Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sowing our Seeds - Workshop 1

Wednesday - March 6, 2014!  Time to get our seeds into the soil.  The Hort Committee met in a member's garage.  Following the GCA Basic Plant Propagation Handbook we had ready:  lovely blue rubber gloves for each member, a sterile growing medium (Pro-Mix), shallow containers (we used plastic 6 packs as they would fit on member's tables, windowsills or shelves and were easier to handle than large flats - not all members have growlights & shelf systems), plastic labels, fine tip sharpies for writing on the labels, gallon size Ziploc bags for tenting, straws to use inside the tenting to keep the plastic from collapsing on the seeds and, of course, our seeds.  The Pro-Mix was moistened and prepared ahead of time so that members only had to fill their trays and be ready to start.  We purchased the black plastic, 6-pack seed trays from our locally owned, independent Feed & Seed store - perfect timing as their spring supplies had just arrived last week.  Blondie Sprout, our fearless committee chair, had dipped all of the 6 packs in a 10-1 Clorox/water mixture the night before to ensure cleanliness.  Our plastic stakes for labeling were also dipped and cleaned.   After a short meeting to explain the project we were ready to go!

Chairman Blondie Sprout making sure our
supplies are clean
Our supplies - trays, labels, straws, gloves, propagation guide, baggies,
Clorox and seeds!

Four tables were set up in the garage work area.  Each member choose her seeds, took 2-3 of the 6 packs and set to work. There were enough seeds in most of the packets that members could share and each do several different plants.  This would hopefully ensure, too, that if one person's seeds failed to germinate that another member's tray might germinate - and we can compare maybe why (does this sound like a Jr. High Science Project?)  

Blondie Sprout and mamsprout highlight important features
in our Propagation Guides

Some of the seeds are very small - be careful!
One suggestion for small seeds is to fill a small plastic seed container with sand, vermiculite or talcum powder,
add the tiny seeds, put the lid on and shake to mix.  Then, pour the seeds slowly over the soil surface. 
They do not need to be covered with additional soil if you use this method.
First fill with the damp soil.  Then sow the seeds.  Prior to the workshop, members had selected their seeds and studied whether they would need stratification (a cold period), scarification (scratching of a hard seed coat to allow water to reach the inside of the seed allowing germination) and how deep to plant.  A few of our seeds would need to be planted up to 1/2" in depth.  The majority would only need to be lightly pressed into the top of the soil and barely covered.  Using a fine-tipped Sharpie each member prepared a label giving the botanical name of the seed being planted as well as today's date.  Into the Ziploc gallon size baggies they went - this sometimes took a partner as the seed trays are a little flimsy and an extra set of hands meant no spilling.  Plastic drinking straws were cut in half and inserted in each corner of the 6 packs and our bag became a tent.  Our trays were inserted sideways, so that the zipper closure was on the side.  Zipped up and ready to go! 

**Note - see the note below the next set of photos for watering while in the tent.

Busy members!

Another group - lots of work space for each member.

And lots of concentration!

In a future blog (while waiting on germination to occur) we will go into more depth on the importance of the proper soil mix, defining stratification and scarification and we will give some details on watering and lighting.  Two different ways of watering were suggested.  One follows the Basic Plant Propagation Manual and the other comes from a member's beloved UVA Master Gardening Class Manual and also was suggested by a long-time, now deceased Charleston resident - retired chemist and master propagator Harry Wise. 

For now: here is what our manual says - for the first week after sowing spritz heavily at soil level is the top 1/2" is dry.  That means not all over the plant.  And it means only if you don't detect moisture in your "tent".  Go back to the earlier post  "I C Sprouts" - see the moisture inside on the top of the bag?  That is sufficient to keep the soil moist and provide the proper level for germination.

Mamsprout suggests that after taking home, members should make sure the soil is moistened thoroughly.  Take the 6 pack that has just been planted and place in a container/tray/pan with about 1" of warm water.  The water level should be above the holes at the bottom of the seed pack.  Avoid splashing which could displace your small seeds.  When the mix is saturated, set the 6 pack aside to drain.  The mix should then stay sufficiently moist during the germination period without needing more water.  Covering with the plastic tent should maintain this level and the plastic should be at least 1" from the mix.  (Note from WV sprout - I neglected to do this additional watering, but our soil was sufficiently moist from the workshop that all seeds germinated without problems)

Another way to handle those very, very tiny seeds is take a
small piece of white paper (half of a piece of copy paper) and fold in half.  Put your seeds
and sow - tap gently while moving the piece of paper over the oil and you can just gently
scatter the seeds over the top of your soil.
Why white paper?  It makes it much easier to see your seeds!

As our seeds germinate our bloggers will let you know which technique they tried for watering and placement for light and warmth.  We will also supply a list of our seeds and their propagation requirements. 

Off to the races!

Label in the tray, straws added to prop up the plastic tent ..and..
Ready to travel to a nice warm & moist germination location!
Our babies are ready to go.

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