Saturday, February 26, 2011

Astonishing moonflower power and brassica seedlings

The moonflower seed I sowed in the plastic 4-pak is fairly exploding with growth. In about 24 hours, the sprout went from barely poking its shoulder out of the ground to a 2 and a half inch tall monster, and the seeds leaves haven't even shaken themselves out of the seed coat and opened out fully yet.

February 23, 13:58
February 25, 11:38
February 25, 17:47

February 25, 21:54

February 26, 11:51
It also looks like the cell might be too shallow for this type of seedling, because there's a little root sticking out of the bottom. Not sure what I should do now: transplant to a deeper pot, or wait until true leaves develop. At the rate this thing is growing, the plant with its first set of true leaves might be huge, so I'm leaning towards the latter option.

The bok choy seedlings continue to grow. Closer examination shows that they just have weird bilobed seed leaves, and not four distinct seed leaves. Don't know what I was thinking yesterday.

The spinach is starting to come up as well.

Lithops Grow-along Day 10

The little guys keep growing and growing. There are two clusters of growth as well as one guy off by himself now. There don't seem to be any more sprouts coming up, and I think I might've actually accidentally knocked over a couple of them despite using a gentle mister. I've taken to misting the saran wrap cover rather than the growing area directly to avoid any more lithops baby killing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

You know you're a plantaholic when ...

You know you're a plantaholic when you are germinating seeds right next to your bed. I give you the Dirt Gently Nursery for Slightly Fungus-ridden Toilet Paper Rolls:

Yes, this is the flat of toilet paper rolls that I had moved out of my propagation station and onto the top of my fridge due to an incipient fungus invasion. (Edit: I moved the flat to my bedroom because it turns out that the top of my fridge isn't quite warm enough to keep the flat at 20°C, mostly due to the fact that the kitchen and adjoining living room are unheated overnight. Overnight temperatures in that part of the apartment drop down to 8°C. On the other hand, keeping my relatively small bedroom 24/7 at a reasonable germination temperature is far more economical. So no, I did not move the seed flat into my bedroom because I'm crazy :D )

After treating with a sprinkling of cinnamon and watering with chamomile tea, the white fluffy stuff seems to have stopped growing, and some of the seed has even germinated quite vigorously:

The bok choy is going gangbusters, and I can see the moonflower (Ipomoea alba) sprouts unfurling and breaking the surface of the growing medium.

I was always under the impression that monocots had a single seed leaf due to their having only a single cotyledon, and dicots, two. But, the bok choy seems to have four distinct leaves. That's a bit weird ... can someone explain to me what's going on here? Are the four leaves in the picture above actually true leaves, or simply pairs of bilobed seed leaves?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There's hope yet ...

Amidst the fuzzy bits of fungus and sprinkles of cinnamon, I spy with my little eye ... bok choy sprouts!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toilet paper fail

It looks like my little experiment in seed sowing with toilet paper rolls might be coming to an early end as I spotted fungal mycelia this morning in several cells and on the side of some toilet paper rolls.

Strangely enough, the one plastic 4-cell pack that I did sow is fungus-free.

I think this has to do with the fact that I thoroughly disinfected the plastic pots by soaking in 10% bleach, whereas the toilet paper rolls were not disinfected at all. Also, I think that the toilet paper rolls might still have been too wet even after drying overnight. Instead of bottom-watering the filled TP rolls before sowing, I should have probably dampened the medium, let it dry to an acceptable level of moistness, then add it to the container, then sown. Live and learn.

I'm going to try to save the stuff I've sown in toilet paper rolls by spraying with chamomile tea and sprinkling with cinnamon. In the meantime, I will be moving the rolls out of the germination and propagation station and onto the top of my fridge in an attempt to save the rest of the plants (including the lithops seedlings!) from collateral damage.

Lithops Grow-along Day 6

The older seedlings are looking rather robust now, and some new ones are coming up as well.

Monday, February 21, 2011

TP for my ... seed sowing

I decided to experiment with sowing some seeds in toilet paper rolls this weekend. Aside from my bacopa seeds, it's still far too early to start most veggies and flowers indoors in my zone, but @inhabitingtrees suggested way back last fall that I give growing spinach and carrots indoors a shot. Plus, cabin fever: after my wintersowing frenzy in January, I couldn't stand not sowing anything in February.

I flattened a standard toilet paper roll along the long axis, and then folded it again in half to make a crease. The goal is to create a squarish toilet paper roll after un-flattening it.

