Seed starting chronicles 2012

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Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27
Seed starting chronicles 2012

Looking back over the 2011 thread is very stimulating. We sowed quite a bit of home collected seed last autumn and this is mostly outside in a cold frame; germination probably won't occur for a couple of months, though our mlld winter so far may not be sufficient to provide the stratification that is necessary for some plants. I am now going through seed from Alplains, Holubec and other collectors, and the seed exchanges to divide it into groups requiring different conditions. Quite a bit will go into the fridge after sowing for 6 to 8 weeks. We have sown other seed that needs no cold treatment in a propagator in the greenhouse but the lower light levels in the winter do lead to etiolation in some species (though not all). Great way of spending a winter's day...

AmyO's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-06

Tim wrote:

Great way of spending a winter's day...

Agreed!! ;D I plan on sowing seed today from the American Primrose society exchange and putting them under the growlights indoors. My NARGS seed haven't arrived yet, so I need to save space for them, which will be a struggle as there is only so much space under the lights and always way too many seeds to sow!

Amy Olmsted
Hubbardton, VT, Zone 4

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

Euphorbia rigida - sown in greenhouse, germinated rapidly (seed had been stored for 7 years so very pleasing to get good germination)
Lesquerella intermedia & fendleri (SWNS)
Stachys coccinea (SWNS)
Chilopsis linearis (SWNS)
Erysimum wheeleri (SWNS) - all these sown with bottom heat in greenhouse
(there are also several yuccas germinating as above from 10/11 year old seed from Ron Ratko, and a couple of dudleya of similar age)
Lupinus versicolor - sown as the Euphorbia after chipping seed
Lomatium utriculatum - home saved seed sown outside in a cold frame (hadn't expected such rapid germination)

(I now have to remove the food from our fridge in the garage to make room for all the pots sown this January!)

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.

Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Be glad you have that huge property! Where else should you plant all those plants ;)

Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Tim, so glad you started this 2012 topic, one of my favs for sure.  And thanks for making your photo large enough to see it full size to see all those perky seedlings and read the plant labels.  Good crop of southwesterners coming up there.  I've always wanted to try growing Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis); but I don't think it could survive our New England climate.  It is rated zone 7-10, and for some smaller plants I will sometimes try "pushing the hardiness envelope" a bit, but my few attempts at doing that with shrubs (like Cistus, some maples) have failed, the winter cold is just too much for them.  In a few (very few) cases, I've had some luck with southwestern shrubbies, one of my favorites is Philadelphus microphyllus from SWNS a number of years ago, and perfectly hardy.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at

Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Tim, did these all (except the Erysimum) germinate at room temperature?

And except for the mentioned chipping, was there any pretreatment?

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

cohan's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

Any tips for sowing/germinating Geranium fremontii? I came across a mention of scarification and a 24 hour soak, which I have not heard of for other Geraniums??

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F;

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

It seemed like unusual advice to me too, Cohan, but I was surprised to see that scarification is recommended in the Alplains catalogue for G. viscosissimum (after which just the usual 70-degree-ish conditions are recommended, if I'm remembering the meaning of the codes correctly).  

I had to look that species up.  This article suggests that "Geranium fremontii" may be more correctly known as G. caespitosum, and that  fremontii may be just a variety, which USDA Plants seems to agree with.

The 24 hour soak recommendation is still odd, though.  Dr. Deno's work (First Supplement to the Second Edition of Seed Germination Theory and Practice) doesn't support it.  He reports that pre-soaking prior to germinating in moist conditions either did not give significantly faster germination, or actually risked seed death by inhibiting its access to oxygen and causing asphyxiation.  I know it's something some people like to do, however.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

I have sometimes tried chipping geranium seed and think it can be effective, especially if you only have a few seed of something really special. I've not soaked them but normally just sit seed pots in water overnight which is likely to imbibe the seed pretty well. (When I was working in science I was chastised for watering all the freshly sown seed of Sweet Peas being used in genetic studies of their flowering - I was looking after the greenhouse over the weekend! - I have been very wary of soaking legume seed for too long ever since!).

Rick - all these seed except the Lomatium and Euphorbia were started off with bottom heat in the greenhouse - I suppose equivalent to 'room temperatures' and then removed to the lightest spot in the greenhouse once germinated. So they will now experience quite warm days and cool nights and I am not too keen that they grow too quickly! (probably should have sown some of them rather later in the spring but there is always too much to do then).

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.

Title: Member
Joined: 2010-04-11

With respect to Geranium viscosissimum, I have had excellent success using a couple methods. Scarifying the seeds between folds of 100-grit sandpaper and exposing  them to conventional (warm, moist, and well-illuminated) growing conditions resulted in 80% germination within two weeks. I achieved comparable germination by enclosing the seeds in a foil packet and submerging them in boiling water for 10 seconds, exposing them to 8 weeks of cold-moist stratification, than transferring them to a warm environment. Germination began during the cold treatment and continued during the warm phase. I'd guess that the cold treatment was unnecessary for this species, but it did no damage. Failure to scarify, or to expose the seeds to a longer period of boiling water, resulted in no germination. Alternatively, direct seeding (also known as neglecting to deadhead) resulted in many seedlings in the garden.

zone 4a/5a, Missoula, Montana

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

Now why would 'direct seeding' result in a high germination rate when there was neither scarification nor the boiling water treatment? I know nature is always 'right,' but what is it about plants just dropping seeds that makes the germination rates so high when if we do the same thing, we get nothing?

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.


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