Epic Failures...

SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)April 2, 2013

We always post what we have done well at, yet few post failures.

I got stepped on by begonia's..so much for the seed package saying they were easy, just start early. I had 20/20 germinate but most flopped over within half a day. Little did I know at that time that begonia's were _somewhat_ fussy. lol. Only plant i didn't research first but the package made me buy it *grin*

Anybody else have similar experiences with seeds?

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I tried tuberous Begonais too this year (1st time). I tried 3 different types, started them mid January. I was amazed how well they germinated, I separated them early, into little 2" cps, and had about a tray and a half (50?) - Most of them just sat there doing nothing, others grew a second leaf, then they slowly they started dying off. Out of that 50 I now have 8 small begonia plants, I'd say 5 of them look really healthy. I had similar results from some of my Lisianthus. One type has done well, but the others are mostly gone. After some further reading, I am blaming the losses on the seed starting mix I used, fine coir based mix. The healthy ones were started in a different mix. Next time I'll be adding lots of pearlite.

Still - if I hadnt lost all of those little guys I would be even more squeezed for space right now than I am. And if we dont learn new things every season whats the point?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 8:19AM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

I am curious as to what you found in your reading on the starting mix for begonia's. I have been very unhappy with most of the mixes I used to start my seeds in this year, that is until I started using tapla's 5:1:1 mix, even for germination. The others were so heavily peat based that the top would be bone dry and hydrophobic with the bottoms still being soggy wet. Was a lose, lose situation.

I, too, have learned a pile this year. I also wonder how I actually got anything to grow in the past.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 11:35AM
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runswithscissors(MT 4/5)

Yes, I'm curious about seed starting mixes that work well. I have learned from other posters that my mix may be a big reason for my failures this year. (I made mine from scratch). It seems that most seeds need light to germ...so just barely press them into the top, right. But in a couple of hours the top of the soil is dry with the bottom soggy, like you said. Surely there must be a magic mix out there that solves that problem. My begonias died too. Sprouted up so pretty, then died. I either cooked them, or overwatered them, thinking the soil was dry by it's appearance. Dang!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 12:17PM
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South Country - I used the tapla mix a lot last year when I was potting up, but I ran out of bark fines and no one has them out yet this year. I havent used it to actually start seedlings. I may try it for some, but I am concerned about pathogens. I have read numerous bits and pieces about soil mixes for begonias and all of them stress drainage. some use up to 50% pearlite. Other articles I have read say that coarse mixes help develop strong roots. It sounds like a combination of super good drainage and high humidity is the trick for Begonias.

This year I mostly used Jiffy seed starting mix, but every time I mix up a batch I am increasing the amount of pearlite I add.

One of the germination guides that someone posted recently on this forum specifies either peaty or coarse mixes along with temps, germination time etc. I havent seen that before.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 2:31PM
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I like Pro-Mix for seed starting. You can get it at a good garden center. Using bark isn't a good idea because it doesn't hold water. Tiny seedlings need a finer mix. Besides, some bark is a growth inhibitor, I've found.

What helps is to knead the mix in a bowl with some water before filling the pots. Peat needs to be kneaded to keep the water from just running through it. Some mixes have a wetting agent put in so you don't have to do this.

To keep the top of the soil from drying out till the seeds germinate, I put a loose piece of plastic wrap over the top of the pot. I make a hole for the plant label and push it through the plastic. It holds in moisture while letting in air. I remove it once the seeds germinate.

You can cover most seed with soil. Only the tiniest seed needs to be pressed into the surface. With a search you can find which seeds need light to germinate and those have to be on the surface.

I never started begonias from seed. Wouldn't they grow a tuber after sprouting?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 6:57PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

mandolls, from what I have read I think your spot on about the humidity. Mine all flopped when I removed them from high humidity. I am not quite sure about a 50%perlite/peat mixture. To me it would be like having half a mixture of mud and half rocks. The plants would grow in the mud and around the rocks. The rocks doing nothing more than taking up space. I would be quite interested in the results. I am always into trying something new :)

susan, it is interesting on your comments on the bark mix. My results are polar opposite. I was skeptical as well and planted half in either nurseryland or pro-mix and the other in the 5:1:1. The difference in germination rates was negligible but from then on it was dramatic. Since then everything has gone into the bark mixture. Your mileage may vary.

runs, susan gave some good tips on keeping moisture for germination, I use clear domes for the same reason. There are pro's and con's for either method. There are also a few schools of thought on how to sow, usually smaller, seeds. Essentially one is just trying to ensure contact between media and seed.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 12:58PM
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In my years of gardening I have tried almost every planting mix there is. Some were good and some were downright awful. Some were fine for some things and terrible for others.

