Monday, October 22, 2007

Seed #6 - Looking Good

It's been a while since I've posted - look how much my seedlings have grown! From my original April batch, I only have five sequoias left. I'm confident that these remaining will stick around through next year, so long as I make sure to keep them out of the frost this winter.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tree Seedling #11 - Two Days Without Water

About a month ago, I thought my older sequoias were okay for a couple of days without watering... Apparently I was wrong. One of my three two-year-olds started turning brown. I was hoping that only parts of the tree had died, and that the tree would bounce back - no luck. Within a couple of weeks, the whole tree was gone. I had read that if sequoia roots dried up, the tree would die. Apparently that is the case. My wife's calling this our Charlie Brown Xmas Tree...

Oh well, 'makes for a pretty desktop wallpaper.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Seed #14 - Growing Fast

In the past week, the branches have more than doubled in size and are now growing branches of their own.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tree Seedling #11 - The Superstar

Here's tree #11, my favorite of seedlings purchased from Welker's.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Makeshift Greenhouse

I spent tonight putting together a little greenhouse for my seedlings. This should diffuse the hot summer sunlight but still allow airflow through the sides.

It basically consists of a 2'x4' table, bent rigid wire, 1/2" wood dowels, 1"x2" board, 3mil translucent tarp, and a bunch of staples and duct tape. I'm going to have to find a more permanent solution than duct tape - it'll fall off within a couple of days, but the staples should - for the most part - hold it together until I find that solution.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Seed #14 - Branches

Seed #9 - Branches

Seed #6 - Branches

I couldn't be happier with this little guy. You can make out at least two of the branches in this photo. I was a little concerned about the wind blowing it over, but so far, it's handling it like a champ.

Moving Day

I decided it was time to stop coddling my little sprouts. At this point, all of my seedlings had a good amount of secondary leaves and seemed ready to be moved out of the grow lights.

I had originally planned on keeping them in the lights for a long time, but changed my mind when I saw how the lights treated two of my older seedlings. I had a two-year-old and a one-year-old under the lights for three weeks. At the end of the period, the leaves had turned a deep blue-green color, and the trunks didn't seem as rigid. The color is an indication that the leaves were adjusting to find the best color to absorb the artificial light.

The color of a leaf shows the light waves that its chlorophyll reflects, and thus, doesn't absorb. Since the leaves were a little more blue than the ones outside, I can deduce that my lights are lacking in (at least) the blue spectrum.

As for why the trunks seemed less rigid - that may be due to there being no wind in my garage, that the light may not be bright enough, or that it's only really reaching the top parts of the tree, giving too little to the tree overall.

Anyway, the tree seedlings have spent two days in full sun with nothing but positive signs. The soil mixture is well-draining enough that I'll have to water these every day, possibly twice when it's really hot outside. I'm going to play it safe and keep the trees close to the house to protect them from heavy wind and rain.

In this photo are my coast redwoods, giant sequoias, and bristlecone pines.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Seed #13 - Transplant

This was my last of five sequoia seedlings that has made it this far. I transplanted it into the same soil mixture previously mentioned.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Seed #6 - Transplant

Seed #6 has always been the tallest. While under the grow lights, it's really grown significantly, now working on its first branches.

When transplanting from a cel-pack, it's important to (carefully) use a razor to cut the plastic away from the root ball. These little plants are still so delicate. If you disturb the soil, it could tear the thin root hairs - if you're lucky enough as to not snap the stem first. When cutting, you need to remember that there may be roots up against the plastic, so try to keep the razor from slicing into the soil. You're probably going to lose a few root ends, but it's better than killing the seedling all together.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Seed #5 - Transplant

Another little guy that's done just fine under the grow lights. I gotta say that if not for the lights, I think I would have lost half of my seed seedlings while on vacation. They weren't growing very fast, and the damp peat moss was starting to damp them off, rotting the roots away.

The transplanted seedlings are going to love their new soil. I have a few more that are ready to move - I'll post them as they move.

Seed #14 - Transplant

The grow lights have been kind to this little guy -
I transplanted him today as well.

It was really nice seeing the progress in the root structure. If you look closely, you can see the start of at least two branches.

Seed #9 - Transplant

It's moving day! After the seedlings have a few sets of secondary leaves, they should have enough of a root system to hold together the cel-pack root ball. I just watered my seedlings yesterday with diluted fertilizer from bottom-up, so I was pretty confident that the soil would stick. I used a razor blade to carefully cut away the cel-pack, as to not damage this little guy.

I then put together a well-drained soil mixture, consisting of:
and carefully planted this little guy in a six-inch pot.

This last photo is intentionally out of focus to show the soil mixture, rather than the seed leaves.

Seed #9 - How Quickly They Grow Up...

After three weeks under the grow lights, just about all of my seedlings have taken off, growing several sets of secondary leaves. Before the grow lights, their growth had slowed to a crawl, and they were starting to damp off.

