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Beginner Gardening Questions: How much peat moss to lower pH?

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BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 17, 2012
5:13 PM

Post #9086701

I've been googling for an hour trying to find a measurement of how much peat moss to use per measure of soil to lower the soil's pH from 7 to 6.

Many of my plants this year like pH 6 (more or less). But I can find no instruction about how much to use. Since I'm growing in containers, I need to know in terms of volume (ie 1 cup per litre) or (1 part peat moss per 5 parts soil), something like that.

Does anyone know??

(no, the package doesn't say strangely)
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 17, 2012
7:24 PM

Post #9086900

Unfortunately there's no magic number--it's going to depend on what all else is in the soil that's making it be pH 7 now. Peat is probably not the best/most efficient way to lower pH in your soil either, you might consider sulfur or things along those lines too. You can add those, let things sit a day or two, then add more if necessary vs having to know exactly how much to add in the first place like you do if you're mixing peat with the potting mix. Your other option if you want something faster and easier is Miracle Gro (and probably others) make an African Violet potting mix--it is more acidic than regular potting mix and would be fine for plenty of things besides AV's. Not sure if they sell that in Canada or not.
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 18, 2012
6:20 AM

Post #9087248

I already bought the peat. The Aluminum sulfide was twice the price and I would have only used 1/20th of the package in my lifetime. I wish they had these things in bulk.

This is new soil so I'm mixing it now before putting seedlings in. It just seems bizarre to me that there are countless pages on the internet telling people to add peat to soil to lower the pH, but nothing saying how much is too much/too little. On the aluminum sulfide box, it gave exact instructions about how much to use.

I had asked the garden centre if they had acidic soil for sale and they said no. But when I was there, I did see African Violet mix... could have bought that but it's too late now. I'll never buy Scott's (miracle grow) soil again. They stole tens of my hours last year fighting fungus gnats in their soil. There were bits of green glass in it too *shakes head*

I guess I'll do 1 part peat, 3 parts soil. Maybe I'll kill everything, maybe it won't make a difference. So many things can go wrong, I just can't care too much about every single one of them.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 18, 2012
7:21 AM

Post #9087342

There are probably a couple reasons you're not finding the info you're looking for on peat. For one thing, too much aluminum is toxic to plants so on a product like that they have to give you more explicit instructions on how much to use so that you don't use too much (with peat, you don't have to worry about that--more peat makes the soil harder to rewet, but it won't kill your plants). But while they may suggest an amount of the aluminum product to add because it's so important not to add too much, you're still going to have to experiment a bit to figure out how much you need to drop your soil pH since there's going to be some variation there.

This brings me to the second point...pH is a complicated thing. If you have a pure base and a pure acid, then it's very simple to calculate how much of one to add to the other to make the mixture a certain pH. But your soil that you're starting with and the peat that you're adding are not pure base and pure acid--there's all sorts of other stuff in there which complicates things. Different brands of potting mix are not going to be exactly identical to each other, so you might mix something up today and let's say it takes 2 parts potting mix and 1 part peat to get to your target pH. You might go out in a few weeks and get some different potting mix and some different peat and it might be 3 parts potting mix and 1 part peat, etc.
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 18, 2012
11:45 AM

Post #9087654

Thanks for the answer, I'll just have to see how it goes.
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

April 18, 2012
1:16 PM

Post #9087799

Can you tell us what type of plants you intend to grow in your soil as 6-7 is not that huge a difference and can be adjusted by just adding peat to the planting area or something like garden lime (in very small dozes) to remove some of the acidity, over the years you can add on or the other when you first see signs of this need,
I have a very acidic soil where I live and grow lots of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and other tree's / shrubs that like this, soon as I see the leaf on a plant beginning to show yellow or light green than it's normal colour, I know it's time to give a feed for acidic plants or spread some peat like a mulch over the root area.
I'm not sure if your new to this type of soil or like some gardeners who think they can change what nature has created but, you can sometimes go over scientific and not get everything exact in the garden as all different elements creep into the equations, If your wishing to grow plants that are totally unsuitable for your garden soil then the easiest way to grow them is in maybe raised beds and add the soil to that area which will be easier to control, the plant roots will be years before they reach the under soil in the raised beds.
I could be way off here or not understood what you are trying to do, but hope this helps in some small way.
Good luck, Weenel.
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 19, 2012
5:21 PM

Post #9089433

I am growing all of my plants in containers.

Plants that are said to be best at ph6:
aquilegia
campanula
cerinthe
gentiana
phlox
Catananche (6-7)

Sweet pea is the only one that likes over 7, but it seems to be a negligible thing.

There's no way to know if I'll be making it 6.9 or 5.0. Seems a total crap shoot to me. And there are no signs that definitely indicate the pH is wrong. Yellow leaves could be a water issue or mildew or something else.

Strange that my 100% Canadian sphagnum peat moss has sticks and wood chips in it. That ain't right is it?

Hmm it didn't occur to me before to share my notebook. Is there an appropriate place here to make a thread where I can link to the Gardening notebook/journal I made? I think it would be useful to a lot of people.

This message was edited Apr 19, 2012 7:23 PM
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 19, 2012
5:57 PM

Post #9089479

I think most of the things you list would also do just fine at pH 7...where you start to run into problems is if you have things that have a definite preference for acidic soils and you're trying to grow them in something with a pH over 7. I have alkaline soil here and I've grown all of those plants except for Gentiana and Catananche in my garden and never had any problems. So I think you are making things more complicated than they need to be. There's no harm in adding a bit of peat to your potting mix if you want to, but I wouldn't stress over it too much. There are plenty of insects, diseases, overwatering, etc that are way more likely to cause problems for the plants than a pH of 7 (most plants have a range of pH tolerance...it's not like in their native environments the soil pH is always exactly 6).

