Back in December, I selected a few plants to experiment with and planted seeds both outdoors in the elements and indoors in baggies for the refrigerator method. This will be especially interesting this year since it has not exactly been a properly cold winter. Some seeds require as much as 60-90 days of cold, moist stratification, like Vernonia fasciculata (common ironweed) and I will be able to compare the results of the same seed with natural stratification and forced stratification. I won't be surprised at all if the Vernonia I planted outside doesn't germinate as well as the Vernonia seeds I stratified in the fridge thanks to not receiving adequate chilling time courtesy of our warm winter.
|Seeds sown in outside in containers, rather than scattered on the ground|
By the way, the milk jug method is roughly as follows: take an empty, clean gallon milk jug and cut it in half almost all the way around, fold the top half back, fill with seed starting mix, seeds, water, tape shut, leave cap off to breathe, stick outside in the shade, then move into the sun in spring. You can also Google it and find lots more info and pictures.
|Milk and Spring Water jugs, with Columbine seeds|
Some seeds have already completed their 30 day treatment in my fridge and are ready to be planted outside. This afternoon I'll be potting up the Verbesina alternifolia (wingstem) and Verb. occidentalis (yellow crownbeard) and placing them outside to (hopefully) germinate when it warms up. These two are also seeds, like the Vernonia, that I also planted in flats outside and I'll be able to compare the germination rate between outdoor only stratification and refrigerator/outdoor stratification.
|Pre-treated Verbesina seeds, ready to be planted|
Even better are the plants that need no pre-treatment, like Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) and Echinacea purpurpea (purple coneflower). I decided to do another experiment to compare the germination rate, hardiness, and overall growth characteristics between starting some of these seeds early indoors under my grow lights, and outdoors in containers au naturale. The ones planted indoors, just last week, have already germinated. Woohoo! They're going to get a huge head-start before spring, this will be really interesting. Of course, the ones sown outside have not germinated yet.
Have you ever noticed how almost all seeds' first leaves look similar? Generic and round, perhaps to catch the most light. A seedlings second pair of leaves usually look most like the mature leaves of the plant it will become.