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Cornucopia - Seed Sowing Experiment

Seed Sowing Experiment
Ann and Bob Armstrong

In Newsletter No. 140, November 2007 there was an article by the late Peter Thompson on a method of sowing seeds as an alternative to using pots and since January 2008 we have been following his ideas with quite satisfying results. The main problems with sowing in pots are the amount of space needed, disturbance by mice and birds etc, growth of mosses and liverworts and keeping the moisture levels just right.

Into a pre-labelled and dated re-sealable sandwich bag place a gritty mix of perlite and grit (sharp sand or in our case B&Q paving sand, a recycled glass product), add the seeds and water with a plant sprayer. They are then placed in a transparent storage box in a cool light room. We usually check them weekly and it is very easy to spot any that have germinated. The contents are then gently slid on to the surface of a prepared pot of seed compost, topped off with very fine grit from our local pet shop and stood in a bowl of water for a few hours. After a few days the tiny seedlings right themselves and grow on quite happily. The reasons for using re-sealable bags are that they can be washed and used over and over again and in the event of the mix drying out too much it is a simple matter to re-spray.

We always sow seed as soon as possible and soak large coated seeds in the usual way. Whilst we have had failures and suspect this method won’t work for some genera we are still experimenting and the results so far (Nov 2009) for seed sown in 2008 are encouraging.

Out of 495 bags of seed sown from a variety of sources 307 have germinated representing over 60% success, 74 have been thrown away and 8 have been transferred to pots. The main reason for failure is probably non-viable seed but as mentioned above we suspect that some fine seed, primula and gentian for instance and seed from high altitude plants require the open aspect of a pot. Some species germinate very quickly, 6 days is our record, and some are still germinating over a year later. Many species do exhibit a double dormancy so we expect to have a few more successes yet.

This method enables us to try to grow a very wide variety of plants as space is no longer an issue; we could never have housed 495 pots!

First published in the Lincolnshire Group Newsletter, March 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 30.
© Copyright for this article: Ann and Bob Armstrong

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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