A great way to avoid damping off is to get the seedlings to grow as quickly as possible and to transplant them out of the cel-packs after they have a few sets of secondary leaves.

Road Trip!

I'm going on a two week vacation, so I had to pack up my toddlers for someone to babysit. Believe me, this was a little embarrassing!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Grow Lights!

I decided it's time to take this to a new level! I had planned on building this seed starting bench, but realized it would cost me around $300. Instead, I put together a simple rig of 40W, four-foot hanging fluorescents from a shelf in my garage. Each bulb set has one cool white and one soft white, to spread out the spectrum of light for the sprouts. I have the lights on a timer to turn on at five in the morning, and off again at nine at night -- sixteen hours of good light per day. I have plenty of room for at least three more seed trays - and I have no problem doubling this setup if needed. I just hope the DEA doesn't get the wrong idea! I swear, I'm just growing giant sequoias!

... Well, that, and coast redwood, bristlecone pine, dawn redwood, and red maple...

Seed #4 - I Really Need to Be More Careful

Seed #4 has been one of my sequoia superstars. I just finished setting up my new grow lights to help speed up growth in my sprouts, and I might have accidentally killed this little guy. I tried gently wetting the sprouts with a spray bottle, and when the spray hit this one, he fell straight over. This is the second time this has happened to me. The first one didn't make it but another day or so. I've propped him up with a toothpick, and am going to wait it out a day.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try the equivalent of open heart surgery -- I'm going to see if I can put just the right amount of soil around the base of the sprout to help hold him up. I have no idea what the chances of him making it are, but I'm not that optimistic. If seed #4 dies, I'm down to only five sequoias (from seeds).

It's getting more and more difficult to keep these sprouts alive. I might be watering them too much - or, maybe they're not getting enough light. Whatever the problem is, they're not talking. I'm done using spray bottles, that's for sure. Instead, I've found that watering them from underneath works really well. I fill the tray with about an inch of water, and wait for the driest cel-pack to moisten, usually after thirty seconds.

In any case, I'm not looking forward to another sequoia dying. I think it's time to order a few hundred more seeds, and really go nuts. If they're going to give up on me, then I'm going to fight back by bringing in reinforcements!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Time for Sun and Fertilizer

I think I've been coddling my sprouts a little too much. They're over a month old and haven't seen any direct sunlight. Each of them has a set of secondary leaves, and are seemingly healthy and eager for more growth. So, I've started giving them small doses of direct sunlight, and much more outdoor shade. I know I'm crazy, but I'm convinced that a few of my sprouts grew a tiny bit from their time outside today.

Also, since the soil is probably starting to lose its nutrients, I gave each seedling about a tablespoon and a half of 1/4 -strength fertilizer (24-8-16 water soluble from If they don't react negatively to the treatment, I'll continue to apply small amounts of diluted fertilizer every seven to fourteen days.

I also tried out watering the sprouts from underneath, which seemed to work well. To do so, I placed the block of nine cel-packs in an inch of water, and waited for the top to become moist (fifteen to thirty seconds). I'm going to try this out every other day, rather than spray the sprouts twice a day with a spray bottle.

Cold Stratification

It's been several weeks since any of my remaining sequoia seeds have germinated in their damp coffee filter baggies. Of the sixteen germinated seeds, I'm down to only six that are still alive. Most recently, my first sprout, seed #1 just shriveled up and died. As silly as it sounds, that really brought me down.

So, I'm down to six sprouts and about eighty seeds. I can either throw out the seeds, buy more and start over, or I can try to turn around the seeds I have and see if I can get them to sprout.

It's likely that a third of those seeds are still viable, but dormant. In nature, conifers have a clever trick to avoid entire crops of seedlings to dying off in a catastrophe such as fire or drought...they don't all sprout at the same time. One way to break this dormancy is to mimic natural conditions that the seeds would go through, such as winter coldness. This is called cold stratification, and can be achieved by placing the seeds in moist peat moss (or other mixtures) in a refrigerator at a few degrees above freezing for one to three months.

Note: this isn't normally necessary for vegetable and flower seeds, since they've been cultivated to grow without the dormancy. For more information and other seed-starting tips, I highly recommend the following links: Seed Germination and Growing Conifers From Seed.

I split out my seeds into two groups, then dropped them into sealed baggies, each with a few tablespoons of seed starting soil mix. I sprayed spring water into the baggies until the soil mixture was moist, and stored them away in the back of my refrigerator.

Waiting two months isn't going to be easy, but it'll be interesting to see the difference that cold stratification makes. After that time, I'll probably keep the seeds in the baggies until they've sprouted, then move the individual sprouts into cel-packs. The coffee filter baggies worked really well, but only for the initially-sprouting seeds. After a couple of months, it's hard to stave off mold and frustrating keeping the baggies moist.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Seed #6 - Still on Top

This little guy towers over the other sprouts by at least an inch and now shows a healthy set of secondary leaves.