As far as sharing your journal, if you created it here on DG and made it publicly available then people can access it by clicking on your username. If it's on another site then you could start a thread here on this forum and include a link to it for other people to look at.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 20, 2012
8:21 AM

Post #9090069

BlakeInCanada, you can also add acid to the soil with white vinegar or citric acid. If you hand water the potted plants it's easy to add acid to the water. I add about 8 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water and most of my plants are doing well. Two died so far this year (fern and ajuga soon after I bought them) but the rest are thriving (about 25) that got the vinegar solution.

If you want to know the exact ph I guess you can get ph paper and add a specific amount of acid to one gallon of water, record the amount of acid, then test the ph. That method enables you to adjust the water ph to the exact level you want. Most tap water has much higher alkalinity than rain water because governments add alkaline to prevent acid rain from corroding municipal pipes. Plants evolved with a lot more acid than regular tap water so adding acid to tap water makes irrigation water more similar to healthy rain water.

DoGooder

This message was edited Apr 20, 2012 10:23 AM
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 20, 2012
10:15 AM

Post #9090250

I have read about vinegar, but it seemed like it wouldn't last. I liked that peat would keep it acidic with one treatment.

I don't have anything to test the ph of the soil, so if I overdo it, I won't know.


I uploaded my journal and made a topic about it in the DG Journals and Diaries section.
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1253359/
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 20, 2012
10:40 AM

Post #9090277

Nothing is forever in gardening unfortunately--if your water is alkaline, then over time that will overcome the acidity of the peat moss and the pH will go back to what it was before. This is why people who have pink hydrangeas and want them to be blue have to amend their soil every year to keep it acidic and the hydrangeas blue--otherwise over time it'll drift back to the pH that soil was naturally and the flowers will go back to being pink. Depending on how you look at things, acidifying your water a little bit could be a better solution since if you do that regularly it'll be more likely to maintain an acidic pH. If you want to know exactly what effect you're having, you can buy cheap soil testing kits online or at your local garden center, and if you want to try the vinegar water approach you can buy pH paper online for not much money. But I'll still go back to the point that I think most (if not all) of your plants would do just fine with a pH of 7 so you probably don't even need to worry about it.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 20, 2012
11:56 AM

Post #9090375

BlakeInCanada, I agree with ecrane3 that the water ph will change the soil ph over time. I'm a beginner gardener so I did a lot of research last year on what type of soil-media-amendments to use to create acid media and I finally concluded that the best way to keep soil acidic is by consistently adding acid water. Alkaline tap & hose water will slowly increase the ph over time because the alkaline substance stays in the soil media building up more and more with each watering. Here's a scientific example:

"...a limestone incorporation rate of 5 pounds per cubic yard will supply approximately 100 mEq of limestone per 6-inch (15-cm) pot. Applying 16 fluid ounces (0.5 liters) of water containing 250 ppm alkalinity to that 6-inch pot will supply about 2.5 mEq of lime. That does not sound like much until you consider that after 10 irrigations, you have effectively increased the limestone incorporation rate by 25 percent."
http://www.greenhousegrower.com/article/22285

You can find out the hardness (alkalinity) of your water supply by contacting the government. Often local officials in charge of the water supply have the information. If your water is very alkaline you can reduce the alkalinity with many inexpensive products that might even be less expensive than the media you purchased. I studied all the usual ways of acidifying media (pine needles, sulfur, peat, etc.) and I found the least expensive and consistent way of maintaining acid media was by adding acid to the water on a regular basis (every 4 days for my plants). - DoGooder

flowAjen

flowAjen
central, NJ
(Zone 6b)

April 20, 2012
1:50 PM

Post #9090587

ecrane3 wrote: But I'll still go back to the point that I think most (if not all) of your plants would do just fine with a pH of 7 so you probably don't even need to worry about it.



I TOTALLY agree, it's not like your planting blueberries or Rhodys where the soil HAS to be acidic
Just using a potting soil mixture would be the easiest thing to do

altagardener
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3b)

April 20, 2012
2:46 PM

Post #9090666

BlakeInCanada wrote:I am growing all of my plants in containers.

Plants that are said to be best at ph6:
aquilegia
campanula
cerinthe
gentiana
phlox
Catananche (6-7)

Sweet pea is the only one that likes over 7, but it seems to be a negligible thing.

This message was edited Apr 19, 2012 7:23 PM


As you gain experience at gardening, you will eventually start to grasp that there is a vast amount of utter nonsense published about gardening and about plants. It was bad enough when it was being copied from book to book by authors who evidently never tested any of it, but now it reaches a mass audience via the internet!

Having said that, there are certain species of gentians that prefer acid soil, and others (like most plants) that are indifferent to pH. What species of gentian are you planting?
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 21, 2012
7:10 AM

Post #9091406

Yeah, I'm trying to not care too much about it. Just mixing some in.

