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Newbie wants to grow seedlings in his home  RSS feed

 
Jerome Lee
Posts: 6
Location: Quebec
forest garden
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My goal is to plant trees/shrubs like Serviceberry (juneberry/amelanchier), Sea Buckthorn, Honey Locust in the upcoming spring, starting from seeds.

I live in a cold climate, so I would be starting seedlings indoors.

I am aware of the different germination requirements for each plant. My plan would be to use a seed tray with peat pellets, and probably use some artificial lighting.

But I have many questions. Will I need to transplant my seedlings into bigger pots when they get sufficiently big? Can I expect my seedlings to be sufficiently competitive with weeds when comes time to plant them in the spring? Is the earlier the better when it comes to starting the seedlings or am I better off waiting until January or so?

I would like to do minimal work once they are planted in the soil (ideally minimal watering, weeding, etc.), and I certainly don't mind if half of them end up dying.

Thanks
 
Deb Rebel
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I have a hate for Jiffy Pot pellets or peat pots. They don't break down in the soil like they claim.

Go for a maker and make your own compressed mix pots, with newspaper or some such. No barrier for the roots to fight through.

Also go for deep deep pots. You can get 10-12 inch 'treepots' that are like 3x3 inches or 4x4 inches. This allows the little treeling to drop that tap root and get started on building a proper root system. You can start your trees in the cubes you make then put them into the treepots.

https://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/make-your-own-garden-seedling-soil-blocks-and-save-money.html ; gives you an idea. Invest once and make all you want.

http://www.greenhousemegastore.com/product/deepots-tree-pots/tree-seedling-containers I have invested in these and built my own holding trays. I bought ONE of their holding trays to see what they did. The pots are reuseable, just use some care in decanting the tree seedling.

 
chip sanft
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Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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You might want to take a look at Eliot Coleman's books -- The New Organic Grower or another. He has lots of advice for short season growing. He advocates pressed-earth blocks for planting. But his advice is specific and concrete and, I think, a very useful starting point.
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I dislike linking to my own posts because I think it's tacky, but the set-up I show how to build here will work great for your seed starting trees.  I know you said you want to start them indoors, but the seeds you mentioned all need the cold season.  If you put your seeds in the same set-up I use for cuttings and leave them out all winter, you should have good germination in the spring.  You can use the same growing medium I do for cuttings.

plant startup system
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I use pieces of PVC drain pipe (schedule 40) for tree starting. I use 4" pipe in 2 foot sections, you can simply stack them tightly together, won't need to transplant until they are ready to go into their permanent home and the tap root will form nicely.

trees can be germinated indoors but you will need to give them their required chill hours prior to planting by stratification, some seeds might need scarification as well.
If you plant them in the pipes filled with soil, you can simply set them up in a cold frame that is tall enough and let them go through the winter, in spring they will sprout and grow for a year in the tube, at which point they can be placed where you want them to live their life.

Redhawk
 
Jerome Lee
Posts: 6
Location: Quebec
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To be clear, with those methods, I wouldn't do any processing of the seeds, right? (no water soaking, no filing seeds?)

Also, what is the main purpose of the greenhouse (cold frame or aquarium designs alike)? Is it mostly for increased warmth during the spring? Pest/weeds/humidity control?

Bryant RedHawk wrote: I use 4" pipe in 2 foot sections


That's 4" diameter and 2 foot tall? Why so tall? Do seedlings need that much depth?


Thank you all very much, I really appreciate.
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Jerome Lee wrote:To be clear, with those methods, I wouldn't do any processing of the seeds, right? (no water soaking, no filing seeds?)

Also, what is the main purpose of the greenhouse (cold frame or aquarium designs alike)? Is it mostly for increased warmth during the spring? Pest/weeds/humidity control?

Bryant RedHawk wrote: I use 4" pipe in 2 foot sections


That's 4" diameter and 2 foot tall? Why so tall? Do seedlings need that much depth?


Thank you all very much, I really appreciate.


The seeds will get all the moisture they need to sprout from the growing medium.  In early spring after your hard freezes are over, you water them.  I don't do anything to the seeds before planting them.  The winter freeze takes care of "processing" the seeds.  The set-up also does all the other things you mentioned.  It protects the new seedlings from too much sun, too much heat but keeps them warm, keeps weeds from sprouting, keeps moisture high, keeps pests out.  I have had really good results from this method.

I haven't tried Bryant's method, but I will now.  I would assume the height is the encourage a nice long tap root with plenty of growing room while discouraging a lot of spread until the trees are transplanted.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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If you use the methods Todd and I use, then no you do not need to do anything special. I usually presoak seeds prior to planting in the spring, if I plant for over wintering then I don't have to do that step.
Scarification is a way to simulate the passage through a gut system, Pit seed usually don't need any if they are planted for over wintering in the soil. If it is a fruit it probably is a seed that wants to pass through a gut system.
You don't have to scratch very deep, just enough to get rid of the "seed shine" is usually enough, I use 80 grit sandpaper when I have to scarify.

The tap root of a tree will be as long as the tree is tall, the first thing to grow on any tree is the main (tap) root, it will quickly reach two feet long and then the upper part (tree trunk) will begin to grow.