Current State of the Union

When I first started growing trees from sprouts a couple months ago, I didn't expect myself to go this far. My original goal was to photograph each tree sprout every few days, so you could track its progress with tag filters. That worked for the first month. At this point, here's what has sprouted so far (with more seeds still to germinate):
So, I'm at the point now where I can recognize that it's not feasible to keep track of each sprout anymore. I'm going to try to tone it down a bit and focus more on star-performing sprouts and my favorite photos... that, or completely lose what little sanity I have remaining...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Seedlings Showing New Growth

My one and two-year-olds that I bought as seedlings from Welker's Nursery are really doing well in their new pots. They've been fairly inactive this past month, but recently, almost every branch on the seedlings has sprouted about an inch of new growth.

I Might Have Gone Overboard

It's not until about two months into my obsessive hobbies that I realize I've gone too far. Upon checking my bristlecone pine, giant sequoia, dawn redwood, coast redwood, and sunflower seeds for sprouts (while waiting for my purple pitcher plant, sensitive plant, and venus flytrap seeds to arrive in the mail)... I started thinking to myself... Have I gone crazy? I mean, I shouldn't have a problem finding a place to plant one hundred giant redwoods... After all, I do have about ten square feet of back yard.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Seed 4 - Fun with a Tripod

I just dusted off my old tripod, so I thought I'd try some extreme close-ups. This little guy is still my favorite.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Seed #15 - Cotyledons Opening Upwards

Seed #14 - Secondary Leaves

Seed #10 - Straightening Out

This one is almost pointing straight up, but the seed coat still seems to have a pretty firm grasp. I'm never too optimistic about the seed coat coming off when it's on that tight.

Seed #9 - Secondary Leaves

Seed #7 - Goodbye, Old Friend...Hey, Nice Roots!

I was sad to see #7 go, but in his passing, I got a peak at some pretty cool roots. All of my sprouts that emerged with the seed coats have had a tougher time than the others, but on top of that, this guy's root system didn't go very deep at all. I wonder if that had a hand in his early death - too little surface moisture could have done him him.

Seed #6 - Secondary Leaves

Not the best close-up, but you can see the little secondary leaves poking out.

Seed #5 - Secondary Leaves

This is the first I've been able to see secondary leaves on this little guy.

Seed #4 - My Pride and Joy!

This guy was my first to show secondary leaves, and since then, they haven't stopped showing off. In another couple weeks, I can start giving this one tiny amounts of direct sunlight, and shortly thereafter, diluted fertilizer.

Seed #3 - Pushing Cotyledons From Seed Coat

I gave up on my toothpick method for this seedling. The seed coat was slipping out from the toothpicks, and the stem didn't look like it was responding well to the force. It's not looking too bad, however. If the cotyledons keep pushing, they might break free from the seed coat.

Seed #1 - Secondary Leaves

Looks like this one's going to make it after all, despite the shriveled cotyledon. You can see the secondary leaves pushing out from the center.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Seed #16 - Radicle

That's a toothpick next to the seed for scale.

Seed #15 - Sprout Turning Upwards

Not the best close-up, but good enough to show what's going on.

Seed #13 - He Is... No More

I mustn't have taken a photo of #13 on his deathbed, but don't feel like you're missing out, it wasn't that great of a passing, he just fell asleep and never woke up...

Seed #13
05/14/2007 - 05/25/2007
Survived by hundreds of brothers and sisters

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Seed #3 - The "Toothpick Method"

After so much success with seed #14, I'm trying again, this time with seed #3. This one didn't lend to my new method as well as the other - it was already pointing upwards, so I had to carefully bend the sprout in half so I could pin down the seed coat. I'm hoping to see the sprout opened in the next day or so, leaving the seed coat behind.

Seed #14 - The Toothpick Method Worked!

Yesterday, this little sprout was still stuck in his seed coat. So far, those that come up with the seed have had a hard time breaking out of it, so I tried holding the seed coat down with toothpicks. Well, it actually worked! When I got home today, the seed coat was still pinned down, and the cotyledons were pointing upwards.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Seed #14 - Further Out of the Soil

By tomorrow, this should be in a mostly upright position. So far, my sprouts that emerge from the soil without their seed coats seem to be the healthiest. What's happening is, as one stands up, if its seed is buried deep enough in the soil to be held down, the rising stem and buried seed coat help pull them apart.

I thought I'd try a little experiment here. I just placed two toothpicks (not pictured) in an X across the seed coat, with the hopes to keep it pinned down as the stem stands up. Hopefully, later tomorrow, the plan will have worked, and the seed coat is laying on the soil, with the cotyledons fully exposed.