I'm growing gentiana acaulis, although I don't think it'll be a concern as 3 batches of seeds following 3 sets of instructions has produced 0% germination. I thought I'd fill a long planter with them but I'll be lucky to get one.
altagardener
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3b)

April 21, 2012
7:48 AM

Post #9091448

Gentiana acaulis doesn't require acid soil. It does superbly here in pH 8.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 21, 2012
4:17 PM

Post #9092004

BlakeInCanada, I sympathize with your seed planting problems. The first seed I planted was grass and I tried three times before I was successful. For grass seeds in my zone (5b) I found the following method successful:

* mix 2 parts soil with 1 part seed
* lightly till soil (1 inch deep)
* put 1/3 inch layer of seed mix on soil
* cover with 1/4 inch soil
* water lightly 2 to 4 times a day until sprouts are 1/2 inch (sprouts usually appear 4 days after sowing)
* water once a day for about 4 days
* water once a week for 1 month
* After a month grass becomes hardy and lush

I learned a lot depends on the viability of the seed. After overwintering in a plastic bag the seeds took 1 month to germinate and there were fewer sprouts. So it might not be the methods that you're using but maybe the seeds (or the store you got them from) is the problem. I recommend checking Dave's Garden The Garden Watchdog to read about germination rates people have had buying from different stores:

http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/

I noticed a very popular seed starting method on this site is the Dino plastic bag method which is basically:

* mix 9 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide
* dip paper towels in solution
* place seeds on paper towel
* fold towel over seeds and place in ziploc bag that is almost zipped shut
* place in refrigerator or freezer
* check every few days to look for germination
* plant seedlings

I haven't tried Dr. Dino's method yet (I plan to soon). I mentioned it because a lot of people say it's excellent for seeds that are difficult to sow. Anyway, I recently was successful germinating a new variety of wax begonia (Begonia Big). The instructions said they should germinate in 2-6 weeks I think, and I got a 93% germination rate in 2 weeks.

This is the method I used:

* puncture holes in the sides and bottom of a lidded plastic container
* find a clay pot that would fit in the container and sand the sides (to remove possible sealant)
* thread mop strings through a clay pot (enough to plug the hole)
* place pot in center of container with threads winding on the bottom of the container
* add potting mix
* add seed (begonia seeds must be placed on top of the mix)
* put the cap on
* fill pot with water every few hours until the mix is moist but not drowning in water
* stop adding water when condensation appears on lid
* place near light (I placed the container in semi-shade near window)

I've attached a photo of the container which is a plastic cookie tub. However, I've run into a problem: a few days after germination the mop threads began to become moldy so I should have sanitized them. They were straight out of a plastic bag but I guess I should have washed them with soap or set them in hydrogen peroxide. I need to transplant the seedlings soon.

I discovered this method on another web site which said to plug the clay pot hole with caulking but I didn't want to wait 2 days for the caulking to dry so I decided to use a wick system with mop threads. So feel free to make changes but this is what has worked for me. Also, I used a germinating mix with a 5-star rating from hundreds of members at a gardening store that I trust (Germinating Mix, Gardeners.com).

Next time I'm going to try a different mix to test whether there's any difference. Also, I sowed during the Full Moon so maybe it was the moon that provided the bountiful seedling harvest! I have lost so many plants trying to grow seeds so I hope this is helpful.

DoGooder

Thumbnail by DoGooder
Click the image for an enlarged view.

altagardener
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3b)

April 21, 2012
5:06 PM

Post #9092081

Most Gentiana require stratification to germinate, or you can shorten the process by using gibberelic acid, GA-3. I wouldn't recommend starting them from seed to beginners, though some are easy to grow, notably G. acaulis.
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 22, 2012
6:25 PM

Post #9093429

Yeah, I followed 3 sets of instructions on acaulis with different stratification times. They look identical now to how they started. It won't really matter what ph the soil is for them because they'll probably not grow anyway.

More off topic: I do use peroxide + water to soak seeds with a thick shell. Works well with platycodon, morning glory, sweet pea, cerinthe. Doesn't seem to even dent aquilegia, those seeds are tough! But I don't like putting it in the paper towel, because it would still be there to burn the root when it emerges.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 22, 2012
9:16 PM

Post #9093679

BlakeInCanada, excellent observation about the peroxide possibly burning the new roots. However, peroxide also prevents harmful bacteria that can damage new plants causing damping off. So I guess it's a cost/benefit analysis and I don't know the answer to whether it's more helpful to add it or not. Early Sunday I added peroxide to the container with begonia seedlings that had the mold and the mold is virtually gone but I think the peroxide will travel to the seedlings and I will see how that affects them eventually.

DoGooder
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 23, 2012
7:37 AM

Post #9094152

For peroxide on paper towels for germination...the peroxide will decompose and be long gone before the seedling sprouts, so you don't need to worry about it. And if you're taking dilute peroxide and watering it into soil around seedlings that wouldn't be enough concentration to burn them. Most of the peroxide that's available to the average person is 3% which even if used straight may not be enough to burn the roots, and most people dilute it fairly significantly before using it which makes it even less likely you'd see any bad effects from it.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 23, 2012
8:08 AM

Post #9094214

ecrane3, thanks for the information about H202 evaporation! After about one day my begonia seedlings look about the same as before I added the H202 & water solution. I wonder how long it will take for them to grow to 18 inches. They're only about 1/8 inch now.

DoGooder
gardenworm2
Standish, MI

April 23, 2012
7:14 PM

Post #9095225

I find it interesting that there is so much concern about the level of PH in the soil. When we plant the main thing that we consider is the texture of the soil. We like to plant in a loose soil with about one third peat. We have never worried about PH and usually have great response with our plants. Understand that there are plants that do require a higher PH level than others and to those we might use aluminum sulphate. MIracid is a good product that I have used over the years.