One day I was in the nursery I like to frequent and I asked the owner what they used to start their plants. He told me promix . There are several kinds of promix. HP is rather fast draining and BX drains fast but holds more moisture. There is also a superfine one. I have tried them all. I didn't like the superfine one but the HP and BX are very good. I settled on the BX because I found the HP dries out too fast. It is the only soiless mix I have used for the past 20 years. Everything does well in it.

I buy it buy the compressed 3.8 cubic foot bag for around $30 and that is a lot of planting mix. You can buy it in smaller bags but this is the most economical. Because I do a lot of planting I use it all in one year but if you didn't you could keep it for several years as long as it is kept dry. I put mine in a large garbage can with a tight fitting lid once I open it and have used some out of it. Some does stay in our unheated shed over winter and I don't want it to get wet.

As to failures you are not a gardener if you have not had a failure or made a mistake. I know I've had my share throughout the years. Mistakes are a good learning tool

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 3:12PM
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I keep hearing really good things about Promix, but I cant find any within easy driving distance. Shipping those big bales would make it way to expensive. Maybe I just need to search harder and throw the field a little wider. I live in north western WI, maybe I need to start searching the garden centers in the Twin Cities.

South Country - pearlite is what I use for any cuttings. It doesnt absorb much moisture, but because of the structure of it it holds quite a bit, while allowing air - it makes for good strong root growth. For me it works much better than water or a soil mix. So it makes sense to me to use a lot in my starting mix - maybe not 50% though.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 7:37PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

mandolls, see if you can find fafard products I hear they are really good. I can't get them here without heavy shipping fees. The 'nursery' or '3L' I believe, only have 25% and 30% peat by volume. They just changed the website that used to state mixtures :( . I misunderstood your 50% comment. I thought you were mixing peat with it for potting, sorry. I am going to be doing a pile of cuttings this year so very interested.

Dowlinggram, I can't disagree, promix works for a huge number of gardeners. I just have an aversion to mostly peat based products. I also drive a Ford, *grin*. I still have 1 test group in each mix and will see how they fair the rest of the year. Maybe my mind will swing one more time LOL

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 1:15AM
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Southcountry, how do you keep the bark wet?? I have orchids in bark and it dries up everyday. What mix do you use?

I stick with pro-mix (whatever kind my local upscale garden center carries...it's the only place that has it.) I like it because it's fluffy yet holds more water longer than any other mix I've tried. I use it in outdoor pots as well for the same reason...less watering overall.

I do sprinkle some finely shredded sphagnum moss on top of every seed starting cell, even the ones that require light. It helps prevent damp-off disease. This all works for me so I keep doing it.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 2:20PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Susan, the bark I use is screened fir bark from 1/16" to 3/8". I mix this 5 parts bark to 1.5 parts perlite. It isn't the water retention of the bark rather the water adhesion properties that hold water. You might find the link at the bottom worth a read.

My problem with peat started last year with my marigolds. It was really hot and I had a hard time with them. After one pot died off I inverted it to find the top 2/3 dry and the bottom 1/3 soaking wet. The roots in the bottom 1/3 were rotten and the top 2/3 dry... a no win situation, when do you water?. So I started looking, trying, buying to find something better. Now I think I did.

I might be a fool but I don't worry much about the damp off pathogens in soil less mixes, not that they can't exist. I don't think a sprinkle of anything other than chemicals will stop it, if present.

I am open to try anything and actually love experimenting.

