Tag Archives: perennial grasses

Seed Success in the garden Week 13

Seed Success in the garden Week 13

Seed Success in the garden Week 13
A few weeks ago I shared my seed sowing ideas with friendsI mentioned the tests and comparisons I was making to find the most successful way to sow seeds and grow on seedlings.

These have now to conclusions, and the answers are not what might have been expected.

Test one was on sweet peas. With a historic 50 per cent germination rate I thought there had to be ways to improve production. Thompson and Morgan have a  useful page of suggestions, but some of it seemed just too much hassle.  So I put it to the test.

They included soaking in water, soaking in tea – using the tanins to mimic passing through a birds digestive system. And also chipping the seed, not chipping them, planting them shallower or deeper than suggested.

Seed success with sweet peas
Seed sowing test with sweet peas

Nothing made a real difference, except for the deeper planted seed. They had not been soaked or scored in any way, just planted 4cm deep as opposed to 2cm. They came up faster and notably stronger.

I shall repeat that specific test for confirmation this week.

The other test was on the sowing medium, specific John Innes mix seed compost or a vastly cheaper multi purpose. I use the B&Q Verve compost, and recommend it highly. For most purposes I mix the MP compost with some sharp sand at 4:1

Seed success with multipurpose compost

I sowed 5 different seeds – Digitalis, Achillea Cerise Queen, Achillea Gold Plate, my own super Delphinium strain and some chilli peppers left from an earlier sowing – in lines across trays of compost.They were lightly covered with compost and soaked them from below in a water tray. They were next to each other in a heated propagator.

This produced interesting results in what actually germinated and how they behaved in the weeks following.

In the JI seed compost the Digitalis was up first after about a week, followed by the Delphiniums and a few of the Gold Plate. Nothing was going on with the MP still.

Another few days later and there was growth in all 5 lines of the MP tray, but nothing different in the JI.

A further week passed and all was ell with the MP, but the Digitalis had all died back in the JI tray.  My conclusion was that the composts were drying out at different rates, and the MP retained water longer. The Achillea Gold Plate and Delphiniums were all pricked out into trays and look strong. I have left the MP tray still to watch the slower growing chilli seeds, and to see what happens with the faster growing Digitalis.

Testing different sizes

The final test was in potting on, and what happens when using larger or smaller cells for growing on. I used 24, 54 and 60 cell trays available from the garden centre.

Delphinium seedlings
delphiniums in 60 cells.
Delphinium seedlings
Delphinium in 24, 54 and 60 cell trays

After 3 weeks the 24 cells plants are showing strong growth and ready to pot on further. The 60 and 54 cell plants are not so evidently growing away. They are are susceptible to  some cells being either too wet or too dry.  And it is hard to tell if the seedlings are not growing in the smaller cells, or if they are being restricted by them.

I will take them all apart this week for a definitive answer, even though that may mean sacrificing some of them.

So the conclusion is to use larger cell trays and stick with multipurpose compost, rather than the more expensive John Innes seed  mix.

 

Stipa Gigantea This week in the garden Week 11

Stipa Gigantea This week in the garden Week 11 

Stipa Gigantea This week in the garden week 11
Squaring up to this apparent beast – it having anchored itself in over more than three years – was not something I was looking forward to.

But it had been planted previously for convenience, rather than in the best position for it. It also needed tidying and dividing.

So with tread boards carefully placed to stop me sinking into the turned soil. I step in and start pulling out the long growth at about 12 inches from the ground. It reminds me of Hagrid. After removing a barrow full I can now see the extent of the clump.

The first fork goes in and meets – surprising light resistance. As the Stipa is up against a fence I have only 180 degrees to confront it, so place fork opposite the first lift and gently lever. And up it comes.

The roots are light and shallow, so getting it to split was no problem at all. In fact the outer sections with fresh roots showing look ready to fall off on their own.

To get a better look at I put on top of a wheelie bin. Trimming it back further leaves a neat Stipa “hedgehog”, that will be easier to part. Tough clumps can be split with a spade, but this was easily parted by hand into neat clumps with clear root divisions.

I have a spot in good sun and a lighter soil in mind, where it – or rather them after I have finished – will be seen.

Divide perennial grasses
Stipa Gigantea – trim back growth to from a “hedgehog”

Replanting Stipa Gigantea

The long established Hemerocallis that occupy the site have to be removed. At the same time I can dig in some home-made course garden compost. This and the continual mulching is producing a nicely textured soil compared to the slabs of clay that are otherwise the norm here.

From the one clump I made three, but one subsequently parted naturally and so there were four.

Stipa Gigantea
Replanting divisions of Stipa Gigantea

These two will soon be accompanied by Verbena Bonariensis, hopefully providing a delicate screen to peer through to see the main border.

The following photo shows the same plant 10 days after planting.

Stipa Gigantea
Showing strong growth just 10 days after replanting