One thing that I might caution is when using vinegar on plants make sure that you do not get full strength vinegar on the foliage because it is a very effective herbicide. I use it on weeds all the time.

In the commercial greenhouse the soil mix that I used was one third peat, one third play sand and one third vermiculite or other soil additive that retains moisture like vermiculite. To this we always added micronutrients and the fertilizer that we used was watered in once a week at the rate of 1/4 strength. Another good mix that was used was 1/3 peat, 1/3 sterilized soil and 1/3 perlite or vermiculite.

I'm sure there are times that PH should be an issue but in 50 years of gardening and being a grower in the greenhouse I have never had a problem with ph levels. I'm not saying it's not important but unless you have experienced a problem I would not over think it.

Im not trying to discount anything that has been posted but only giving information from how I have grown plants both in the garden and in containers.

I feel that gardening should be fun. And I don't profess to know it all so I can only go on what I have experienced.

Good Luck!

BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 23, 2012
8:08 PM

Post #9095287

Peroxide: Yeah I had read that it turns to water after a certain amount of time, but in contrast to that, the lid of my paper towel seed tupperware has been bleached. Only the inside of the lid. None of the peroxide/water touched it, it just gets condensation on it. So I think the peroxide I used to use in the paper towel condensed on the lid and bleached it. So I don't know what to think about how long the peroxide works. Maybe in an airtight container it doesn't break down? I know it eats organic material, so I won't let it touch seedlings anymore.

I do like how it creates bubbles under the surface when you water with it. Probably good to do now and then to fluff up the soil.

gardenworm2, I'm surprised at your soil mix. I read that peat and vermiculite contain no nutrients, and I wouldn't expect sand to supply much. How do things grow? Maybe I'm wrong there.

I'm sterilizing all of my soil this year. I'm not dealing with fungus gnats again this year. It's a big chore, but I find it easier than fighting infestations and diseases.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 23, 2012
8:22 PM

Post #9095313

gardenworm2, thanks for the information about not putting vinegar on foliage. I pour water on the soil next to my potted plants so I mostly avoid touching the leaves with the vinegar and water solution. I also like to use plant nannies. Some plants like parlor palm do much better with a nanny than regular watering.

DoGooder
altagardener
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3b)

April 24, 2012
5:28 AM

Post #9095574

gardenworm2 wrote:I find it interesting that there is so much concern about the level of PH in the soil.
I'm sure there are times that PH should be an issue but in 50 years of gardening and being a grower in the greenhouse I have never had a problem with ph levels. I'm not saying it's not important but unless you have experienced a problem I would not over think it.


Excellent observation! I'm absolutely with you there. Sensitivity to pH is rare in my experience (which is only as a gardener, not as a professional grower)... with some exceptions such as many ericaceous plants... and it is greatly overstated in the literature!

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

April 24, 2012
6:33 AM

Post #9095696

I sometimes think that the info collected around on the internet causes more problems for new gardeners than actual solutions. Gardens have thrived and survived for centuries without folks knowing about soil mixes and pH. My great Aunt India had beautiful flowers and bumper veggie crops and never did more than add compost and chicken manure to the soil. There is such a thing as too much information not being beneficial.
altagardener
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3b)

April 24, 2012
7:14 AM

Post #9095756

Yes, agreed!! For things that are, to be honest, quite basic and fundamental to mankind, like growing easy plants, there's a lot of merit to just giving it a try, keeping everything as simple as possible, and figuring out with time what works for you. As in the NIke ads, "Just do it". Granted, we all fail in some ways at the beginning.

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

April 24, 2012
7:20 AM

Post #9095766

And if we are all perfectly honest, we fail sometimes even with experience...grin but, as I have come to learn...nothing ventured, nothing gained.

A lot of what you see out there is striving to provide the "perfect growing conditions"...from what I have seen, most plants aren't that picky...soil, water and light seem to make them happy. There will always be exceptions, but you learn as you go with them.
gardenworm2
Standish, MI

April 24, 2012
3:39 PM

Post #9096239

BlakeinCanada

Thats the point. In my first soil mix the nutrients come only from what is added with the micronutrients and the regular feeding. The soilless mix is only a growing medium to support the plants. This is the case in hydroponic culture also. The plants are supported by some type of medium that is basically nutrient free. The plants are feed as you supply the water with nutrients to the root system.

Years ago Scotts displayed a green lawn on the front of their fertilizer bags. At that time the Scotts reps. would tell how they were growing a lawn on concrete with only a shallow layer of soil. The nutrients were supplied by the fertilizer. I did not check this out other than what was relayed by the sales reps. But I do know that it is possible to grow plants in many types of mediums.

Without looking into it I would assume that most of, or at least several of the bagged mixes that you buy are soilless. I'm not sure of this but I believe this to be true for the most part. This is one reason that some people might have trouble with these types of mixes. I would not suggest the soilless mix if you are a beginning gardener because some times the peat may dry out and its hard to soak it up again.

Good observation on the nutrality of all three ingredients.

Good Gardening!

BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 25, 2012
3:07 PM

Post #9097614

Yeah, when I first started growing things, I was overwhelmed by the info online, and the requirements for plants to grow. I was like "How on earth does anything grow without human intervention??"

