It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Karen,

Thanks for the compliment.

"I did not attempt any crosses, but I did save the seeds from a number of them anyway. It will be interesting to find out if I have any accidental crosses in the bunch. I also ordered a lot of new seeds and have increased my zinnias growing area by about 300% over this year. Maybe I'll have something worth seeing next year."

There is a very good chance of it. Zinnias are primarily bee-pollinated and bees do quite a bit of "accidental" cross pollinating. Plus, the seed you have purchased is also partly hybridized, thanks to those bees. And the more zinnia plants you grow, the better your chances are of getting an unusual new mutation. I like to quote those "reality" TV programs that say, "Expect the unexpected."

MM

South Hamilton, MA

MM--does the Flower breeding book have any information on irises--if not it would be worth my while as that is what I work with. Interesting that you seem to have better luck with diploids as most modern bearded iris are tet. Still a great deal of work done with diploid in siberian iris; that is where many of the new colors come from. Does the commercial Burpee zinnia seed have different forms or are those seed packets the 'same old stuff'?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

irisMA

The book Flower Breeding and Genetics does not have a chapter on Iris breeding. The book Breeding Ornamental Plants, edited by Dorothy J. Callaway & M. Brett Callaway http://www.amazon.com/Breeding-Ornamental-Plants-Dorothy-Callaway/dp/0881924822/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228790142&sr=1-5 has a chapter on breeding Siberian Iris and the book Breeding New Plants and Flowers http://www.amazon.com/Breeding-Plants-Flowers-Charles-Welch/dp/1861265492/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228790492&sr=1-1 by Charles W. Welch has a 4-page section on Irises. There are probably other books with iris breeding content, but I don't have any of them. I do have the books that I have cited.

"Does the commercial Burpee zinnia seed have different forms or are those seed packets the 'same old stuff'?"

The Burpee seed catalog has a varied selection of zinnia cultivars. http://www.burpee.com/category/annual+flowers/zinnias.do?sortby=default&page=all The Parks seed catalog also has a good selection of zinnia varieties http://www.parkseed.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10101&catalogId=10101&langId=-1&mainPage=advsearchresults&SearchText=p16.v226;p13.Zinnia;p16.v230&scChannel=Annuals%20AS HPS Horticultural has a variety of zinnia seed. http://www.hpsseed.com/sp.asp?c=419 Other seed catalogs, like Johnny's http://www.johnnyseeds.com/catalog/subcategory.aspx?category=58&subcategory=135 also have a selection of zinnia cultivars. Many different zinnia varieties are available.

MM

South Hamilton, MA

Thank you for the information. I do have information on iris, but it is old. Information comes from bits & pieces from iris breeders, bit it would be good to have information in one spot. Lucy

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Thanks for the pic MM.. Am in the final days of finals so runnign behind . Then mites some how got in the fungal lab and started paratising all the fungal cultures and a wild fungi is dominating all the other fungi in the lab, and so somebody decided to clean and cleaned out our fungal cultures from the past thre emonths needed for final. been scramblign to try and get somethign rebuilt.

So glad you posted that pic. Now I know what to look for. Excellent photography shot.

I "help" some of my green seeds by cutting a slit in the green seed coat. That bypasses the wait for the still living seed coat to become water permeable by dying and, once again, saves a few days.

Is there a special section that you split that is better for the germination? Are you just lightly scoring? I always worry when trying to scarify tiny things. Always afraid of cuttign to deep and doing damage.

Hummmmmmm. ... gonna have to google later and check out these Persian Carpets and Aztec Sunset.

With flowers I am not so worried about the GMO as I am with the food. So speaks a person who is playign around with the OSU BLUE tomatoe seeds, but they are true GMOS like the ones being enginered in Austrailia.

Ther can be some problems with the GMO's that folks don't tak einto consideration. Can't think of the name of the plant now, but somebody crossed a blueberry with a snowberry. Both have their own differnt set of pests and pathogens and don't bother eahc other when the plants are grown individually, but the crossed plants are attacked by all the pest of both cultivars.

