Back on Sunday, 13 May, 2012 (Mother’s Day), Dahlia and I started to sow the seeds that I’ve left in cold stratification for an extended period of time. I put the seeds in on 26 January, 2012. In the past I’ve left the seeds in cold stratification (or “cold strat” as I like to call it for short) on average anywhere between 4-6 weeks. These babies were in there for a while longer than what I was used to doing in the past. (According to TimeandDate.com, they’ve been in there for 108 days, or 3 months and 17 days.) I was a bit worried that it would be too long for them, but you know what? They turned out FINE!
It’s been a very rough year for me thus far filled with interesting challenges as you’ve probably read about here, here, here, here, and here. Planting these seeds in hopes of future greatness always gives me a faint glimmer of hope that something freakishly awesome will come forth. Isn’t that what breeders hope for every year they make these crosses?
Sarracenia seeds in cold strat, next to the Marionberry jam.
Above is a shot of the seeds in the baggies in the fridge. Next to the Marionberry Jam I got from Seattle. See this post for details on how I prepared the babies for cold strat. Essentially, I am stratifying them in media and all I do next is empty that media into their future germinating pot/home. If I had the time, I really would prefer to let Mama Nature do the stratification. With the amount of seeds and crosses that I usually end up doing, one less step for me could be a good thing. I know many other growers who do stratify in au naturale mode – outdoors, and it works fine. It is just that I’m quite limited on space when it comes to preparation so I decide to do it this way. Again, for you growers out there, I encourage you to try and experiment new methods for yourselves; do whatever works for you. I would love to get some ideas and see how you all handle your seed process!
Got Pot? I was fortunate enough to have some new pots (unused and clean!) to use for this process. I was so so sooooo very glad that I didn’t have to perform any epic toilet scrubber scrubbing pot action awesomeness. If you decided to re-use any type of potting containers, I suggest that you make sure they are clean before starting germination. You don’t want any nasty fungus crap or weird pests sneaking into your germinating area. Stuff like that can be prevented, and you don’t want to loose seedlings unnecessarily. To clean pots, you can soak in a light bleach solution overnight and rinse them out very well the next day. Here I have fiddy-two (52) pots for the seed packs that I have. In years past I’ve done upwards of 120-ish crosses. That may seem like a lot of crosses to some, but this is only a fraction of crosses when compared to some others growers and breeders I know. With these numbers, the amount of work can be kinda staggering. In the end though, it truly is worth it. For me at least. I’m a bit masochistic perhaps. Yeah baby! Oh, and as a side note about those packs, one of those packs contain Darlingtonia california seeds from fellow grower Sam Brookhardt. (Hit him up on twitter @sammliberty.)
Use protection. Another thing I would also suggest before you buck wild getting dirty is that it’s OK to use protection. Ok, ok – I admit, I love to get nasty and dirty. Hell yes. It’s fun. I love to feel and penetrate the dirt with my bare hands and become one with the earth I’m working with. But the reality is that it’s wise to use protection. Check out an earlier post on using protection. My protection of choice is a nice fitting thin-yet-strong set of nitrile gloves. They don’t tear as easy as latex, and are thin enough to allow me to feel the pleasure of getting down and dirty with the plants. As I mentioned in that post, I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer around in the greenhouse and wipe down after I take my gloves off. I’ll also wash with soap and water once I can get to a sink cuz’ that’s just the clean thing to do.
Prepare the house. My seeds this year are being started indoors in the garage. To start the seeds indoors, I needed some type of housing – a tray system to put those pots in. In the past I’ve used aquariums. Here’s an example of when I started my 2010 crosses in 2011. Now, these current pots wouldn’t really fit the way I wanted into those standard 10 x 20 inch flats, so I decided to use an old hydro tray thing from my local
cannabis growing and supply …er… hydroponics store. I ran down to my local hydro store and picked up a smaller used white flood tray. I like white because of the light reflection. I will be starting these seeds off under lights after all and figure it would help.Since it was a used tray, I took the additional precaution of cleaning the large tray with a diluted solution of bleach, about 1 part to every 10 of water. It was soaked overnight, and I rinsed it out the next day. After the rinse, I also washed it down with soap and water both inside and outside then rinsed that off very well. Yes, a bit much perhaps. Then again I don’t want to lose any seedlings to any weird crap that could of easily been prevented.
Above on the left I added a type of egg crate lighting diffuser thing that is used in fluorescent fixtures. This serves as a platform for the pots. There are grooves up in that tray and the pots would otherwise sit kind of wonky there. If you look carefully, underneath the crate you can see the deep grooves. I simply trimmed that egg create thingmabobber with scissors in order to fit the flooring of the tray. I did this to have a nice even surface for the pots to sit on. In the photo above right, you can see all the pots fitting and sitting in the tray quite happily.