I won't have time to learn as I go. This could be my last year having space to grow plants, so I'm trying to do everything like it's my one shot at getting to see these plants.


gardenworm2, I had always figured fertilizer supplied most of the good stuff, but there were other ingredients in soil that weren't in fertilizer. Like the actual dirt matter was needed to create plant matter. It amazes me how a wet paper towel can cause a seed to sprout and grow without actually giving it any matter to build with. Maybe inside a seed is a whole deflated seedling, and when you add water, it inflates like a rubber raft.

My soil mix has peat moss, coconut husk fibre, sand, limestone, brown peat, perlite, hen manure fertilizer.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

April 25, 2012
6:45 PM

Post #9097852

Seeds have enough nutrients in them to keep the seedling going until it develops its true leaves. (the first set of leaves that you see when it sprouts are called the seed leaves, and these have energy stored in them which the seedling uses to get its roots going and then develop its first set of true leaves--after that the energy stores in the seed leaves are used up and they'll generally die/fall off)
gardenworm2
Standish, MI

April 25, 2012
7:04 PM

Post #9097889

BlakeinCanada

I gather from your post that you are going to move. One thing that we have done when we have had limited space was to grow even our veggies in pots. Even pole beans do well. And you can efficiently do this on a small balcony.

It sounds like you have thought things out well. Manure is beneficial but if it is fresh it can burn. Which you probably already know. But the one thing about hen manure is the ammonia content. If you use limited amounts you should have no problem. Have you had success with this mix in the past? I've never tried the mix you listed.

One thing I know for sure is that the longer I garden I discover that I have so much more yet to learn so I hope that this isn't your last chance to garden.

You are right in assuming that the seed contains the plant. Seeds do contain enough nutrition for the seed to survive a limited time. The cotyledon is inside the seed coating and is the first pair of leaves that you see as the seed sprouts. What plants get from the soil is the nutrition that it contains. Believe it or not the seed contains all that is required to grow a huge flowering plant. Thats why you can grow plants in mediums other than soil. But the added nutrition that is supplied when you fertilize is of utmost importance.

Imagine a pepper sized petunia seed containing everything needed to produce a flowering plant. God put all that is needed in a seed but without the benefit of what is naturally found in nature you will need to add fertilizer.

Naturally occurring decomposition supplies what the plant needs in nature. This would include both animal matter and plant matter. And worms in nature not only aerate soil but they add nutrients through the castings that they leave. Of course this may be over simplified but it gives a good picture of plant growth.

Try planting half a a sweet potato in plain water. All you have to do is put the lower portion of the tuber [cut side down] in the water and it will eventually grow roots.

Again I do hope that you will be able to grow plants in the future even if on a limited scale.



This message was edited Apr 25, 2012 10:06 PM
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

April 26, 2012
11:10 PM

Post #9099547

Good to know about the seedlings. I won't be in such a rush to get them into soil as soon as they crack open. I'll let them grow until the shell is coming off a little.

I should have mentioned that the soil I mentioned above is store bought: Fafard's Connaisseur premium potting mix. I add in a little vermiculite and peat for plants that I read like acidic soil better.
gardenworm2
Standish, MI

April 30, 2012
6:21 PM

Post #9104654

I will just mention two things.

If you plant seeds directly into a starting medium to allow them to germinate in and then grow in you will not disturb the seedling so much as when compared to when germinating the seed in a blotter situation.

The other thing is with the soil mix that you listed in the last post. The limestone is an acid neutralizer.

I would say that you should go with the practice that you are familiar with and that you have found to be successful in the past.



DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 30, 2012
6:51 PM

Post #9104703

gardenworm2, which method are you referring to regarding the "blotter"?

DoGooder
gardenworm2
Standish, MI

April 30, 2012
7:19 PM

Post #9104731

DeGooder

Probably not the best choice "Blotter" I use this term for any method that would be used to germinate seeds without the seed being planted in some type of medium first which I understand some people have had great success with on certain types of seed.

My experience is that the less I touched the seedlings the less the seedling is disturbed which keeps the seedling from being set back in growth [even though this is just a short time]

But again I feel that any method that works best for the individual should be the one that they stick to.

DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

April 30, 2012
7:42 PM

Post #9104777

gardenworm2, I see. The blotter methods are the non-media seed propagation. I've only started seeds with potting mix and I have been successful every time, though I haven't achieved 100% germination all the time. My main problems occur after germination when the seedling is growing.

The Begonia Big seeds I mentioned before are continuing to grow very slowly. It is almost a month since I planted them in the cookie container and most are 1/4 inch high and a few days ago some began growing a third leaf. I like to experiment but I try to spend most of my gardening time doing what has been successful in the past to help ensure that most of my plants live.

DoGooder
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

May 2, 2012
10:15 PM

Post #9108032

I usually will start seeds in the planter they are to stay in because it's simplest. But haven't had much luck with it. Usually the first batch is this way, and then I try paper towel if it didn't work, and that seems to be the most successful with certain seeds.

Surface-sown seeds I find are better in paper towel, because they're getting moisture on both sides, where surface seeds only get it from the bottom. And PT will let filtered light through for seeds that need that. I find full sun kills a lot of surface sown seeds.

I've been having problems with seedlings after that stage where, as stated above, the Starter Nutrients run out and it must get it from the soil. I don't know what is the problem, but the root is in the soil, lots of contact, moisture but the surface kept dry. You can take a seedling to rich soil, but you can't make it eat.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

May 2, 2012
10:35 PM

Post #9108037

BlakeInCanada, I find that seeds germinate faster in a covered container. They like humidity. So if you haven't been using a cover I suggest adding a clear or semi-opaque cover.

