I don’t know why I chose to link to this song, just struck me as I was typing the title. The lyrics may have lewd connotations, or it may just be a brief discussion of elementary geometry. The song is great but the video is embarrassingly terrible, I’d press play and start reading.
I was invited to Nordhoff to Greg Lepine’s Environmental Field Studies class to share my not-so-vast knowledge of native plants and seeds.
They have a wonderful native plant garden and we thought we could spiff it up with some wildflowers. This is a guide to starting seeds indoors. The man with the “Canon” is Tanner, (groan-inducing pun intended, he’s a quarterback and our photographer).
What you will need:
Seeds of course. Local nurseries carry poppies usually, I would be very wary of the “Wildflower Seed Mix”. Your best bet for a wide selection of natives is Theodore Payne. Also S&S Seeds in Carpenteria if you are willing to buy in bulk.
Oohs, aahs and gasps cascaded from the rabble as I previewed pictures of our star attractions.
Baby blue eyes, elegant clarkia, poppies, dove lupine, chinese houses, goldfields and tidy tips. Seeds of which are waiting dry, dormant and somewhat sad three inches deep in the Ojai Meadow Preserves by the pound just next door.
Peat Pots. Any size will do. I like these because once your seedlings are large enough you just plant the whole pot outside. They do dry out faster than plastic though.
Potting soil. Filled the peat pot 3/4 of the way up. Seedlings will need the nutrients once the roots are long enough. A seed actually has enough nutrition to get itself started for a week or two.
Perlite. I like perlite because it drains very well, but somehow also retains moisture. Those nasty little volcanic rocks (always hose down before using) swell and hold water, keeping your seeds moist, but not wet like soil tends to do. Perlite goes on top of the soil, almost to the top of the pot. Then the seed, lightly press the seed into the perlite. Students then labeled each pot carefully.
Fox Farm Light Warrior Seed Starter. Contains mycorrhizae, microscopic fungus which help promote root growth. Honestly I don’t know if you need this.
As part of our experiment, we used it on half our pots. Then we set them on window sills with various sun exposures, and even one in the complete darkness. Seems like a perfect time to discuss the 3 ingredients to seed germination.
What you should know
Oxygen. That’s the easy one. Just don’t push the seeds down to far, or they won’t get any. The rule of thumb is plant seeds twice as deep as the size of the seed. Wildflower seeds are usually ridiculously small so a gentle push will do.
Water. Seems easy but this is where most run into trouble. You want to keep the seeds consistently moist, but not wet lest they rot. Couldn’t hurt to cover your pots with something to prevent excessive evaporation. We used pieces of paper, an open ziploc bag would do nicely.
Warmth. No, sun is not the answer. Actually direct sun will dry out your seeds very quickly. A warm windowsill is perfect. Filtered light is best.
And there you have it. You should start seeing some results in 5-10 days. I’ll be back to check on the Nordhoff crew in 2 weeks. If it doesn’t work I can always blame the whippersnappers. These pots are too small to allow for the seedlings to get to flowering size, we will look to transfer them to the ground (or larger pots) in about a month.