In the beginning stages of a tree's growth, wind is an enemy, later turning into a friend, the greenhouse, cold frame or high tunnel functions as a wind break, a heat retainer, light multiplier.

The 4" diameter is so the side roots have space to grow, I leave new trees in my pipe planters for a full year, sometimes two years. The longer they have in such an environment, the better they grow once planted out.

I use the size I chose because I don't want to transplant more than one time, transplanting induces stresses on a new tree and I prefer to keep stress at a minimum.

Redhawk
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

In the beginning stages of a tree's growth, wind is an enemy, later turning into a friend, the greenhouse, cold frame or high tunnel functions as a wind break, a heat retainer, light multiplier.

Redhawk


Very good point about the wind, that I completely forgot to mention.  Absolutely one of the most important parts of the setup.

Redhawk, what do you use for your growing medium?  I'm anxious to try your method.  I can see real advantages to your way over mine, in particular, the only needing to transplant once.  If I get time this weekend, I'll be making a version of yours with an old double pane patio door I have been keeping.  It was going to be a traditional cold frame, but I think I will make one over a hole  in the ground to contain the pipes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The mix I have been having the best success with is: 1/3 sharp sand, 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat. Sometimes I will add vermiculite (expanded mica), most times I don't have it on hand so it gets left out, when I add that I use it as a substitute for half of the peat.

I also forgot to mention that I press on a cap for the bottom, I usually drill two to four 1/4 inch holes in the caps for drainage.
When I plant out, that press on cap can be twisted off which helps in getting the young tree freed up and it will then slide right out of the tube.

Redhawk
 
Jerome Lee
Posts: 6
Location: Quebec
forest garden
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Todd paints his aquarium to block some of the light, is that something I should do for a cold frame, or is that not much of a concern?
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Jerome Lee wrote:Todd paints his aquarium to block some of the light, is that something I should do for a cold frame, or is that not much of a concern?


Jerome, I do it because it really helps diffuse the light and keeps the set-up from over-heating.  You can vent the cold frame (lift the lid a little) to help with cooling, but I find that painting it and just leaving a few strips clear makes it a little more maintenance free, since I don't have to worry about venting.  I also keep mine in the shade.  A closed box in the sun can easily get 120+ F. very quickly on a sunny day.  I find that diffuse light works very well for young plants and doesn't let them sunburn.
 
Jerome Lee
Posts: 6
Location: Quebec
forest garden
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Since the soil won't be covered with snow during the winter, is there a risk of it reaching temperatures low enough to essentially kill the seed? (record low temperatures here are near -30F). Or is the cold frame enough of an insulator?

I have some experience with growing garlic and know of the importance of a snow bed during cold winters, but maybe that's totally different.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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That's the purpose of the cold frame, if the temps inside start to get to low you can always add a blanket to keep the soil from freezing.
You want the seed to get the cold but not freeze.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I think many of the cold-climate plants have seeds that are happy to get frozen as part of stratification. They probably have a minimum temperature below which they get damaged, so the cold frame probably keeps it a bit warmer than the outdoor extreme. Since Quebec is good and cold, you could stuff the cold frame with fallen leaves in the autumn to help moderate the winter temperature, and then pull them out when you think it's a good time to start warming them up, maybe in March. And you could let the snow accumulate on top of the cold frame so it gives its normal protection.

As said above, you probably don't need to soak the seeds but do make sure the soil is good and damp at the beginning, before it gets put under the cold frame.

I've stratified seeds (capers) successfully by planting them in autumn, watering the soil, and leaving them out through January to enjoy the -22C nights. Then I take them into the warming solar greenhouse in February and get good germination from march through May. Other times I kept them in the shady side of the greenhouse so they enjoyed maybe -3C, also with good results. Without any stratification at all, ie planted in damp soil and kept warm from the beginning, they never germinated for me at all.
 
Jerome Lee
Posts: 6
Location: Quebec
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What are your thoughts on a very simple system like this: https://youtu.be/wFnuoSDVUQo?t=332

(Basically just an outdoor seedbed with short wood walls and a metal net on top to protect from animals, meant to be put near trees/buildings to protect from winds and too much sun).
The video is from France, so maybe the context is a bit different in terms of climate though. They claim to only need to weed once a year.

It's not a big deal if I need to wait an extra year or so before transplanting, because once the ball is rolling, I will be planting trees every year anyways.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I bought two trays of 10" tree pots from Amazon last winter.  72 pots total. They work great! I planted chestnuts, black walnuts and Carpathian walnuts. I planted during the winter, so they'd have cold stratification. Most of them came up. I have more than 60 trees growing and thriving in about a 2x4' area. I call it my mini forest.
 
Jerome Lee
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Location: Quebec
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Bryant, I'm inclined to go with a solution like yours, but I'm still unsure about one thing. If I sow in november in some moist medium, will I need to water at all until the spring, or will it remain sufficiently moist?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I usually don't have to water once I lower the lid on the cold frame. I have a layer of mulch in it and I water that once, just before I drop the lid.
 
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