Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Paper Towel Germination Update

Upper Rack
      Last month on January 4th, I started germinating some seeds using the moist paper towel method. At the time I believed that the forecast for a big El Nino winter suggested that we would have a mild winter here in the Mid Atlantic area.  I should be able to get starts out early in the cold frames, right?  Not so fast.  I have been cold, and we are looking for a low of 3 degrees overnight on Saturday!!!  Not exactly early gardening weather.  Now back to the moist towel method.

      On January 4th, I started:                                                            Results
Asian Pak Choi                  Livingston for 2013                                  Good
Mizuna Mustard                 GWD seed for 2012                                Good
Dwarf Chinese Cabbage    GWD seed for 2012                                 Good
Bloomsdale Spinach           Bulk seed from Alexanders, Year ?           Zip
Forellenschluss lettuce        Fedco for 2012                                         Zip
Winter Density Lettuce       Fedco for 2012                                         Zip
Lettuce Red Sails               GWD for 2011                                          Zip
Romaine Lettuce                Livingston for 2008                                    Zip

      On January 5th, I started:
Radish                               Burpee's French Breakfast for 2015           90 % +
Beedy's Camden Kale       Fedco for 2010                                          Good
Radish, Purple Plum           Lake Valley for 2015                                 90 % +
Swiss Chard                      Livingston Bright Lights for 2015                Only fair
Romaine Lettuce                Fedco Winter Wonderland for 2012          Good
Arugula                              GWD but unlabeled                                   Zip
Hardy Mild Mustard           GWD for 2012                                            Good
Curly Kale                          GWD for 2011                                            90 % +

      On January 6th, I started:
Sylvetta Arugula                  Fedco for 2010                                         Zip
Roquette Arugula                Livingston for 2009                                   Fair - Okay
Chinese Mustard                 GWD Thick Stem for 2014                       Good
Purple Kohlrabi                   Lake Valley for 2015                                Very good
Savoy Cabbage                   Fedco var Deadon for 2012                      Okay
Swiss Chard                        Burpee's Rhubard Chard for 2014             Good
Lacinto Kale                        Fedco for 2012 Nero di Tuscana               Good
Radish, Watermelon             Livingston for 2015                                    Good  

      What did I learn from all of this?  Early January is too early to be starting fast growing crops.  Had it been a very mild winter, the starting time could still have been delayed for probably two weeks.  The seeds for year 2012 seem to be the tipping point for germination.  Prior to that there were a lot of zero germinations. For 2013 and later, only the Livingston Bright Lights was spotty.  So a little later this spring I should use up all of my 2012 seeds, and only carry forward 2013 or later.  And maybe work hard to use up the 2013 seed as well.  The results also suggest that my own GWD saved seed have done quite well.
       With the exceedingly cold forecast for overnight Saturday, I am going to have to bring the starter trays back inside for some period of time.  Bummer

Middle Rack
Lowest Rack


Organizing the Seeds

      I have tons and tons of seeds.  And in many places.  Old seeds, new seeds, labeled seeds, and nearly useless unlabeled seeds.  My paper towel project was a start to test the viability of some of the older seeds, so I could see what to keep for next year.  This project is an attempt to get them all in one organized spot.

      The pile on the left is total seed chaos.  The seeds were kept in a box that had no internal dividers. Paper bags containing seeds were all battered.  The soda sleeves on the right are 5" by 5", and a box I found from a holiday delivery was a perfect 15" by 15".  I cut that down to a depth that I thought would be correct, then cut the soda boxes down to 5" tall with the fourth side 6" tall.  That will allow me to write a label on the taller 6" section.  After putting the seeds in some order:

      Wow, that is much better.  Nine little boxes fit snugly in the big box, but are large enough to hold a lot of seed packets.  There are squash and cucumber seeds in one box, lettuce and various salad green seeds in another, herbs in one, and flower seeds in another, etc.  Something accomplished on a snowy day.
      Did I mention that the price was great for this organizer?