Growing from Seed-PBS TOW

Mary Sue Ittner
Mon, 18 Nov 2002 07:47:56 PST
Dear All,

Today starts our first weekly or in this case several week discussion. The subject is growing geophytes from seed. This is a very involved subject and I hope a lot of you will share your secrets and experiences. And I hope that those of you who are wanting to know how to do this will ask a lot of questions.

I always have a lot of questions so that is how I am going to introduce this topic. First off how many of you have a special potting mix to start seeds with? Do you use the same mix you use for planting bulbs? If not please describe your seed starting mix. Do you use the same mix for everything or vary it depending on what you are starting?

How many people plant seeds directly in the ground (like Gary Buckley) or in a pot with parent bulbs and how many start seeds in a new pot? Do you add fertilizer to the mix? Do some of you start seeds under lights? Do you protect from the rain or leave the pots out exposed to the elements? Do you control the temperatures or let nature decide? Have you found that rain water, distilled water, or tap water is best?

What size and kind of pots does everyone use?

Tom told us not long ago that he starts his seed in mini greenhouses. I'll quote from what he wrote. "  I start about 200 pots of seedlings each fall, using plastic bag mini-greenhouses.  The bags are sealed and more or less vapor tight.  The potting mix is saturated, or close to it.  Most of the seeds were planted in late September to early October, and germination of many was in the first two weeks, but there were still about 100 slow and erratic germinators."

After John Harris described using a method like this for winged seeds like Hippeastrum, I have found it to work like a charm, but haven't used it for other seeds. What kind of seeds are you growing this way Tom? Since Tom lives in Southern California where it is very dry I am assuming that the bags help provide moisture so he won't have to water the seeds very much or at all before they come up, but I also thought that he grew a lot of things from dry climates and wonder if the humidity would work for all seeds.  When do you remove the bags Tom?

Alberto told us he does not cover his seeds for a couple of weeks.  Has anyone else tried this? If you cover your seeds, what material do you use?

For everyone who is willing  please share your system. Tell us where you live (or put it in your signature), the kinds of things you grow from seed, and what you have found works for you. We will be discussing this for a few weeks, so there will be time for thoughtful responses. I don't think there is only one way to accomplish this and I have so appreciated all those people who shared how they do it in the past as it has improved my rate of success a lot.

Mary Sue

PBS list administrator and TOW coordinator, Northern California

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