As for surface sown seeds, you're correct that they prefer filtered light. I read that begonia seeds must be placed on top of the soil because they need sun, but the first ones that sprouted were the ones on the shaded side of the container. Constant humidity and filtered sun has been a recipe for success for my seeds. However, I will try the paper towel-hydrogen peroxide method to see if I can reduce the germination time.

As for soil nutrients, I think I will move one begonia to a separate pot and add nutrients to the top layer and see if that begonia grows faster. I read they're supposed to flower about half a year after germination but the seedlings are only 1/4 inch after one month so something doesn't seem right. As long as they keep growing that's fine with me though.

DoGooder
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

May 11, 2012
2:04 PM

Post #9120090

With all of my paper towel seed sowing, I place the folded, moist paper towel into a ziplock bag, so that it doesn't dry out. But after a length of time, there will be mold, even if pre-soaking the seeds in peroxide and using distilled water and clean hands. I change the paper towel when this happens.

An example of good peroxide effects: Nigella damascena seed instructions say 1/8" deep in darkness, germinates in 10-15 days.

I soaked mine in a mild peroxide solution for a few hours and sowed into moist paper towel in a ziplock. Put it in a black box and left it between my window screen and pane. 4 days later they sprouted!

My balloon flowers are so tiny, really behind schedule too. And my columbines didn't come back! I went to my old apartment and every single one of the ones I planted outdoors came back and are blooming beautifully. *pout*

Thumbnail by BlakeInCanada
Click the image for an enlarged view.

DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

May 11, 2012
2:38 PM

Post #9120133

BlakeInCanada, great picture! What healthy plants! I'm wondering what is a black box?

DoGooder
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

May 11, 2012
7:22 PM

Post #9120429

Thanks. Just figures that the ones that haven't even been watered once are in amazing shape, yet the ones that I've taken meticulous care of died.

The black box is just a box that happens to be black and opaque, so no light gets inside.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

May 11, 2012
8:14 PM

Post #9120490

BlakeInCanada, okay, a black box is a dark box. However, I was wondering if no light can access the seeds why the box was placed near a window.

DoGooder
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

May 11, 2012
8:19 PM

Post #9120498

Sometimes plants do better when ignored--meticulous care could mean you're giving them too much TLC. It's a very common thing for gardeners to kill plants with a little too much love!
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

May 11, 2012
11:22 PM

Post #9120586

I had written down that the nigella seeds shouldn't be soaked first. I don't remember why, so I soaked 5 and didn't soak the other 5. I planted the nigella today and noticed the seeds that had been not soaked in peroxide were a little bigger. The notes knew what they were talking about!

I put the box in the window because it stays almost as cold as it is outside, it's about as close as I can get to the temperature instructed.


ecrane3, I would LOVE to ignore my plants. They're so exhausting. But the times where I have said "don't worry about it, it'll be fine", I've come back to see everything having gone wrong (or died) and I kick myself. I have no green thumbs, and I feel like everything will go wrong unless I do painstaking research, perfect treatment and give tons of attention. It's like a curse on my gardening that I have to go to great efforts to manage to still grow things.

I've had seedlings die in under 30 minutes before. Great one minute, go away to do something, BAM punishment! It gets better when they grow bigger though. This time of year is the worst!
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

May 12, 2012
3:00 AM

Post #9120640

BlakeInCanada, I thought maybe you put the seeds at the window because of temperature. Thanks for confirming that!

Also, I'm in the same boat as you waiting anxiously for my seedlings to grow into midsize plants. I started with 15 Begonia Big seeds and there are now 9 survivors. One never sprouted, another was killed by a strange clear-as-crystal worm, and the others died of damping off I suppose. The survivors are in tiny clay pots and are turning yellow which I guess is normal because they're a bronze leaf variety.

I'm mainly frightened because I searched the internet for a long time for giant begonias but I couldn't find them for sale anywhere, I guess because the giant variety is a new species and greenhouses either don't have them or don't have mature plants to sell yet. So my only option was to grow seeds even though everywhere I read that begonias shouldn't be propagated by seed because it's too difficult. Luckily I found pelleted seeds so I didn't have to grow begonia dust seeds. I hope I can grow at least one 18" plant from this batch.

DoGooder

This message was edited May 12, 2012 6:11 AM

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

May 12, 2012
5:36 AM

Post #9120710

DoGooder...check out this link here on DG

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1122857/
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

May 12, 2012
5:52 AM

Post #9120731

themoonhowl, thanks for the link to the big begonia varieties! I want to buy some of those starting next year. When I wrote on this thread that I was searching for big begonias I meant the first type of giant wax begonias (Begonia benariensis), which I couldn't find for sale as seedlings or full-grown plants.

DoGooder
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

May 14, 2012
2:01 PM

Post #9123689

I think there is confusion re BIG Begonia and bedding Begonia you can grow from seeds, but it's too late in the season for growing bedding type as there is not enough time left for seeds to sprout then grow large enough to reach flowering.
As for the Large begonia or giants, these are grown from very LARGE tubers, NOT seeds, to increase the amount of Giant plants, you have to get the tuber to sprout several tiny sprouting buds, normally starting this prosses around Jan / Feb time, and then you have to CUT these sprouted parts off the main tuber WITH roots attached ( pot up on top of the soil in pot) and grow on as for the giant tubers, these cuttings will flower this year maybe and will increase in size every year there after.