Have you grown Pink Stripe yet? Just wondred how striped and pretty it actually was in person. The catalogs all show such pretty colors. Some pics are pretty deceiving I have found out.


Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

I didn't know about your situation with finals and the problems in the lab. As the British say, "hope you get it sorted."

"Is there a special section that you split that is better for the germination? Are you just lightly scoring? I always worry when trying to scarify tiny things. Always afraid of cutting too deep and doing damage."

The zinnia seeds I work with are fairly large, about " to ⅜" long and ⅛" or a little more wide, so it's not too difficult working with them individually. I use a sharp X-Acto knife and a little cutting board and I have tried several different techniques. A good scalpel would probably be better. One scarifying technique is to simply slice off the central rib. Another is to slice off one or both edges of the seed, just missing the embryo. Another is to split the petal and pull the two petal pieces apart like a wishbone. This frequently exposes one half of the embryo. I have also removed the entire naked embryo and planted just that. I have gotten successful rapid germination with all of those techniques. "Practice makes perfect" and after some practice I can expose a zinnia embryo in less than a minute.

"Have you grown Pink Stripe yet?"

I have grown three of the striped zinnia cultivars, Candy Stripe,

http://www.parkseed.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10101&catalogId=10101&langId=-1&mainPage=prod2working&ItemId=2186&PrevMainPage=advsearchresults&scChannel=Annuals%20AS&SearchText=p16.v226;p13.Zinnia;p16.v230&OfferCode=W1H

Peppermint Stick,

http://www.parkseed.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10101&catalogId=10101&langId=-1&mainPage=prod2working&ItemId=2227&PrevMainPage=advsearchresults&scChannel=Annuals%20AS&SearchText=p16.v226;p13.Zinnia;p16.v230&OfferCode=W1H

and Candy Cane

http://www.burpee.com/product/annual+flowers/zinnias/zinnia+candy+cane+mix++-+1+pkt.+%2850+seeds%29.do

and I experimented with crossing them with several other types of zinnias. They cross easily enough. You can get some really novel looking striped hybrids but, after getting over the novelty, I don't personally like the striped look, and I want to avoid "contaminating" my gene pool with the stripes. I am under the impression that striped tulips are caused by a virus infection, and although I don't think striped zinnias are caused by a virus, I think the stripes could become unwelcome in my zinnia breeding program.

That's not to say that others wouldn't enjoy crossing the stripes. A striped spider flowered zinnia or fantasy flowered zinnia would be a whole new look. But the stripes "just aren't for me." However, I do like bicolors and tricolors. I imagine you could get some really novel looking zinnias by crossing the stripes with the bicolors and tricolors. You could also cross different striped zinnias with each other and get some new looks. The improved Peppermint Sticks have a very wide range of color combinations and color patterns.

MM

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

MM. Since you've gotten so good at it, ya want to scar all my zinna seeds for me???? ; ) You are so right, practice does make perfect, just hate to waste any seeds. Always worry for awhiel if the one that didn't grow or got destroyed was the one that would have me go Ahhhhhhh : ).

Now you have me very curious. yes, I know that the tulips are infected with the mosacic viruse, but nevr would have even comptiplated it possibly happenign with the zinnas. Gonna have to google later and see what if anythign turns up.

I am like you. I love the look of the tulips, but don't want to have my soil infected. Hard enough as it is trying to keep the soil free from pathogens and pests off the plants, sure don't need to introduce anythign new. Even though I am basically pot culture, still , you always worry.

One thing I was wondering if you had noticed this at all. Not sure if you make new crosses every year or make some of the same. If you make a cross say a x b and get a varitiy of F1 genernerations. Have you gone back say liek the following year and made the same cross and had roughly same amount of F1 generation that looks th esame, or do the genetics vary alot from year to year.

Also, do you happen to know that if you happen to buy say for example Pink Stripe from company a and some from company B of the same seed, are the seedlings all looking the same or are you finding variations in the same seed type from different companies.

I don't know if you hav thought about this or not, but since your so experienced with hybridizing Zinna. Maybe you might think about doing a sticky of the process and maybe doing a Dg article to introduce folks into the world of Zinna. Wih your experience and knowledge, it woudl be a great article.

