Germinating walnut tree

I received several extremely large walnuts and decided to try making them germinate.

Walnuts are easy to propagate from seeds, but they grow slow at first and you don’t really know the size of the walnuts until the tree is already quite large. They also secrete juglone, a phytotoxic chemical that is toxic to many plants. All parts of the walnut tree have some level of juglone, which inhibits growth of plants around it. Juglone is also the reason, why it’s usually not a good idea to add any part of the plant into compost bin. My experience is, that when properly composted, juglone decomposes enough and doesn’t even bother tomato seedlings, which are otherwise extremely sensitive to juglone. Trees grow tall, with dense and broad crown. They can grow in most soils and can handle some drought.

A couple of weeks old walnut sprout

A couple of weeks old walnut sprout

To germinate the walnut, it have to be stratified for 3 to 4 month in a plastic bag with damp paper towel, moist peat or sand in a refrigerator. During the stratification, paper towel and the nuts can become mouldy. They can be washed in cold water and wrapped into new moist paper towel, before placing it into the fridge for some more time. I did not see any issues regarding the mold, all the walnuts I tried germinated into healthy seedlings, even if kept moldy for a while, before I’ve noticed and cleaned them.

2 months old walnut seedling

2 months old walnut seedling

After 4 months or when you feel the seeds are stratified enough to germinate, wash them in cold water and plant the nuts into well draining moist compost rich soil, 2 to 5 cm deep. They start sprouting in a couple of weeks and in a month or so, you can have your first little trees emerging. If it takes longer, seeds might not have been stratified enough and will take a bit longer to sprout. When they grow enough to handle, place them separately into large enough pots, buckets or directly into the ground. Walnuts are supposed to get larger if they get up-potted a couple of times when they are young. I have heard that story many times, but I have no idea if it is true.

When planting walnut trees outside, you have to make sure they have enough space to grow properly. If they grow close together, the overall appearance of the tree will be tall, without the broad crown. When they have enough space if you plant them 15-20 meters apart, they will grow more sturdy, thick and branched out trunk with broad and extremely dense canopy. It can get too dark under the trees for most plants to thrive, especially considering that the roots of walnut tree release juglone through the roots and keeps the competition away.

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Quick update on 3 variegated P. arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings

I’ve already been writing about possible variegated seedlings from the second batch of seedlings. The variegated seedling from the test germination of 10 seeds remains my most variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling. The other 3 possible variegated seedlings still show signs of variegation, but they are far smaller and variegation can not be confirmed. The seedlings in the second batch were sown tightly and became weak as they started to grow larger. I failed to plant them into individual pots on time and I’ve lost some of the seedlings that started drying out due to lack of light and water. One of the most affected was the second most variegated seedling that refused to start shooting even when other seedlings started to put out their second shoot.

Damaged and weak seedling

Damaged and weak seedling

I found it completely dried out and it seemed to be lost, with only 3 remaining leaves, that were also folded all the time, except during night, early morning and rainy weather. I decided to plant it into compost in the raised bed together with other two variegated seedlings and hope for the best. After almost two months, it somewhat recovered and now it’s pushing two small shoots that prove it’s going to live.

It survived against all odds

It survived against all odds

This one seems to be loosing variegation

This one seems to be loosing variegation

The third seedling, the one that was dark green with white variegation, looking as inverse version of the first seedling is growing into almost completely green seedling. It’s growing slowly and it changed variegation along the way into white stripe on dark green leaf, similar to Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’, but that faded out too. It will be interesting to see if it returns or not. By planting it outside, it should grow fast enough to discover its possible unique features further.

Praing mantis fighting the insects that damage my seedings

Praying mantis fighting the insects that damage my seedings

Already mentioned first – and most variegated seedling, started growing faster after I planted it into compost outside in the raised bed, but it also got severely attacked by aphids, fungus gnats and all kinds of unknown bugs. The result of all those insects outside are dark brown spots and speckles on its leaves. Highly variegated leaves are also prone to become damaged by direct sun exposure. When the shoots leaf out, the new leaves become dark green enough to withstand the scorching summer sun way better. Spring was wet again and we are now entering the hot and sunny part of the year. Hopefully the seedlings will upsize considerably during the summer.

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Building LED grow light

Plants grow extremely well under my new grow light

Plants grow extremely well under my new grow light

As many of you already know, I love to grow plants from seeds. Almost every winter, I’m bothering with a new plant, that needs to be kept alive inside under artificial lighting. Until earlier this year, I’ve had a setup with a combination of warm and cool white LED diodes. I’ve had relatively good results and didn’t even think about buying a grow light. One day, however, I’ve noticed a superb deal on a Chinese online shop, which made me think about building more power efficient and effective light setup. I did not think twice. I have bought several power adapters and full spectrum LED diodes with wavelength of 380-840nm. The LED diodes operate at 30-36V, which means I had to get a power supply, capable of supplying two 50W diodes with electrical power. All the commercial products were extremely expensive and possibly low quality, which means there would (could) be a lot of overheating and a chance of loosing my LEDs. I decided to use my old computer’s power supply unit, which can supply 5V and 12V. LEDs operate at 30V, so i needed to take care of power conversion.
I discovered some cheap converters online, and when I received everything, it was time to start building the LED grow light.