I have to say that between Gardenworm2, Ecrane, Altagarden and Flowerjen along with a few others, are speeking more sense than any other info you could get from all the internet ramblings put together.

Ask yourself this, how has the planet survived with plants / trees/ and food crops for centuries without Peroxide, Vinigar poured onto seeds / plants,
or hands up who knows any gardeners who starts seeds on blotting paper, kitchen towels etc instead of what's on the seed packet, not many I bet, all you need is namely good old fashioned garden soil that has either had manures / organics, composts or peats added, not for just food, but to help break up the soil in the garden into a workable / pliable aerated soil that holds nutrients, water, heat and everything else any plant could ever need for the first year or more of it's life.

When you buy your seeds there is enough info on the packet re soil, temp, planting seed season, and for veg, when to start sowing / harvesting. Thats how it has been done through the ages and to be fare, IF people like my late father who had a wonderful growing knowledge had to read as much info as it appears on this thread and is required to be able to grow food / flowers/ fruit trees ect all those years ago, Britain / USA would have lost the 2nd world war as the countries would have starved to death.
Just get outside and plant your seeds, give the shelter or shade, water when required, look out for insects / grubs that will eat the germinating seeds, prick out the seeds and transplant where recomended ON SEED PACKET, that way you will eventually get a garden to be proud of.

I honestly cant even begin to understand how seeds that are growing good one minute and are dead 30 minutes later can have happened and I've gardened for 50 odd years, had many failings with seeds, had many plants set out in the wrong situation and had to move them, made several mistakes re plants that looked good but became rampant the following year but, never witnessed plant death in 30 minutes, I learned from all the mistakes, never did the same mistakes again and have to admit, had I had to learn my gardening skills the way some of you go about it then my life would be one dreadful empty place, gardening would have been way out of anything my head would have wanted to understand, nor would I have had the time to understand what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how and when to plant or germinate indoors my seeds, how to care for them and when to harvest, cut, move, prune, and thats what gardening is all about.
I have always said to beginners that gardening is NOT a science and should be done for enjoyment, and as a hobby, it should also be therapeutic, I therefor cant see how BlakeInCanada is getting any pleasure with the kind of intence science you are talking about but also like another writer's have hinted, it takes all kinds but what you have to be careful on this site for beginners is you dont put other new gardeners off starting gardening by throwing too much science at them as believe me, just plane old gardening practices would suit Most new gardeners and given in plane English thats easy to understand.
I do understand that everyone has their own way of doing things and life is also like that but, as far as gardening goes, the very basics are all that seeds require, soil in most areas needs feeding, weeding and tending by digging, adding organic's, nothing more nothing less.

I hope this is not taken as a critic's rant but please, if you have to go to all the trouble you are talking about may I suggest another hobby more suitable to meet your scientific minds, seeds are NOT man made, nature has done the work for us, all we have to do is take advantage of this fact and the pleasure is ours for the taking without having to learn how science can be introduced for a pastime that does not require it.

Also Do remember that some seeds are truly difficult to germinate for a beginner so practice is more benificial, there are some seeds that even experienced gardeners can not have any luck with, take into account temp, soil, water, light can differ from one garden to next doors garden so, there are many reasons for not having good germoination,

I do hope this helps to remind other gardeners that there is an easy way to learn about growing plants and a degree in science is not something that is required, but just go out and give it a go, you dont have to sow seeds then stand over them every wakening moment or they will die, sometimes they just die anyway, but most important enjoy your garden, dont start big, start with what you can manage and remember the more seeds you plant, the more area of ground you require to grow them and the more time you have to spend caring for them.
Good luck. WeeNel.

DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

May 14, 2012
6:27 PM

Post #9124034

WeeNel, your comment that there is a ďbig difference between BIG Begonia and bedding Begonia you can grow from seedsĒ confused me because Iím not sure what the difference is exactly between those two species. The Begonia BIG Iím growing is Begonia benariensis which is a brand new type of wax begonia:

http://www.provenwinners.com/plants/begonia/big-rose-bronze-leaf-begonia-benariensis

Begonia benariensis can grow up to 2 ft. high whereas previously wax begonias were much smaller. You mentioned thereís not enough time left for seeds to become flowers this year, and this may be so but my wax begonias do well indoors during the winter, so I will continue to grow my begonia seedlings however long it takes for them to flower.

You had also said, ďAsk yourself this, how has the planet survived with plants / trees/ and food crops for centuries without Peroxide, Vinegar poured onto seeds / plants.Ē Since I previously mentioned on this thread that I add peroxide and vinegar to my plants I want to note that although many plants thrive in the wild and indoors with no additives but water, nevertheless Iíve made many plants healthier by adding things like hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Iíve attached a before and after picture of my dwarf begonias so you can see the difference between adding plain tap water and adding peroxide, vinegar, humic acid, and fertilizers. The begonias are from the same shipment, are next to the same window, and were given the same amount of water, so the difference is caused by the additives.

The Before picture has three plants, and the After picture has one plant, so one plant with the additives is more full than three plants receiving only tap water. The second picture is from the same shipment but in a low-light area so the flowers have become white due to lack of sunlight. That pot was full of mostly straggly stems with no flowers and as soon as I started adding additives it became taller, more lush and full of flowers.

These images are not photo-shopped. The difference is amazing and I will never go back to plain tap water. I provide this information out of the kindness of my heart to help gardeners get the maximum benefit for the minimum cost in time, money, and worrying.