South Hamilton, MA

Broken color irises are a genetic trait (transpondons sp?) like the yellow & white kernal sweet corn. It seems quite possible that the striped zinnias are them same--no relation to the tulip virus.There should be some literature on the pattern in zinnias. But if your personal preference is for other patterns so be it. I am not a great fan of the iris broken colors, but theycan work well in a garden scheme.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

"It seems quite possible that the striped zinnias are them same--no relation to the tulip virus."

I agree. Striped, speckled, or spotted zinnias are not caused by a virus. To me, that appearance is not very desirable or attractive. The patterns can be appreciated up close, but in a landscaping context, they just make the colors look a bit "impure". But that is just my subjective view, and others may just love those color patterns.

"There should be some literature on the pattern in zinnias."

There is. The condition is referred to as an "incidence of unstable alleles conditioning petal pigmentation". I am already a little skittish about alleles being unstable. I, and others, have already had experiences with zinnias seeming not to be genetically uniform from one part of the plant to another.

That is worrisome, because if I take several cuttings from the same zinnia plant, I would like to think that all of those cuttings will develop into genetically identical plants. It is worrisome if they don't. I would like my alleles to be stable, and if they aren't, that could cause problems. Apparently zinnia alleles can be unstable. That is not to my liking. Maybe, subconsciously, that is one reason like why I don't like the striped, speckled, and spotted patterns on the Peppermint Stick zinnia cultivar, and others similar to it. For more information, see pages 296 through 308 in Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry 40, subtitled High-Tech and Micropropogation VI, edited by Y.P.S. Bajaj.

http://www.amazon.com/High-Tech-Micropropagation-Biotechnology-Agriculture-Forestry/dp/3540616071/ref=sr_1_23?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229010228&sr=1-23

You might want to use the Amazon "Look Inside" feature, because the price of $470 for that book is a little stiff. With a little "gamesmanship" you can use the Look Inside feature to read pretty much anything in the book.

This subject area has been discussed by a number of people, including myself, in the "It Can be Fun to Breed Your Own Zinnias" multi-part message threads in the Annuals forum of the GardenWeb. Other people, as well as myself, have observed instances in which zinnias did seem to exhibit different genetics (or maybe it is unstable alleles) from one branch of the zinnia plant to another. It is still an open question for me. I don't know the answer. I suppose there could be cases in which the non-uniform genetics could be advantageous to the zinnia hobbyist.

There is a lot more information on this in the GardenWeb message threads. It wouldn't be "proper" for me to link directly to there from here, but you should be able to browse to GardenWeb.com and find the Annuals forum and those message threads.

MM

South Hamilton, MA

Will look at gardenweb. Individual plants for flower arranging & the landscape are different. I agree that having an unstable gene can cause breeding problems. I don't admire iris 'broken color' in the smaller irises (like miniature tall) but really don't care for it in the tall bearded. When you are trying for certain colors or forms it is annoying to have something else appearing.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"...just hate to waste any seeds. Always worry for a while if the one that didn't grow or got destroyed was the one that would have me go Ahhhhhhh : )."

Me too. I always think about what all of those "virtual zinnia plants" might have turned into, or might still turn into. The seeds I didn't save, the seeds I didn't plant, the crosses I didn't make, the seeds that are still in my seed drawer. On occasion, I have dropped a hybrid zinnia seed on the floor and spent several minutes finding it, just to make sure it became a "real plant" and not a "virtual plant".

"Yes, I know that the tulips are infected with the mosaic virus, but never would have even contemplated it possibly happening with the zinnias. Gonna have to google later and see what if anything turns up."

Googling is always good. But see my remarks above to Lucy on this subject.

"One thing I was wondering if you had noticed this at all. Not sure if you make new crosses every year or make some of the same. If you make a cross say a x b and get a variety of F1 generations. Have you gone back say like the following year and made the same cross and had roughly same amount of F1 generation that looks the same, or do the genetics vary a lot from year to year?"

