Now What...

Town Mouse to Country Mouse

Dear Country Mouse,

Do you remember the workshop with Acterra I took a few months ago? It was about Gardening for Birds and Pollinators (here's a post about it). Well, I was all fired up about it and ordered some seeds for native annuals that attract pollinators (Click on the links to see photos):
Anyway, a few weeks ago, after my broken arm had more or less mended, I put some potting mix into a whole bunch of 4 inch pots (which you so graciously brought by) and scattered some seeds in them. I put the Chinese Houses in a shadier location, the other pots in a sunnier location except for the Madia, which I'll do in summer for fall color. I even covered the arrangement with some chicken wire to protect against hungry birds.

For a few weeks, nothing happened. It was warm. It got very cold (I covered with cardboard). It got wet. Then the first hint of green. And more green. And some more green.

And now I'm starting to worry a bit. Actually, I have two worries: First, I don't remember which of the sunny-location plants is which. Being of a more artistic than scientific bent when it comes to gardening, I just forgot to add a label. Guess I'll make 3 labeled pots and in 4 weeks I might know what's what. I still have seeds left.

There's clearly a difference between the pots with round leaves that are very crowded and the pots with elongated leaves that are not crowded and seem to get eaten as well (slugs?).

But what really worries me is the crowding. I had kind of planned to stick the content of the 4 inch pots in the ground with whatever was in there after the plants had some decent roots. I was not going to get involved in the potting up and thinning out business. Not me. But will that mean they'll all die? Should I just start from scratch? Help!

(Here's the photo of the medium-crowded, not quite so round leaves, don't click on it, it's just as boring as the others).

Country Mouse to Town Mouse

Dear Town Mouse,

An embarrassment of riches indeed! Congratulations on having such a high rate of success!

I don't think the crowded seedlings can all stay in there and survive.

The simplest answer is to cull out a whole lot, so you have the number you originally bargained for. You'd have to snip them off at soil level, I guess, so as not to disturb the roots of the ones you want to leave. But could you do that? I'm not sure I could.

For sturdier plants you might get success by splitting your 4 inch pot into clumps you plant in the soil, and may the best plant(s) win... I don't know if it will work with the above list of plants - but I've been told you can do that for grasses. If you can be sure they won't freeze.

Our esteemed and more experienced commenters may have words of wisdom for both of us on your predicament.

But anyway I think they'll survive till Christmas Day - when we come over I'll bring the appetizers and pie we talked of, and also a big bag of potting mix ready mixed up and tied with a Christmas bow, and other supplies. As your Christmas present I'll prick out some seedlings for you and pot them up.

We could also try some other strategies as an experiment, maybe plant a few clumps of the more abundant ones in some well prepared soil, and see how they do.

BTW may be more easy to see what plants are what when their true leaves start to show. I was pretty excited to see the first true leaves of the lupines that germinated from my local wild seed. Seed leaves (cotyledons) are not that different in different species, in my limited experience. Maybe by Christmas day all will be revealed! If not, we'll use codes - and at some point we'll know what all the As turn out to be and so on.

Who knows - there may be enough to share...


ryan said…
Country Mouse seems to have the right of it. At risk of labeling myself esteemed and experienced or wrong, I would say that the crowded seedlings look like clarkia. Someone once passed onto us some 4" clarkias that were about half as crowded and about 2 inches tall. I'd heard that they have delicate roots, so I just planted the whole clump without thinning, twenty or thirty plants in each clump, into the ground, and they made the biggest bushiest bloomingest clarkias I'd ever grown. Since then, that's how I grow clarkias.
Cutting the unwanted plants off at the ground? Ouch, I don't think I could do that, though I understand the logic of it. Congratulations on all the little green beings. I think we've all been staring at pots of dirt, waiting for this moment of emergence. Pretty exciting, no?