Also, the begonias fresh from the greenhouse died soon after being placed in low light, yet with additives I can have healthy begonias even in low-light areas of my home. One begonia grew so large overflowing all parts of the container that I forgot it was a single plant and only found out when I removed it from the soil, so I experimented and chopped it in half and each part began growing healthy leaves and flowers immediately. Not all my plants are successful with this regimen but many are and Iím only a beginner gardener so I have much more to learn.

I agree with you that gardening can be enjoyable and therapeutic. Some gardeners find the scientific aspects of gardening enjoyable and therapeutic and others donít, and thatís just a personality difference. I believe in live and let live. I've gotten a lot of help from BlakeInCanada and others on this thread, so thanks everybody!

DoGooder

Thumbnail by DoGooder   Thumbnail by DoGooder
Click an image for an enlarged view.

BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

May 14, 2012
9:19 PM

Post #9124238

If it were easier doing what you say, WeeNel, believe me I'd be doing it. That's what I did to start with last year, and met with failure. It feels like I'm gardening on a different planet than everyone else because the same laws of nature don't apply here. After the instructions don't work, I look online for more info, alternate instructions, anything I could have done that's wrong... and make changes.

Some of my seed packets don't even have instructions and I've had to find them online. Some of them (morning glory, sweet pea, cerinthe, catananche, dahlia) were so easy it was a joy to grow them. Others (aquilegia, platycodon, anagallis, phlox, centaurea) have been a huge amount of work and only a small portion of the many batches I've tried worked. It was the phlox last year that died. I had them inside, was going to give the seedlings an hour of sunlight (not even full strength sunlight) through the patio screen door, and when I looked at them in about 25 minutes, they had flopped over and turned white. I think you call it 'sun scorch'. So when they say "put them out for an hour a day, gradually giving more", they should have said "10 minutes gradually more".

Experiences like that have taught me that plants will only stay alive through tireless checking and babying. I don't have a back yard, so I can't sprinkle seeds in the fall and let nature do its thing. Things would be easier in a lot of ways if I did. I don't get enjoyment from this part of the year, it's exhausting and stressful, but it's temporary and gets easier after the seedling stage is finished.

In nature, aquilegia make hundreds of seeds per year, so nature's odds of 1/100 is good enough for the plant to propagate. I need to do more work to get mine to work when the packet has 25 seeds. It doesn't just take soil, moisture and sunlight to grow aquilegia, it takes 4 weeks at one temperature, then 4 weeks at another, and if they're to bloom first year, they have to have 9 leaves or more before while it's still cool outside. And don't even get me started on gentiana seed.

And I disagree with gardening instructions and talk being in plain English. When I started, I had no idea what many of the words meant. Germination? Harden off? Herbaceous? How much is Full Sun? There were so many things I had no idea were specific terms and not just a personal way of speaking.

It's great if others can grow with such ease, but please don't give me guff because it's not as easy for me. The seeds are giving me guff enough.
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

May 21, 2012
3:48 PM

Post #9132436

Really sorry BlakeInCanada if you thought I was giving you GUFF, to be honest, from reading your stuff I feel maybe your giving yourself GUFF.
When I began reading your questions and your thoughts on growing stuff, it gave me the impresion you were giving yourself such pain and unhappiness trying to learn the act of gardening.
My own oppinion is that you make it difficult for yourself and I was trying to point out that gardening is not science but common sence, lots of us have degree's in various subjects but they dont have common sence, therefore these really brainy people when going about a task, usually have to digest an encyclopedia just to turn a light on, (slight exageration but hope you get the just of what I'm mean).

To be perfectly honest Blake, I couldn't care less personally how anyone gardens, I've said on many occasions here on Dave's, the site is called beginners Gardening, so when someone askes any question re how to do such and such, all the other gardeners with some experience can do is point them in the right direction, as I myself was taught many years ago, BUT, I've also said as you learn, you adapt different ways to suit what your needs are and what type of stuff your growing. There is NOT any one way to do a gardening task but be sure, the basics are the same no matter where, how or what you garden with.
If, like you, and deviate away from the basics, and your in pain because your still struggling to get a task done to a satifactory conclusion, then someone talls you where your going wrong (like myself) then please decide if you wish an answer to try eleviate your excruciating long struggle and pain at standing for hours watching seeds in a pot / tray etc, hoping these seeds will grow into plants, like instantly, and the moment you go to the toilet or walk away, they die on you, then sorry, Please forgive me for telling you that you really dont need peroxide or any other chemicals, they dont need feeding till they have grown proper leves, all they need is air, water, so many hours of light and some seeds, dont even need soaking or freezing, but it is just practice, trial and error that you learn all that unless you have an experienced gardener to work with you and who will show you the ropes.

I think the hardest part of learning how to grow seeds is when, like you, have to do it all indoors, but lots of people do that, myself included, I have a greenhouse but also have a large garden so have to work both ways.
Please believe me I was not trying to upset you, I feel you do that best yourself, I was trying to get you think maybe you are making life of growing plants / seeds etc very complicated but, as you have rightly pointed out, you have decided to stick with that method and I wish you the very best of luck with your gardening, and the future, Kindest Regards. WeeNel.
BlakeInCanada
Kitchener
Canada
(Zone 5a)

May 25, 2012
7:47 AM

Post #9137905

I feel that was very passive-aggressive. I'm going to save myself pain and struggle by not responding in detail.

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