I have about 40 T8 HO bulbs I have tested sitting around if anyone wants to pay shipping LOL

Here is a link that might be useful: container soils

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 7:18PM
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Great idea for a thread! :)

Epic failures... stevia and cabbage. I've never been able to get stevia to germinate. At all. Not one. I grow really lovely cabbage plants from seed, but they never form heads. I've tried multiple varieties. I've tried buying starts from the greenhouse. They all grow up into gorgeous - but loose-leaved - cabbage plants. I don't understand. My neighbours (who have well-behaved cabbages) don't understand. My local greenhouse guy doesn't understand. I grow outright awesome broccoli and Brussels, average cauliflower and freakish non-cabbages. *shrug*

Epic success... I seem to have the knack for successfully rooting clematis cuttings. I'm told this is supposed to be difficult. *shrug*

Regarding starter medium... I mix rmy own - peat/pearlite/vermiculite in 2:1:1 ratio respectively. My local greenhouse guy gives me weird looks because he says the vermiculite is unnecessary, but it's worked for me for so many things, so I figure why change the formula. I've recently started using the Pro-Mix BX (black bag) for potting on; LOVE it!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 4:50PM
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I have not grown begonias in years. I recall the seed being like dust it was so small. Many years ago my brother gave me a tip on starting such small seeds. He worked at a greenhouse at that time and often sowed small seeds like begonias.

His suggestion was to mix the seeds in a small container
with sand. I also hear some use sugar. Then spread out
the sand or sugar mixture on top of the planting media in the flat. The sand or sugar will help to evenly disperse the small seeds in a more uniform manner. If you try to
just shake the seed packet over the flat, such little seeds
often land in a giant clump and make it more difficult to separate when transplanting them.

When they germinate, they tend to be so small it is best
to water the surface by misting with a mister bottle and then bottom water the flat when dry. Do not water the tiny seedlings overhead with some sort of watering can
or they will fall over and be crushed by the water droplets.

As the little seedlings size up, this issue goes away.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:58AM
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Don't know if I'd call it epic, but I tried not once, but twice to start hostas from seed. Never had one germinate.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 11:52AM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)


Where do you live in NW WI? I am in Glidden and believe the Butternut Feed store has some promixes and is very willing to order out. I have been searching for a Fafards supplier for years!! and still haven't found one up here. I see much more availablity with Promix.

Right now I pick up my Fafards from a supplier 3 hours away when I am there for work conferences! I am a Fafards die hard!! 52 mix all the way:)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 1:33PM
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mitch - I am in Menomonie, so a half hour from Eau Claire and an hour from St. Paul, which should make it easy, but I havent had a lot of luck. I did just hear of a place relatively close, in Chippewa Falls, that has Fafards products - I am going to give them a try.

I know I can find Pro Mix in the Twin Cities. I put in a question in the MN forum and got some help there. I am just waiting until I need to go there for other things.

And - just to keep this on topic - I keep losing Lisianthus seedlings. I have always lost a few when they are tiny, but these have been growing well, getting biggish and then wilting away, seems the roots are rotting, which I dont understand since I have them in a well draining mix and I let them dry out pretty well before watering.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 6:45PM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)

How wet are you keeping the soil? I too have had some deaths when they were very small, but I swore to figure out the issue and found I was keeping them constantly wet. Letting them dry out was the answer.

I believe you in when you say you are having problems founding Fafards even near the big cities. I was just in Green Bay and every shop that Fafards had listed as a distributor was a no go. I tried 5-6 shops and went thru the phonebook. NO LUCK....in a city the size of GB. Go figure. I have been getting mine in Stevens Point at Lensmires....hope they still carry it this spring.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:44PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

mandolls I love the fact you try to keep on topic but I love evolving topics.

If you were closer I could give you a heck of a deal on promix I bought a pile that was damaged by a forklift even though I knew I didn't really like peat based products. So I bought a pile of stuff I will never really use....damn deals lol

Fafards since the 'merger' or so the web site, has now limited themselves to the east, you lucky folks.

On topic, lol, my daughters Gazania just won't germinate....I have it under 3 different conditions with nothing.....blah...bad seeds....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 11:48PM
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myluck(5 In)

I bought a bag of Pro Mix last year at Menards. I'm a newbie at seed starting.The bag doesn't have a bx or a hp on it . It has all purpose ideal for seed starting on it. Eau Claire is where Menards main office is. So there should be a store in the area. I just grabbed the first thing I saw,they may have had hp and bx. I'm going to check next time I'm there

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:46AM
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