A good question. I do both, namely make new crosses each year and repeat old crosses, sometimes using the same seed stock for the parents. Nearly all zinnias have some inherent genetic variation, so repeating the same cross will give some variation, but not a lot. Just enough variation to keep it interesting. I grow multi-colors like Whirligig, Carrousel, and Zig Zag each year from seed packets, and cross them with cactus hybrid types like Burpee Hybrids and Burpee Burpeeana Giants, and I get a variety of F1 hybrids, some of which I like a lot. I also continue to cross seed packet scabiosa flowered zinnias with other zinnias and frequently get F1 hybrids that I like. But I also continue to make new crosses between my new hybrids as "the spirit moves me." That results in a lot of genetic recombination and some new forms altogether. On average, about 95% of the recombinants are disappointing and candidates for the compost pile, but the remaining 5% can have some interesting new specimens.

"Also, do you happen to know that if you happen to buy say, for example Pink Stripe, from company A and some from company B of the same seed, are the seedlings all looking the same or are you finding variations in the same seed type from different companies."

Another good question. I do find differences in zinnias grown in different seed fields, even when the variety name is the same. That is why I purchase seeds of the same variety from different seed companies.

"I don't know if you have thought about this or not, but since your so experienced with hybridizing Zinnias. Maybe you might think about doing a sticky of the process and maybe doing a Dg article to introduce folks into the world of Zinnias. With your experience and knowledge, it would be a great article."

Thanks for the vote of confidence. But I am not the only zinnia hobbyist out there and I think that an article by a single author can be a little "one-dimensional". I really prefer an interactive environment, like here and in the GardenWeb forums that I mentioned above to Lucy. That way, everyone can contribute, we can give each other "peer reviews", and we get a more "rounded out" body of knowledge. I did write a couple of "Zany Zinnias" message threads in the Annuals forum here in Dave's Garden, but that forum is restricted to paying members of Dave's Garden, while this Hybridizing forum is open to all.

MM

South Hamilton, MA

MM checked part 8 of zinnia in G web. I really wanted to make sure that other people realized that the unusual streaked colors of plants were probably genetic & not virus. I got a laugh on sizes--would probably prefer the thumbelina type plants, notable for someone who like median iris & small hosta. Do like 'giant' snowdrops.

Louisville, KY

I personally always enjoy foliage your wavy leaf form looks very interesting. If you were able to produce a lot of foliage on that plant with a nice flower it should be a great plant possibly a whole group of hybrids could be produced. I often look for such odd traits and if breed back and forth it can be extremely exagerated in the hybrids.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Here is a picture of another "toothy" specimen that I had this year. This one appeared in a planting of some Burpeeana zinnias from Tanzania. I treated it as a breeder.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

F2's are recombinants and frequently don't "recombine" in a way that you would want them to. This hybrid between hybrids shows characteristics of all four grandparents, but not necessarily in a way that I wanted. A scabiosa grandparent or two has a recognizable influence, and the long guard petals come from a Burpeeana and cactus flowered grandparents, but the overall effect was a bit of a disappointment.

This message was edited Dec 13, 2008 4:59 PM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

Explaining carefully to the seeds which traits that you want doesn't seem to work--I guess you have to go for %. I find that it is difficult to get the intended color & form on the same plant.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

"Explaining carefully to the seeds which traits that you want doesn't seem to work."

You can say that again. This is another recombinant that didn't recombine right. A bicolor from a Whirligig grandparent is evident, and toothy petals from another grandparent are present. A scabiosa grandparent only partially transmitted colored florets. Like many recombinants, this one was a candidate for the compost pile. But recombinants are interesting, because they are frequently "different".

MM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This F2 was a self from an F1 hybrid between a scabiosa flowered zinnia and a Whirligig. The F1 looked promising. But the "scabi" somehow really messed up the flower form of the "whirli" in the F2 recombination. I guess those single petals are guard petals from the scabi. And the colored florets didn't get into the combination.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

Wow, I love the picotee of white on that last one. :)

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

So do I!!! I like them all though.

