One Seed Growing Approach

All about seed grown plants. How-to information, progress reports, show of your results.
peterb
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One Seed Growing Approach

Post by peterb »

Hello-

I've had some success with the following seed sowing and growing procedures, so I figured I'd post it. I'd also be interested to hear what others have done that either worked or didn't.

My methods are fairly labor intensive up front, but make it possible to grow the germinated plants generally just like all of my other plants after a few months.

The mix:

2 parts coarse construction sand, screened to remove bigger rocks etc.

2 parts fine red scoria, a volcanic pumice available here in NM. This has to be screened three times, until it's uniformly about 1/8th to 1/16 of an inch across. Tiny little airy rocks. Substitutes could be perlite, other forms of volcanic pumice, or perhaps a fine gravel.

3 parts Metromix 320, a soil-less commercial mix, also screened to remove bark, etc.

Some species get no Metromix at all (Sclerocacti, Pediocacti, some Astrophytums, Echinocacti, etc), but the heavy sandy fine loam we have here on the mesa tops. In other areas I suspect sand, perlite and a small amount of any growing medium or loam would work.

The sand and scoria is baked in an oven at 375F for 45 mins to an hour.

A note on screens: several different size window screen material is available from hardware and home improvement stores. Generally, a wide, a medium and a small work fine, and can be nailed or stapled to a simple wood frame.

Sowing:

It's important to thoroughly mix the ingredients, so that water absorption and retention is consistent over the whole lot of pots.

I like to use individual 2" green plastic square pots, so that species with different requirements can be treated differently after germination if necessary. I also sometimes get lazy and use "plug trays," with a preference for the larger size compartments. Plug trays aren't so great when you sow a bunch of Echinocerei right next to the early rotters like Astros and Echinomastus, etc.

I fill the pots or plug tray evenly and then soak, as in soak completely. I am not particular about water, but probably should be. But even just with regular tap water I get good results.

Sprinkle the seeds as evenly as possible over the soil surface, about 10-30 seeds to a pot. The seedlings and young plants are going to be in these pots for about two years, so I don't like to sow too densely.

I cover only to the thickness of the seed with some of the coarse sand, or sometimes some fine gravel. I've found thinner covering to be better than too much.

I use a seed tray with a dome cover. It stays on fairly tightly for the first week or two and then gets propped as germination proceeds. I also overhead water with a fine mist attachment, and have never had any loss or washout or anything. Some strongly recommend bottom watering, but the foggit nozzle on the hose works fine for me. I spray lightly two or three times a day for the first 10 days or so. Generally, I've found cactus seedlings appreciate moisture and humidity. If you can provide hot (85-100F) days and cool nights (65-70F) most species seem to appreciate this also.

Light: I sometimes put the seed tray(s) outside where they can get bright sun, but put shade cloth over the tray dome, propped up. ("Shade cloth" this year amounted to a few Bounce dryer sheets).

The trays also sometimes just hang out in a bright window without direct sun and with no shade cloth.

Santa Fe nights can be a bit too cool, so I used a bottom heat pad this year and it seems to have helped.

After a month or two I just spray water once or twice a day.

The first winter or two the seedlings stay fairly moist.

Anyway, this is what I do, without a greenhouse. I think what cut down on success in the past was actually too little moisture. I guess I prefer overhead spraying because you can control the amount of water delivered more carefully. The trick seems to be to maintain (for most species) a consistent, even moisture that's not too wet but never completely dries out.

Hope folks find this helpful,

Peter
peterb
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Post by peterb »

another quick note--- since the surface of the seed mix stays fairly moist for long periods of time, it's important that it be fairly sterile. I could see where this method would be a not so great one for more humid climates, encouraging quite a bit of algae and fungus.

Perhaps someone from a place withmore atmospheric humidity has their own system...

Peter
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Bill in SC
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Post by Bill in SC »

Very good info Peter. One thing I agree with:
Metromix is the best commercial growing medium on the market!! Fantastic growing medium!! THE BEST!!
Bill in SC
daiv
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Post by daiv »

Great contribution Peter! This post will be referenced many times I'm sure!
All Cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are Cacti
peterb
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Post by peterb »

Hi Darryl- I figured I'd bump this because some found it helpful. I wonder if my approach is similar to Gene's? Some also have great luck with the baggie method, but they will have to post how they go about that.

The only change I would make is I've gone back to bottom watering instead of misting. I got very busy and misting a few times a day just isn't an option. Also, the bottom watering does seem to encourage stronger root development.

anyway, hope this helps-

peterb
hablu
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Post by hablu »

Good information!!

1. Daiv, couldn't you place this message in the seedsection too? Lot's of people will search over there for this kind of information.
2. I use the plastic bag method. This year with good results too. Strange how results can differ from year to year while I'm doing the same things. This year no algea at all and about 50 to 80% good results. Last year 20 to 30% in (what I think) the same conditions. Can't figure out the difference. Harry
Tony
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Post by Tony »

Thanks Peterb, good stuff in there. :thumbright:
Forget the dog...Beware of the plants!!!

Tony
Loph
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Post by Loph »

jsut thought i would throw in my 2 cents as i am from a tropical area. humidity is around 90% right now and it rains a lot...

anyway for starting seeds i use 100% fine washed sand. i use a fine sand cacti mix and wash it to get rid of organic debris and such. i place it in a tub and sow seeds on top slightly pushing them down to keep them from falling over. then i mist heavily to make the entire medium moist and place the clear lid on top. my aim i moist substrate and 100% humidity. Last week i planted 15 L. fricii and 100% are up. I just planted another 40+ trichocereus and some more fricii, we shall see how well they do :)
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CoronaCactus
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Post by CoronaCactus »

Thank you peterb, much appreciated.
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tumamoc
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Post by tumamoc »

I have some questions regarding your seed growing approach:

1) What is in metromix?
2) Is it a bad idea to provide the seedlings organic matter (e.g., poting soil, sphagnum, duff)?
3) I would like to grow my seedlings outdoors. Is a fungus problem inevitable? Is it still worthwhile to bake the soil initially?
peterb
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Post by peterb »

Hi- Metromix is a growing medium that has peat and other rganic matter, perlite, etc. It holds moisture fairly well. It helps the seedlings along by keeping the root zone moist but not too wet. It's also sterile.

I'm not sure about growing outside. It's always been a tricky proposition for me. I find it much harder to provide moderate temperatures and evenly provided moisture in an outdoor environment. Also, maybe not applicable in Tucson, but nighttime temps can still be in the 50s when it's the right temps during the day (80-90) in June.

I've had more success having seed trays outside during the day and inside at night.

have fun

peterb
Loph
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Post by Loph »

i think organic bits will invite fungus. seeds are grown far more moist than older cactus.
peterb
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Post by peterb »

Hi Loph- screened Metromix doesn't seem to invite fungus, maybe because it's sterile?

sorry for the double post above,

peterb
iann
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Post by iann »

As with adult plants, organic matter and especially peat is much more tolerable (even useful) if you live in a desert. If you live in Europe, or I imagine most places except a desert, then it is asking for trouble. I have found the best results by using a free-draining mineral mix, kept under plastic at first and then watered regularly when in the open. The surface dries quickly so algae and fungus are not a problem, and the sciarid flies don't like it presumably because there is no fungus for them to eat without organic matter.
--ian
Tony
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Post by Tony »

Bump!
I was just going back over old posts.
I found this really helpful in developing my own seed growing habits.
Forget the dog...Beware of the plants!!!

Tony
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