Still time to start over if the first sowing
I've been trying to start some seeds and am not having
good luck. A few of some types sprouted on time but it's been weeks
and there haven't been any new ones coming. Others didn't sprout at
Check your basics first. Did you use airy, sterile soilless mix
and clean containers? Do those flats or pots have drain holes so
excess water flows out freely? Dirty pots and garden soil -- even
the best loam -- may harbor fungi that can kill seed before or as
it sprouts. Too much moisture can rot seeds and roots.
Then think about a plant's specific germination needs.
Temperature, amount of light and treatments like pre-soaking or
moistening and refrigerating seed for 3 months can make or break
Those who study germination, including Dr. Norman Deno who wrote
"Seed Germination Theory and Practice," have changed the way we
handle seeds. For instance, these scientists have proven that what
we once called dormancy is really a period of gradual change in the
starchy food reserves around an embryonic plant and in the seed
coat that contain both. In many cases, chemicals that formed while
the seed ripened inhibit further development of the embryo until
conditions are right. It may take a certain amount of time,
specific temperatures or changes in temperature, the presence or
absence of light, or a combination of these things to break down
Instructions in catalogs and on seed packages reflect Dr. Deno's
and others' research, listing specific steps required to germinate
each species. Check back to see if you did anything contrary.
One mistake inexperienced seed-sowers make is covering seeds
that need light to germinate. Another is keeping sown seed too cold
or too warm. Any of these can kill the seed.
It happens to all of us, so don't be discouraged. There is still
time to order and start new seed!
Classes are available to help teach people about what the
emerald ash-borer does and how to assist the problem.
We have much to learn about the emerald ash borer. It has killed
tens of thousands of trees already and has moved outward from those
areas. Yet we are only guessing how fast it will spread. We don't
have detailed maps of where it is and isn't yet within quarantined
The overall containment effort will be most effective if ash
trees are managed on the basis of specific local information. Yet
our officials don't have the manpower or budget to take what we
know to individual tree owners and help them make decisions one ash
at a time.
We aim to identify where the borers are currently at work
and alert those who should remove infested trees plus those
whose trees are at high risk. As we monitor those areas over the
next months and years we will improve our ability to advise
individuals about specific trees. For instance, if we learn that a
certain neighborhood is not yet infested and come to know that
beetles may not reach it for several years, we may advise those ash
tree owners that preventive insecticides are worthwhile. In areas
still free of borer damage but very close to current infestations,
we'll help property owners recognize which trees are at risk and
what replacements they might plan.
We'll also report to those in charge of the overall containment
program, which may indicate that program's effectiveness or need
Green thumbs up
to that glorious thaw nine days ago and the gardeners who used
it to prune Japanese maples and other small trees. Missed it? Be
ready for the next one, soon!
Green thumbs down
to lack of forethought and the resulting rust on our pruning
tools. If you didn't oil and clean your blades last fall do it now
so you can use them in the next thaw.
Originally published 3/1/03