MM.. How many genrations will you carry a cross out too. I know hybridizers of plants wil go as far as 6 or 7 generations. it gets intrestign them what some produce and a few have had their plants registered from those long haul generations.

Aggggggg. noooooo not the compost pile! LOL I know it a necessary evil, but sure do hate the words compost pile. One person's compost is a joy to others. I have some folk's composters out in my yard. I enjoy looking at them and they fun to play with for breeding as ya nevr know what might pop somewhere a long the line.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"I know it a necessary evil, but sure do hate the words compost pile. One person's compost is a joy to others."

At least 95% of my recombinants go to the compost pile. I need to do that, because my growing space is always limited, so I plant my zinnias closer than they should be and cull them against high standards at first bloom. That makes more growing space, sun, and soil available for the remaining chosen specimens, and gives me some room to transplant out some additional plants.

I concede that ornamental plant breeding is a very subjective activity, but I select stringently according to my own breeding goals, which are fairly ambitious. At one time I considered developing some single "daisy flowered" zinnia strains, because singles do show up fairly frequently in the recombinants. And some of them look pretty good. But I reconsidered, because I prefer zinnias that are at least reasonably double.

I also concede that my tastes may not be in the mainstream. For example, the Zinnia Zowie recently won the coveted AAS award and is a "best seller" among commercial F1 hybrid zinnias. http://www.parkseed.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10101&catalogId=10101&langId=-1&mainPage=prod2working&ItemId=2140&PrevMainPage=advsearchresults&scChannel=sitemap&SearchText=p16.v226;p13.Zinnia;p16.v230&OfferCode=W1H But I don't like any zinnias that "throw pollen" and Zowie has a prodigious amount of pollen. Obviously that doesn't bother most people, but it does me. I am attaching a picture of one of my tricolors that has basically the same color scheme as Zowie, but without all the pollen. This zinnia was one my female breeders this year, and was crossed with selected Burpeeana Giants and Burpee Hybrids. This coming year I should see what the F1s from that cross look like. Any that look like Zowie will hit the compost pile.

MM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

I liked your violet with white petal tips in your earlier picture. I can see that your last one is more restrained that Zowie. If we all like the same thing there would be no use in plant breeding. When arranging flowers for church, I hate it when too much pollen from lilies gets all over your clothes. For a breeder, pollen can be good because there my be enough to go around for all the projects. I work with the shorter irises--I think thumbelina zinnia are pretty but I bet there are not as many color variations as yet.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

MM.. very pretty. me too, unless ya need th epollen for breeding, it pain. I just got the new Park's seed catalog and see they have the new seed for the Knee High red and Knee High white. Think they took the Zinnias as small as they could, and now have no where to go up.

Thre supposed to be two feet high witha foot width and supper resistant to disease and heat it says with stems strogn enough for cutting. I gott aget some, just cuz I have to see if what they say is true. I like the look of the doubles in the profusion. Maybe somebody wil come up with a double in the knee highs.

South Hamilton, MA

How tall are knee highs?

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Ad says up to two feet high and a foot wide. What they actually are wil be anybody guess til we see growed out.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

The Profusions, the new "double" Profusions, and the "Knee High" Profusions are all cultivars of the new species, Z. marylandica. I don't think they are compatible in crossing with the Z. violacea that I am working with. I guess I might experiment with a Marylandica x Violacea cross, but even if it "took", the resulting interspecies hybrid would probably be sterile, due, among other things, to the big difference in chromosome number between the species.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Even though a lot of bicolors did go to my compost pile, I did have several good bicolors that enjoyed breeder status. This is an example of one that was safe from the compost pile.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This was another bicolor breeder this year.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This bicolor breeder had somewhat "toothy" petals.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

I liked the first picture in the last series the best.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

Me too.

MM

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This pink and white bicolor was visited by a fly. I am pretty sure it wasn't an ordinary housefly, but there are many species of flies and I am no expert on them. It is possible that it was a beneficial fly.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

MM.. really like the first one too. Looks like the tips were touched with snow. : )

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This one also has a rather "different" look on the petal tips. Notice that some of the stigmas have three arms, instead of the usual two arms. I like unusual characteristics like that.

