seeds I do cold stratify in the fridge, but they are ones that have to stay moist immediately after harvesting (like buckeyes, spicebush, and magnolia seeds). Those are also BIG seeds, so they are easy to deal with.

I have found that I love using milkjugs to winter sow because they create a sort of mini greenhouse. Also, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a high quality potting mix. My absolute favorite is ProMix BX with Mycorrhizae. Once your seedlings sprout and have their first set of true leaves, you should start feeding them with some dilute (1/4 strength) fertilizer to help them get a good start.

Here a few pictures. Sorry some are not super clear, but it will give you a good idea. Once the seedlings are big enough, you can flip the milkjug open to give them more room.
Potting up seedlings-photo-1-small-.jpg

Potting up seedlings-photo-2-small-.jpg

Potting up seedlings-photo-3-small-.jpg

Potting up seedlings-photo-4-small-.jpg
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Old 10-05-2014, 10:47 PM   #10
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Thanks for the tips. I do winter sow but because I'm so impatient I wanted to germinate some stuff in summer too.

I just re-read Cullina's guide on potting seedlings in his wildflower propagation book, and it turns out I'm waiting too long. He says he transplants most things when the cotyledons fully expand. That means I've been waiting WAY too long. I'm going to transplant 9 baggies full of seedlings tomorrow.
Potting up seedlings-image.jpg
And I'm excited to see today that my Aquilegia canadensis which I took out of the fridge over a month ago and had given up on germinated! Only 2/20 seeds, but hey, it's something!

I will also be using some liquid fertilizer from now on. I was deterred from liquid by an employee saying it dissolves too quickly and the time release pellets are much better. I'll use those for long term stuff but not seedlings. They need quick acting help.

I'm also building a cold frame this week, which I will use to house my seedlings until spring. It's way too cold at night now to put seedlings outside, which I have been doing for lack of anywhere else to put them.

I think I might try some milk jugs this winter. The pictures help - looks easy enough!
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