Assembling the  wiring

Assembling the wiring

My expectations for the first grow light setup were not high. I wanted to see if I could make it work, check its effect on the plants and learn before building a larger, more sophisticated setup some day later. I decided to use simple wooden fixture to place the lights above the surface and attach the CPU coolers with LED chip to the wooden frame. When I needed to increase the height, the only thing I needed was a bit more wood and it took less than 20 minutes to increase the distance between plants and the lights.

 

I used computer parts, which made assembly easy

I used computer parts, which made assembly quite easy

Computer PSU is capable of supplying energy to at least 5 LED chips operating at full power, so there’s always an option to upgrade the whole thing. Using old computer parts made it super-easy to assemble the whole setup and within an hour or two, I’ve had it prepared for the first test. When I plugged the power supply and turned it on, I needed to set the power converters to appropriate output voltage. When I increased the voltage over some point, the LEDs started to emit dim light. Success!

Output 30.5 Volts

Output 30.5 Volts

CPU cooler, attached to the wooden frame

CPU cooler, attached to the wooden frame

LED diode attached to a CPU cooler

LED diode attached to a CPU cooler

With increasing voltage, the lights emitted more and more light, which became too bright to look at, even below the upper operating limit of 36V. I’ve set the power output to just a bit over 30V, which is the low operating value. Lower voltage means LED diodes use less power and don’t overheat as much as they would if I’d run them at full power. The ability to further increase the voltage offers an option to increase the height of the light – and greatly increase the amount of space for the plants below.

I already have some ideas for my new DIY light setup, which will be taller and have some additional LEDs. That way I may be able to overwinter even some of my adult size plants way better than before.

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Late snow in the end of April

Large Moso shoots when it started to snow.

Large Moso shoots when it started to snow.

After several weeks of extremely nice and warm weather, polar blast brought much lower temperatures and a ‘shipment’ of heavy wet snow. Most of bamboos already started shooting some time ago, trees are all leafed-out and most of the fruits have already flowered. The day started warm with strong southern wind, but the wind direction changed instantly, heavy low altitude black clouds appeared temperature dropped from around 15°C to just a bit above freezing. When it darkened in the middle of the day, thunderstorm brought sleet and first half melted snow which instantly started to pile up on plants, even if the soil remained warm enough to melt it.
It snowed for the rest of the day and by early evening, I could hear distant breaking of tree branches. Luckily it only snowed for a couple more hours and stopped completely by the end of the day. Total amount of snow was around 15cm. Considering the fact that a lot of it melted, because of nicely warmed ground, there might have been more on the completely flattened bamboo.

Only an inch of wet snow flattened Spectabilis to the ground.

Only an inch of wet snow flattened Spectabilis to the ground.

Like I already mentioned, most of my bamboos already started shooting, especially early shooters like Fargesia sp. ‘Rufa’ and Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso’. These two started shooting early this year and many smaller shoots already started poking over the canopy of last year’s culms. All those shoots were not nearly hardened enough to handle the weight of heavy snow alone, not to mention the weight of whole bamboo flattened to the ground. Large Moso shoots have been growing on the northern side of the older clumps and that’s what saved them from breakage – bamboo grew more leaves towards south and the culms always fall down into south-eastern direction.

Here's how the Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' culms look like in the snow.

Here’s how the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ culms look like in the snow.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ was lucky to have started growing the shoots slowly. The largest shoots were pushed towards the ground by the weight of the culms, but so far, there’s no visible damage, even if they point into different direction. Other bamboos were only slightly damaged, because new branches already started to grow, shoots were either too small or not existent.

When the snow finally melted, most of the shoots that were bent to the ground recovered. Some of them snapped and died off, but most of them recovered with culm deformation which resembles genuflection, often seen on P. aureosulcata.

Some of the shoots have snapped under the weight of snow

Some of the shoots have snapped under the weight of snow

None of the larger shoots got damaged and they took off instantly after the snow was gone.

Fruit trees and walnuts were also lucky enough to survive without a lot of breakage. Could be much worse if there was just a little bit more snow.

 
 
 
 
 

Shoots that did not snap are seriously bent

Shoots that did not snap are seriously bent

Damage was not as severe as it seemed

Damage was not as severe as it seemed

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