Newbie from Australia. So much I don't understand...

muscovyducklingMay 21, 2014

Hi folks,

I've popped over from the Antique Roses forum to ask some questions about raising seeds. It will be winter here in two weeks, so I have been thinking about trying this WS method. Normally I just DS and see what happens, but I've had pretty poor results with that method, so I need a new approach.

But there is a lot of info on WS practices that doesn't make sense to me, or perhaps doesn't work in the Austrtalian climate. Obviously we don't have a freeze/thaw cycle in most parts of Australia (my region included), so I will have to press the seeds in to the soil. We don't get snow where I am, but we do get the occasional frost overnight. For reference, I'm in one of the colder regions of Australia, where it's possible to grow high-chill stone fruits like cherries, but we can also raise winter crops like brassica and leafy greens outdoors during winter.

My main question though is about watering. How do you water your seeds/keep the soil moist over the winter months when you have taped the lids on your containers? I'm sure if I did that the soil would have dried out completely within a week or two.

My other question related to direct sowing, so this may not be the right place to ask, but I bet you folks are fairly knowledgeable about that too! It's regarding the use of mulch. Here in Australia it's pretty much accepted practice to mulch garden beds with bark and leaves or woodchips (or a combination) to about 6" deep throughout the year. This is done primarily to keep roots cool and to retain moisture, but also to prevent weeds. I don't know of anything that would germinate under 6" of mulch! Is it possible to sow seeds directly into the mulch, rather than into the soil beneath? Or do you folks remove mulch, then direct sow, then replace mulch around the newly germinated plants?

I do apologise if my questions are really basic! I'm just hoping to have some nice companion plants for my rose beds this year...and less room for weeds.

Thanks in advance.

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I use gallon milk jugs and they don't need any water because they are like little terrariums. Now, maybe a lot has to do with the fact that they are covered in snow for several months and not subjected to sun. But still - I don't know why you would have to water them if they are enclosed.

What sorts of containers did you use?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 9:17AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

What kind of winter precipitation do you get? I see you don't get snow, but do you get any rainfall? The containers should not be completely closed (i.e. there should be ventilation holes of some kind) so usually whatever precipitation occurs naturally is enough to get them through the winter. If you are really dry I suppose you may have to add some supplemental water.

Sorry, I can't help you with direct sowing as I don't really do that myself. Hopefully someone else here can help answer those questions.

Good luck!

This post was edited by diggerdee on Wed, May 21, 14 at 9:38

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 9:37AM
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Thanks folks, I've got some 2L plastic soda bottles to use. We get plenty of winter rain but also a fair bit of sunshine, and no snow cover, but I suppose a bit of rain could get in through the ventilation holes. I will just have a go and see I guess!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 11:19PM
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For mine, my gallon milk jugs were well moist, but not wet from Nov till April with no supplemental water. After the plants sprouted and I moved the jugs into more sun and took lids off, I had to start watering every week or so.

I had placed a few (not many) knife slits for drainage in the bottom of the milk jugs, and simply sat them in a bucket of shallow water to hydrate well overnight.

Of course, now everything but the jug of digitalis has been transplanted out. The little digitalises are only now starting to grow their second set of true leaves and still very tiny.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 5:48PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

As for your direct sowing question, you are correct. You pull the mulch back, plant the seeds directly into the soil, and then mulch back around them when the seedlings start to get some size to them.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 11:01AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Muscovy, I use mostly 2 LTR bottles for wsing, they are my favorite containers. Easy to clean out and re-use each year, and I've got some that are 5-6 years old with little deterioration of the plastic.

I have never had to water containers over the winter, we usually have wet winters and plenty of water gets in through the hole on top. But it is far colder here and the containers are frozen for most of the winter!

Re: direct sowing. I would not try to sow in the mulch. The seeds need a firm and smooth surface to make contact with the soil, and not get lost or washed away, and for the roots to get firmly established.

Also, I keep mulch away from seedlings until they are 1/2 - 1 foot tall. Slugs are one of the worst enemies to my seedlings - and the mulch harbors the slugs. This does require me to be diligent about watering the babies. But I don't know if slugs/snails are a problem where you live.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 9:53PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Hello Muscovy,
I direct sow many seeds along with winter sowing. This past winter I direct sowed a fistfull of liatris seeds into a trough/planter that has drainage holes in the bottom. I was hoping that the rain or snow would not wash off the seeds. I left the tray outside all winter without any protection. All the seeds germinated. I need to transplant them very soon before the roots get too crowded.

From this experience, direct sowing can produce a better result if you can at least control the runoff. If you have no snow, occational watering will be helpful.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 1:50PM
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Thankyou to everyone for your responses. I think I will try a mixture of direct and winter sowing this year, and see how we go.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 10:42PM
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