Plugging it up.
Plug the drainage. Next I hydrated some long fiber sphagnum moss. I bought a bulk compressed bale and hydrated some in a tray. As you can see in the photo above left, the rest of the 1 kg bale is in the plastic bag and I am hydrating the rest in the container. In the photo above right, I’m placing the damp sphagnum moss at the bottom of each pot. Next, I repeat 51 more times. I do this to keep the peat moss media in the pot. I’ve used weed block in the past. I hear others use coffee filters, or even paper towels. Now, you don’t have to do this step (and I don’t really do this for the rest of my plants), but I like to keep the peat moss from seeping out of the pot. When the peat moss seeps out because of the water it’s sitting in, the peat level in the pot will drop as it settles and can look kind of funky. At least to me it does. Now, the peat will settle but at least wont be flooding out of the pot. This step for me this is just personal preference.
Bottom of the pots lined with long fiber sphagnum moss.
Stuff it, baby! After lining the pots with the long fiber sphagnum moss, it’s time to stuff with your potting media! I use a 1:1 ratio of peat moss to perlite. I’ve used things like pure peat, or coarsely chopped long fiber sphagnum, or peat/sand, and even a combination of all things listed. Again, use whatever works well for you! With 52 pots that needed stuffing – and me feeling somewhat lazy, I asked the awesome rad wifey, to help me out with the pot stuffing project. You know it’s love when your spouse dosen’t mind getting dirty with you. Heh! (Thanks Mahal!)
Dahlia stuffin’ the pots with planting media.
Pots stuffed and happy!
Setting the stage. I wanted to have the seed tray raised off the floor just to make it easier to look at the seeds. Now, I didn’t have any spare potting benches or tables lying around, so I set the stage all McGyver style by using buckets. I also had these wooden things laying around so I used that for – like, 2 more inches of height. This is the platform for the next generation – freekin’ buckets. Hey, whatever works right!? Next I set the entire tray on there just to test the sizing out, and it all worked out quite nicely.
Prepare for light. So since I didn’t have any lighting shelves or whatnot, I decided to use 6 pots as a lighting stand. The black pots above are simply serving as a platform for the light fixtures that I have. If I had white pots, that would be ideal as I’d have more light reflectivity going on, but for now – this works. It’s also cool because I can just water the entire tray by pouring water into one of those pots. The pots that serve as a lighting stand here will have the lamps set on top. That leaves about 4 inches over the other pots that contain will soon contain the seeds.
It’s about time. The photo above left is the timer I am using. I set the timer to turn on at 5 am and off at 9pm – a 16 hour photo period. I’ve had great success with 24 hour photo periods. That also gave me a great electricity bill, LOL! Anyway, I have 2 spare lighting fixtures that I’m using – kinda mismatched with 2 different fixtures, but hey — it works. Both fixtures are using 32 watt T-12 fluorescent fixtures. I think someone mentioned to me that more wattage is better as equals stronger light. I didn’t feel like getting any more lights or replacing my current bulbs. The lights are pretty close to the pots anyway so it doesn’t really bother me at this point. I’ve yet to try LED grow-lights for starting Sarracenia seeds. If anyone has any experience or feedback in that arena, I’d love to hear about it! (And I’d love a lower electricity bill too while we’re at it.)
Pot it up. Next, we get ready to pot those seeds up! I’ve had the seed stratified in cold stratification in their own media. I kept the container (photo, above left) in the fridge and now I’m ready to start potting each baggie up one by one. The contents of the bag will be placed into each pot. (Photo, above right.)
I open the bag up and just dump entire contents into the pot. Not sure if you’ve noticed that in the previous photos I’ve had the tags indicating the cross already pre made and in the bag. I use that to kind of scrape the seeds along with their stratification / germination media into the pot. After I get the seeds into the pot, I pat it down flat. (Photo below.) For me, I guess it helps to know that the seeds are packed in there somewhat firm. But not too firm. Just a happy medium type of firm. I don’t want seeds from one pot jumping off and landing in another pot. I don’t want no random freekin’ plant showing up in any other pots, yahknowwhaddImean?
Pat it down.
After the cold strat media containing the seeds is all nice and patted down in the pot, I insert the tag. It’s important and just very nice to keep things organized and labeled. In the photo to the left, the first cross I put in the pot was S. purpurea heterophylla x “Green Monster”. If you don’t know me there’s one thing I really love – and that’s anthocyanin free plants. I plan on breeding along these anthocyanin free lines quite a bit. The cross to the left I’m picturing a Sarracenia swaniana-ish looking anthocyanin free plant. Hopefully with more windows or something from the S. “Green Monster” parentage, but who knows what will come out of that pot. Pretty cool, eh? Time will tell. I’ll look back on this photo in a future blog post years from now and see where those plants all started.
