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how best to deal with seedlings that can't be planted right away

 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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I have a tote bin full of bags of various stone fruit pits, apple seeds, and nuts that I had cold stratifying over the winter in a relative's cold room. I just got it out of there (later than I was intending) and found that a lot of things have grown quite a bit more than is ideal. Mostly roots for now, but the apples all have cotyledons, some of the stone fruit are getting leaves, and one of the almonds has a 20cm long shoot with pathetic yellow leaves all over it (they were stored in the dark).

I'm wondering how to deal with them for the next two or three weeks until I can put them in the ground. Potting them isn't really an option cause we're moving in two months and need to transport all our stuff economically to our property 300 km away. I need to keep volume down. I might end up potting a few of the more valuable things - like almond and hazelnut - that I don't have as many of and want to keep losses to a minimum.

Ideas?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Heel them into a sand bed, then pull then add bare roots for transport. Irrigate on a timer if you can, water as frequently as possible if you can't.
 
Casie Becker
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Could you wrap them in damp newspaper, maybe give them some compost tea if they're showing real leaf growth? If I understood correctly, until they get real leaves they pull all their actual nutrients from the cotyledons. (tomatoes are a rare exception) That's part of why seedlings can be started in a nutrient poor material like peat and not suffer. My best guess is that if you can keep them moist, you can probably keep them alive for that long.
 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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R Scott wrote:Heel them into a sand bed, then pull then add bare roots for transport. Irrigate on a timer if you can, water as frequently as possible if you can't.


I should have added that I can't get anything into the ground at the place I'm living cause it's all semi-frozen clay mud at the moment. Maybe I can plant them into another tote bin or some 5-gallon buckets, though. Not sure where I'll come up with sand... That's a very good idea, thanks.
 
Jan White
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Casie Becker wrote:Could you wrap them in damp newspaper, maybe give them some compost tea if they're showing real leaf growth? If I understood correctly, until they get real leaves they pull all their actual nutrients from the cotyledons. (tomatoes are a rare exception) That's part of why seedlings can be started in a nutrient poor material like peat and not suffer. My best guess is that if you can keep them moist, you can probably keep them alive for that long.


Yes, I'm not worried about nutrients at this point. Even if they do suffer a bit at the beginning, I'm okay with that - I expect my plants to deal with some abuse. Mostly want to keep major root and shoot breakage down when they don't have much of either and hopefully keep everything from getting too coily...although I suppose that doesn't matter too much really.
 
Cristo Balete
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Jan, my experience with seedlings has been they are very strong out of the seed, but then they start to suffer and sometimes cannot recover well. I would do the buckets, drilled in the bottom for drainage, with a 50/50 mix of your soil and sand, planted closely, kept from freezing but allowed to have sun and watered with compost tea or 50% diluted pee, unless that creeps you out. But it's free and will give them some nutrition. Those are not too hard to move.

It's spring now so everything wants to be planted yesterday once the freezing stops. Once you get moved, try to prepare 1 gallon pots to transplant into, then you can take a breather for a few weeks, let them get a nice rootball before transplanting.

Try to prepare the soil where you are moving to by mounding Very Big Piles of organic matter over the top.

But if you've got the energy and some stolen time to give some attention to these seedlings, you'll be a year or two ahead of letting it slide. You'll be glad a year or two down the road that your fruit is underway. I've never thought afterwards, gee, I wish I hadn't protected and transplanted those seedlings.

In fact, today I discovered some 2011 tomato seeds ALL germinated! I couldn't believe it. I thought maybe 25% if I was lucky. Now 90% of them need transplanting! But come July I will be very glad!

 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Cristo Balete wrote:Jan, my experience with seedlings has been they are very strong out of the seed, but then they start to suffer and sometimes cannot recover well. I would do the buckets, drilled in the bottom for drainage, with a 50/50 mix of your soil and sand, planted closely, kept from freezing but allowed to have sun and watered with compost tea or 50% diluted pee, unless that creeps you out. But it's free and will give



Thanks for all the good advice. I didn't mean to sound like I won't give my plants any love! The problem is our new property is nutrient-poor sand and I don't know how plants are going to react to it yet. What with building a house on no budget and everything that goes along with that, I don't know how much time I'll have to pamper trees. Even irrigation is going to be pretty far down the list of things to do. (So, yes, pee will be a handy resource.) As you say, I'll never wish I'd started something later rather than earlier, so I'm starting trees even though things might be pretty rough on them this year.
 
Cristo Balete
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Jan, it happens to me every once in a while, where I can't deal with the transplants and they fall down the list, and I'm not even moving! So you've got a lot on your plate. Don't feel guilty if you don't pull them all through. Getting settled is, of course, a priority, but even a sunny window in a garage can be a helpful place to stall things. I hope the move goes well
 
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