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...