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CULT: planting and germination

Well, I see the cybergods have decreed that my WordPerfect document won't go
through as an attachment, so here's a pasted-in version:

Some time ago, I promised to report on the results of the changed method of
seed planting that I have used this past season. Now that the sprouts are up
and have been transplanted, it's time to sum up. I'll categorize the remarks
for the sake of those who have particular interests:

Seed preparation: After harvesting, each lot of seeds was placed, with its
identifying plastic tag, in a small plastic container of the sort that
margarine, cheese dip, etc. come in. They were then let dry on a window bench
not exposed to the sun for a couple of months. During this time, mold covered
some of the seeds, as it often does, but I have never noticed any harm done to
the seeds. In early October I put about = inch of water in each container and
soaked the seeds for 5 days. (The containers can be stacked on top of each
other during this process to save kitchen space.) At the end of that time, I
rinsed each lot of seeds, using a sieve, washing off the moldy ones just by
finger rubbing. I intended to plant them in pots immediately after soaking,
but intervening necessities delayed me for several days, during which time
they dried out again, or appeared to.

Planting: Until last fall, I had always planted my seeds in shallow aluminum
loaf pans 2" deep, 3 1/4" wide and 5 3/4" long. Last year, after unusually
good germination, the excessive rainfall caused damping-off, and I lost all
but 333 of 862 sprouts. Of the survivors, at least another 20% died after
transplanting. I had never lost seedlings to damping-off before, but once was
enough. Going from one extreme to the other, I decided to plant in 3-gallon
plastic pots which I bought used from a nursery at about 35 cents apiece. I
decided to use, basically, the Paul Black method, just using much larger pots,
on the theory that if the seedlings had enough room to sink their roots in
well-drained dirt, damping-off wouldn't occur. So, the pots were filled with a
mixture of 1/3 manufactured topsoil (the kind that comes in trucks, not bags),
1/3 concrete sand and 1/3 sphagnum moss, to within 2 inches of the top, then
pressed down. The seeds were laid on top, spread out from each other, and
covered with an inch of the dirt mix, which was again pressed down. I planted
as many as 66 seeds to a pot. The pots were then covered with a good inch of
pine straw (white pine needles) to deter seed surfacing during the winter. The
pine straw does two things - it breaks the impact of rainfall and watering on
the soil surface, and it shields the surface from the winter sun, thus, I
believe, minimizing the freeze-and-thaw action which also causes seeds to
erupt. The pots were set on the ground in a wooden frame, with a chicken wire
covering to keep out the squirrels, etc.

Maintenance: I tried to ensure that the seeds were kept moist by watering
during dry periods of the winter.

We had a mild winter, not a lot of rain, and virtually no snow, with only
about a week and a half of sustained temperatures in the teens and 20s. In
short, not the cold winter with snow cover that I prefer.

Germination: Sprouts began showing on March 29, with an SDB cross leading the
way. On the following day, almost all pots were showing sprouts, and a week
later almost all germination was complete. Of 780 seeds planted, 458 sprouted,
or 59%. If one subtracts from the total planted the 109 seeds considered
unripe (of which only one seed sprouted), the overall germination rate was
68%. There were, of course, wide differences in rate of germination between
individual crosses, as follows:

About 28 sprouts also came up in several dozen loaf pans left over
ungerminated from previous years.

Seed surfacing: Not a single seed surfaced in any of the pots - a "first" for

985R4 x Night Game                                             20 of 31

Holy Night x 01S2                                                 21 of 34

Glitterbug x Lumalite                                               9 of 28

02P2 x 01S2                                                           25 of

Holy Night x 02P2                                                  22 of 27

Black Falls x 962L9                                               28 of 28

985R4 x Chinese Treasure                                     22 of 28

962L x (Holy Night x Sweeter Than Wine) sdlg     19 of 45

962H1 x G952N5                                                    45 of 61

Lumalite x Glitterbug (unripe)                                   0 of 66

97D x (Holy Night x Sweeter Than Wine) sdlg       20 of 38

That Certain Something x 01S2                               34 of 39

962H1 x G95W5 (27 unripe)                                     6 of 38

962H1 x 01X2                                                         55 of 56

G95W2 x FNU-2                                                     41 of 57

Holy Night x 01S16                                                 30 of 36

962H1 x 012B7                                                        42 of 49

Cranapple x Lumalite or Glitterbug (distracted:))      2 of 43

Lumalite x 20B15                                                        8 of

985R4 x Torchlight Parade                                         6 of 10

Winesap x Chinese Treasure (unripe)                         1 of 16

20C28 x Lumalite                                                        2 of

It was the third week of May before I could get my new seedling beds
constructed. By then, the sprouts in the pots were 5-8" tall; the sprouts in
the loaf pans were 3-5". All had 3-4 leaves in the fan. The roots of the pot
sprouts were as deep as 6-7". At this point, all the transplants are growing
healthily in their raised beds, only hazarded by a new crop of semi-tame
chipmunks who think that burrowing in the new raised beds is just the
greatest! (It can put you on your toes when they run between your feet.)

--  Griff

zone 7 in Virginia

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