This message was edited Dec 15, 2008 7:20 PM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

Foliage is looking very clean--are there troubles with foliage?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

This one also has white picotee tips. I kept a couple of dozen picotee bicolors and tricolors as breeders. Never mind that several hundred picotees went to the compost pile for a variety of features that I perceived as flaws. The picotee pictured on December 13, 2008 5:19 PM was rejected primarily because it was "single". I hope to see a lot of good new bicolors and tricolors in the coming year.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

"Foliage is looking very clean--are there troubles with foliage?"

Zinnias are subject to a number of foliage diseases, particularly when they are grown in a "plant and forget" mode. Since I am a zinnia hobbyist, I do attempt to grow healthy zinnias. I touched on that in my message to StarLight in my message above dated December 4, 2008 2:04 PM. I haven't experimented with Messenger yet, but I do try to maintain near optimal nutrition via foliar feeding and preventative and curative spraying. Pale colored zinnia foliage is usually a sign of poor nutrition, and that includes not just nitrogen, but trace elements like iron, manganese, magnesium. Complete soluble nutrient formulas usually include the trace elements for that reason.

There are several safe sprays that are effective against zinnia foliage diseases. And, luckily, foliar feeding can also help prevent foliage diseases. I purchased a few pounds of monopotassium phosphate because, not only does it supply useful nutrients in a foliar spray, but it is also preventative for several foliage diseases. I also use GreenCure and Physan 20. And, yes, I still get some foliage problems, particularly in the Fall. Messenger and ProTeKt (potassium silicate) are a couple of things I plan to experiment with next year.

MM

South Hamilton, MA

I like the red center of the last post. I think that not enough attention is paid to the different minerals in garden soil, not matter which plant is grown.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

I did aresearch project using alot of the different products out on the market to see which ones really worked and which ones were ssnake oil. I had about 300 differnt plants in the research study and Zinnias were in the group.

personally, I wouldn't waste my money on Messenger. Now the products that performed fantastic and produced larger healthier plants was Root Shield and Plant Shield. I plan on using Root Sheild especially to grow this years crops of Zinnias out.

One of the good things about Root Shield was that even in some of the worst, poorest garden and field soil, germination of seeds was higher and so was plant dry weight when the plants were harvest and weighed for exact mass differences.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

StarLight,

"I wouldn't waste my money on Messenger."

Too late. I bought some Messenger a couple of months ago, so I already have it on hand. So I will experiment with it. But thanks for your input. And thanks for the suggestion about Root Shield and Plant Shield. I will Google to find out more about them and to find sources where I can purchase some. I will be growing a few zinnia plants indoors this Winter, and I have a few hybrid seedlings emerging now. I might use some of them for experiments. I am always looking for better ways to grow zinnias, indoors or out.

"One of the good things about Root Shield was that even in some of the worst, poorest garden and field soil, germination of seeds was higher and so was plant dry weight when the plants were harvest and weighed for exact mass differences."

I don't use soil for my indoor growing, but this coming Spring I will be transplanting a lot seedlings that were started early indoors in sterile soil-less media out into the garden soil. We recently moved from Maine to Kansas (guess I should change my forum name) and the soil here in eastern Kansas is a lot different from the soil we had in Maine. Our local soil is dark, clay-like, and very gummy when wet. It is similar to a soil that was referred to locally as "black gumbo" when we lived and gardened in Fort Worth, Texas. Black gumbo was a real problem and it needed extensive amendment to make it useful for gardening. Black gumbo made me want some garden boots with Teflon soles, but I never found any.

We are currently renting here in Kansas, so we won't be investing a lot in soil amendments. But I probably will get a load or two of sand to help reduce the stickiness of this soil. As it is now, I will have to leave my garden boots on the front porch to keep from tracking mud into the house. I definitely will consider using Root Shield and Plant Shield in this soil.

Out of curiosity, was your research project a funded project, or was it something that you carried out on your own? I am getting the impression that you are not the ordinary "garden variety" of gardener.

MM

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