Seed starting advice

Joyce Miller
Tue, 15 Oct 2002 09:20:08 PDT
Dear Jennifer,

        There is little I can add to Mary Sue's remarks.  She has given solid general sowing advice.  I can add only a couple of details. Persevere.  Like you, a oftentimes acquire seeds of an interesting plant without researching thoroughly.  It is an unwise practice, but since I live in USDA Zone 9A, have an outdoor garden and small greenhouse, I can grow a wide range of plants.  Sometimes you will fail with your first sowing.  Try to learn why and try again.

        I sprinkle coarse sand on top of all my sowings.  Partly, this serves as a mulch, secures the seeds, and reminds me these are seeds, not bulbs.

*Bomaraea caldasii-- Germinates best when pre-soaked in Gibberelic Acid (GA-3).  GA-3 can be purchased from J.L. Hudson, Seedsman, Star Route 2, Box 337, La Honda, CA 94020.  It is not expensive.  I managed to germinate B. caldasii, but not B. multiflora or B. salsilla.  I may have soaked the seeds too long i.e. 48 hours or the seeds rotted.

*Gynandriris setifola.  I started these in pots and since put them in the ground.

*Neomarica caerulea, N. candida, and N. northiana  These require cold stratification.  Plant in fall and leave out all winter.  Alternatively, you can store in refrigerator for 3 to 4 months.  Bring out in Spring.

        A valuable addition to your propagation library is a set of Norman Deno's  books describing experiments on germinating seed. Deno, a retired Chemistry professor, states many seeds have a germination inhibitor which must be considered in sowing.  Sometimes stratification (cold), GA-3 soaks, water soaks etc are needed to deal with the germination inhibitors.  Deno was not a grower.  All he was interested in was germinating seeds.  I consider his work a valuable adjunct to propagation theory.  His books are soft bound and self published.  I think Vol. 1 was $20, Vols. 2 and 3 were $10 each.  The first volume sets out his theories very well.  The remaining volumes report out experiments with more genera and species.  I do not know if the books are still in print.  Deno's address is

Norman C. Deno,
139  Lenor Drive
State College PA 16801

Titles are
'Seed Germination Theory and Practice'
'First Supplement to Seed Germination Theory and Practice'
'Second Supplement to Seed Germination Theory and Practice'

Kind regards,  Joyce Miller

Joyce E. Miller
859 56th Street,
Sacramento, California 95819-3319  USA
Zone USDA 9A Summer highs 100+degrees F for several to many days.  Winter lows 27 degrees F 

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