Next, I cut notches in each of the four corners, each approximately the length of my fingertip to my first knuckle (roughly 3/4 of an inch, 2 centimeters, or 1 DG. Not sure what this is in cubits, chains, or fathoms). I then folded the resulting flaps over to close off the end of the toilet paper roll.

For ease of manipulation, I took a long rubber band to gang together four prepared toilet paper rolls. It turns out that if I tied off the rubber band by 1 DG, it was just long enough to hold the four rolls together without squishing them out of shape.

I filled each cell with seed starting media. Some scrap paper folded into a funnel helped me minimize the mess. I then poured in about 4 litres of warm water (it was about 50°C) to moisten the medium. After about an hour or so of soaking, the medium was thoroughly wet ... a little too wet. I let the whole thing sit overnight so that the medium was more moist (like cake ... mmm cake) than wet (like a saturated sponge). The medium did compact and slump a bit overnight, though. I used a wooden skewer like a dipstick to check the moisture level.

Also, some of the tubes did not hold their shape well and have already started coming apart. Surprisingly, the tubes from cheaper toilet paper were much more sturdy.

Finally, I sowed the following:
  • Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing (Sage Garden Herbs): 2 seeds x 4 cells
  • Bok Choy (Richters): 4 x 4
  • Carrots, Jaune du Doubs (Tree & Twig): 4 x 4
  • Cape Daisy, Sky & Ice (Seeds & More): 2 x 4
  • Pepper, Jalapeno (Sage Garden Herbs): 2 x 4
  • Bacopa, Snowtopia (Thompson & Morgan): 1 x 4
  • Datura (Mr. Fothergills): 1 x 4
  • Moonflower (Sage Garden Herbs): 1 x 5
  • "Datura" (From my mom): 3 x 4
  • "Chinese Spinach" (From my mom): a sprinkling
I used a pen cap with notches cut every 1/4" as a dibber

All the datura and moonflower seeds were soaked overnight in warm water. The difference between soaked and non-soaked moonflower seeds is striking; the soaked seeds were prune-like, and had cracked open at the point where the seed used to be connected to the plant (I'm sure there's a technical term for this).

Left: soaked. Right: unsoaked
Not entirely sure what the "Chinese Spinach" is, nor whether the "Datura" from my mom is actually datura, since it looked nothing like what came out of the Mr. Fothergill's package. Guess I'll find out soon!

What species of plant exactly is this Chinese Spinach seed from?
I was rather disappointed in the Bacopa from Thompson & Morgan, especially given how expensive it was ($5 per packet!). There were supposedly 10 pellets in the foil package, but most of them had disintegrated defeating the point of pelletized seed. The foil packaging made it extremely hard to dispense the seed as well; most of it was jammed in the corners and I had to tear the package completely open to get a useful amount of seed out. After this and the lithops disappointment, I don't think I will be ordering from T&M any more.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lithops Grow-along Day 3: Seedlings!

I thought I saw some green when I checked up on my lithops pot this morning, but I couldn't be certain. I looked a little closer, and yup: seedlings! I counted at least a dozen little green guys with the help of my camera's digital macro function. I'm hoping the white filaments are roots, and not fungal growth ...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lithops Grow-along

Lithops: a genus of super slow-growing stealth succulents. It's easy to see why they're also known as living stones.

Little lithops via Super Fantastic on Flickr
I bought a packet of lithops seeds from Thompson & Morgan earlier this year and promptly forgot that I had them until Gayla Trail posted about her lithops seedlings a couple of weeks ago and encouraged me to do join the grow-along happening on her forum.

I finally got around to tearing open the packet to sow them Wednesday and I was amazed at how tiny the seeds were. My second thought was that for $5.99, T&M sure skimped on the seeds - there were roughly 40 in the packet. By comparison, I learned from Gayla that you can get the same amount of seeds from Mesa Garden and Cono's Paradise for less than half the price and you can buy specific species and cultivars from them. Boo-urns T&M!

Undaunted, I sowed the seeds into moist cactus potting soil - they're the tiny orange spheres in the centre of the picture below (click to zoom), and then sprinkled some fine sand on top.

To keep the soil moist, I covered with the pot using saran wrap and an elastic. Every day is Sweater Day chez Dirt Gently, so a heating pad is a must to keep the seeds cozy. Light is required for germination, so into the light garden they go!

Hopefully, in a week or so, I'll have a pot full of happy little lithops seedlings! In the meantime, I found some lithops reading to keep me entertained until then:

Garlicy Wordless Wednesday