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Starting Pine and Coniferous seeds/ Low Seed viability/ Slow growth.  RSS feed

 
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I pulled a bunch of cones last winter and started about 30 seeds.   I think I pulled the seeds at the wrong time as most were not viable.  Of the 30 or so seeds only 3 sprouted.  Possibly, I didn't start them correctly.  I checked the seeds with the float test and I didn't plant the floaters.

The three baby trees don't seem to be growing at all.  I'm not sure what the timeline is on the Serbian Spruce from seed, but I feel like I'm doing something wrong.  These were in a window but I recently transplanted them to larger pots and started using a grow light every day.   For sure, some of this could be an initial transplant

shock but I'm wondering why they didn't grow in the window.   They did have big healthy roots when I transplanted them.

Any suggestions on how to get these to take off?

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Serbian Spruce Seedling
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Serbian Spruce Seedling 2
 
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Those will do fine, pinus don't "jump up" in their first two years from sprouting.

Tip, Pinus actually needs to be stratified to grow at the best rate.
In nature pine nuts that aren't gathered for squirrel food usually spend the winter laying on the soil, subjected to cold, then in the spring they sprout with the snow melt and early rains.

Redhawk
 
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Dr. Redhawk is correct about considering some seeds' specific need for heat, cold, or chemical (i.e. animal digestion) stratification. Also, I would not assume you are doing anything wrong due to low germination rates alone. This is common in many native nw conifers according several friends working as national park restoration ecologists. It also makes sense with how long lived many conifers are that they could afford low germination rates.  They can produce many millions of seeds in their lifetime, and to maintain their range and species population, they only have to produce two offspring trees that survive to maturity and reproduction. Conifers also often need a particular soil fungus native to their forests, I know this is definitely true of the late succession/climax old growth forest trees like western hemlock and coast redwood, but doubt they are alone.  In general, conifers play the long game, and are deeply connected to their native associated species.

This also goes for conifers and squirrels which are fantastic foresters. With douglas squirrels of the western US, they forget about or for some reason simply don't eat 90% of the seeds they bury. They just so happen to bury most douglas fir seeds at right about the perfect depth for their germination. I would bet this relationship is similar for many squirrels/seed buriers and their native food source trees... Any way you could get a siberian squirrel?
 
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Yes, slow growing the first few years. Here are some Douglas Fir seedlings that I started last March. Yours look healthy and should be just fine.
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Douglas Fir Seedlings - 10 months old
 
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Don't they need some kind of specific kind of mycorrhizal fungi to team up with? Never done pines, but if i were worried about growth i'd try to find the mothertree or another of the same kind, look for a root, remove a little bit of soil. Mix it in water and add that.
 
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Hugo Morvan wrote:Don't they need some kind of specific kind of mycorrhizal fungi to team up with? Never done pines, but if i were worried about growth i'd try to find the mothertree or another of the same kind, look for a root, remove a little bit of soil. Mix it in water and add that.


Yes you are correct. Recommendation is to harvest soil from the root zone of a mature white pine to inoculate the potting soil with. I strongly suspect bolete species are the desired ones.
 
Scott Foster
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Thanks, everyone, for the great information.  

Jim, what is that setup you are using for your seedlings?  Love to hear about it.

Thanks Again,

Scott

 
Jim Guinn
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I bought it from Greenhouse Megastore. They call these Cone-tainers.  You can see them and the trays (sold separately) about half way down this page: https://www.greenhousemegastore.com/containers-trays/plant-pots/



 
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