After it’s all potted, patted down, and tagged up, my next step is spraying it down! I take a sprayer, set to mist, and give it a few squirts to make sure everything is in place spraying it down helps to clean it up a bit. I also wanted to mention that I’ll also spray off my gloves time to time – especially between seed sets to ensure no seed from the previous pot/pack hitchhikes into the next pot. Dude, that would suck and kind of drive me mad. Before starting on the next seed set, I make sure no visible media or seeds are on the gloves. I know it may seem like a lot of steps at this point, but for me, I like to err on being on the careful side. Am I a bit OCD? Is this me channeling a Virgo thing? Who knows. So anyway, after I finish with one pot I put it back into the tray, and start the process of unloading the seeds from the bag, into the pot, then into the tray 51 more times until I’m finally done. Again, for my growing I like to keep things clean so I periodically cleaned up my work area between the sets to ensure that no seeds from other bags jump to another pot. Yeah, it took a little bit of time, but was well worth it!
After that’s all said and done, gloves came off and I sprayed the seeds with a fine mist to clean things up again. Once everything was in there, the next step was to add water! Yeah!
In the photo to the left, I pour the water into the pot, and the water then drains into the rest of the tray. I’m currently using de-ionized water at a beautiful 0 ppm. I filled the tray with about two bucket fulls – or until the pots were sitting in about a half inch – inch of water. The sphagnum moss that lined the bottom of each pot prevents the peat mixture from leaking out and it also acts like a wick, absorbing the water and watering the pots that contain the next generation of Sarracenia awesomeness. Freekin’ rad! Yeah! After the tray is filled with water, my next step was to cover the tray with plastic!
Cover it up. As you can see, it’s now all coming together! For my cover, I just used regular painting tarp plastic from the hardware store – not greenhouse plastic which is more pricey. If you have greenhouse plastic I’m sure that would do the job too. Anyway, I cover the seeds to keep both humidity and heat in and create a “greenhouse effect” to get those seeds to germinate. In years past, I’ve used heat mats to help get those seeds germinating, but decided not to do it this year as I don’t know how effective it would be sitting under that big hydro tray. I figured that the lamps would emit enough heat to get it warm under the plastic.
Let there be light! In the photo above, I place my the lighting figures on top of the tray, held up by those 1 gallon black pots pots. The lights, as mentioned above, are on a timer and I just set it and forget it!
A peek under the hood. In the photo above, you can see what it looks like underneath the lights. I hope this makes the new babies happy! After turning the lights on, the gentle heat warms up the atmosphere under that plastic – waking the seeds up. Last year’s germination was pretty much a huge fail for me because we had a freak 80F+ day that baked a lot of the seeds before I was able to get home and uncover them… and I think the trichoderma that I used in that post did more harm that good. Who knows. The good thing is that a few of those crosses survived – less than half. Oh well. Shit happens. The important thing here (channeling my inner zen) is that I’ve learned quite a few things from that epic fail. With each “failure” in the garden and in life, take a step back and see what you can learn. Like… don’t fucking leave your seeds covered cuz a freak warm day could roll by and bake yo’ shit. (Had to vent. Sorry.)
ANYWAYYYYYY, I am pleased to say that the seeds I am germinating this year are all doing well and most have already sprouted and are showing vigorous signs of life!
IMPORTANT TIP: DON’T PEEK! Almost any grower out there will tell you that watching the seeds for days on end (like I was in photo above) will cause your seeds to grow at a much slower rate. I don’t know why this is the case. They must be shy or somefin’. It must be some gardening universal law – but please heed my warning and don’t try to watch the seeds sprout. I sat there for days on end and the only thing that grew was my gnarly beard while watching the seeds as nothing happened. The moment I walked away, the magic happend as described in this post… yeah!
So there’s how I set my seeds up this year. I hope this is helpful for you and feel free to use this post as a rough guide for your own seed Sarracenia germinating awesomeness. Happy growing and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you have anything you’d like to share with me by commenting below or email me directly at Sarraceniadude [ at ] thepitcherplantproject.com. I’d love to hear from you!
Sarracenia purpurea heterophylla x “Green Monster”
26 May 2012
Last but not least – a huge and special thank you to my awesome wife Dahlia for her help in potting these babies up and photographing the new crop set up! (Not to mention her patience in putting up with me and das beard as I sat there for days watching these seeds germinate… lol!) Thanks babe, I love you!