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Using Aspirin on Plants

Using Aspirin on Plants

Salicylic acid (SA)

Aspirin’s active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid. It is chemically similar to Salicin, which naturally occurs in willow bark. When dissolved in water, acetsalicylic acid breaks into acetic and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a plant hormone (phytohormone) which works as a defense mechanism against pathogens and environmental issues like drought, heat and chill stress, heavy metal toxicity and similar. Plants can also make the hormone signal reach nearby plants by producing volatile methyl salicylate.

Plant hormone

Plants produce small amounts of salicylic acid when stressed. The defense mechanism allows them to fight environmental stress and pest damage. It became evident that there are also other benefits of SA growth hormone, related to growth and plant development. Usually plant response is slow and SA levels are low, which means we can speed things up by activating plant’s immune system by exposing it to Salicylic acid. Possible reason of high concentrations of salicylic acid in willow is the fact that it usually grows in water logged conditions. SA hormone allows it to keep the stomates opened which allows transpiration.
Diluted salicylic acid is helpful when germinating seeds as it speeds up germination and boosts their resistance to pests and infections. Pretreating seeds with SA also improves germination rate.

How to use Aspirin?

As mentioned above, acetylsalicylic acid breaks down in water, making salicylic acid available to the plant. Usually it is applied as foliar spray. I use one Aspirin tablet dissolved in 4 liters of water. Some use stronger concentrations, but I’m trying to keep it safe, rather than burning my plants. I usually leave the water  with dissolved aspirin sit for a day, so it can hydrolysate completely. Positive effects should be visible a week or two after application.

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Carnivorous forest

Carnivorous forest

Anyone who owned Drosera capensis knows how much seeds they can produce. In autumn, all my plants went into full bloom and managed to produce large amounts of seeds. As winter came, I decided to sow the seeds into an empty ice cream container and check for germination. I expected a lot of small plants, a mixture of regular Drosera capensis and Drosera capensis ‘Alba’.

Germination of fresh seedlings
First drosera seedlings appeared
First drosera seedlings appeared

I’ve kept the ice cream container outside during the rainy autumn, filled with cheap peat moss. I hoped for the peat to get thoroughly washed for the new seedlings to grow. When I bought my first Drosera seeds, I needed to wait around a month, before the first tiny seedlings emerged. I expected the same thing with my seeds. How wrong I was!
I used the seeds that somehow ended up on my desk where I kept the flower stalks I’ve cut off during after the flowering. Most of the flowers were completely ripe and the seeds just loved to ‘jump’ out of the seed pods. That is one of the reasons why D. capensis easily seeds into surrounding pots when you leave flower stalks to ripen.

Sundew volunteers after flowering
Sundew volunteers after flowering

I’ve been growing my Droseras outside during the summer, both regular D. capensis and Alba variety in the same spot. The seeds I used were from both, white and pink flowering carnivore plants.
As I mentioned before, I expected the seeds to germinate really slowly. I was extremely surprised when I saw first tiny green plantlets emerging in less than a week. After a couple of weeks, there was a whole forest of small seedlings, baking under my grow light.

The carnivorous forest
Numerous seedlings ready to hunt
Numerous seedlings ready to hunt

I’ve sown Cape Sundew seeds tightly together in the past already and never managed to separate them. At first they didn’t look too happy and needed to fight for their position in the pot. After a while, weak plants died off and the strong Sundews remained healthy. In the end, the pot got completely covered with healthy sticky leaves and the plants set numerous flower stalks. I actually liked the crowded pot much better than my large but lonely growing plants. There is another thing I loved about that pot – these tightly grown carnivores were hungry! When I placed the pot near to the source of light during the night, or close to the pond during the drought, they caught all kinds of flies, mosquitoes and other flying, bloodsucking vermin. I intend to do the same thing this year, but on a much larger scale.

Taking care of the seedlings

Same as before, I placed some springtails into the container to keep the small seedlings well fed and to remove any possible source of mold infection. Springtails feed on decaying organic matter which can quickly lead to mold growth. When I feed my adult carnivores with beta fish food, I usually use the same food to feed the tiny seedlings as well. Well, at least some of them. I dilute the fish food with distilled water a bit more than the food I make for my large plants. I dip a toothpick into the prepared fish food and tap the tiny carnivore leaves with the toothpick. I make sure there are no large chunks that could harm the plants. I don’t feed them that way very often, because it’s much easier to just watch the springtails get caught.

🙂

Feeding the Sundew forest
Feeding the Sundew forest
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Germinating walnut tree

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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Cyperus alternifolius

Cyperus alternifolius

Few months old Cyperus alternifolius seedling
Few months old Cyperus alternifolius seedling

Cyperus alternifolius seeds sown in the middle of March 2013 started sprouting after a couple of weeks and new plants continued to emerge for at least a month. Germination rate seemed to be terrible at first, but later it turned out, that most of 2 years old tiny seeds remained viable and sprouted. First week or two, seedlings remained extremely small and fragile, but with time, leaves grew larger and multiplied. Because I used old seeds and expected bad germination rate, all the seedlings ended up in one small plastic cup. With overcrowding that started to occur with time, I had to transplant seedlings soon after they got three or four leaves. I managed to keep their small roots by soaking the soil completely and pushing individual seedlings out using a toothpick. That way each seedling got a bit of soil with it around the roots which gave great results – none of them died off during transplant.

 
 
 

cp_seedlings
Seedlings on April 7th.
cp_ready_to_transplant
With days passing, more and more seedlings emerged. The strongest ones were picked out with a toothpick and transplanted.
cp_transplanted
Seedling in it’s own plastic cup. This time, I didn’t make drainage holes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small seedlings were growing fast for their size and in only a couple of days, they were strong enough to go into individual pots. Placed under cheap Chinese cool white LED light, it was able to get at least some light. Rainy weather didn’t allow sunbathing behind the window.

Seedlings that got replanted, started to take off much faster than those that remained in original pot. Warmer weather finally allowed that they were placed outside. Soon, roots became apparent on transparent plastic cup again and I had to start preparing to move them into larger pots again. Plants started to grow shoots from gaps between lower leaves and original stem. Soon they became quite bushy and for their second time, ready to be transplanted. Cold rainy weather slowed down their growth considerably.

 

Seedlings on May 4th.
Seedlings on May 4th.
Seedlings on May 8th. The seedlings had to be placed into larger pots again.
Seedlings on May 8th. The seedlings had to be placed into larger pots again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the second half of May, it started elongating stems. Even with roots that started to get a bit overcrowded, strongest seedling continued to grow vigorously. I took this one inside during cold nights that drop well below 10°C.

May 21st.
May 21st.
Seedling is almost root-bound by now and will have to be transplanted into larger pot befor start of June.
Seedling is almost root-bound by now and will have to be transplanted into larger pot befor start of June.
seedling on May 21st
seedling on May 21st

‘Dusters’ started to grow scale like formations. With each additional day, plants are growing stronger. They are growing more and more stems that are getting taller and taller. I have a feeling, that every emerging shoot starts doing the duster thingie in short time. Sadly there’s still not enough warmth and sun exposure for the seedlings to really take off.  We’ll get there sooner or later. 😉

Cyperus alternifolius in the beginning of June.
Cyperus alternifolius in the beginning of June.

With warmer weather Cyperus alternifolius started to grow faster and needed to be transplanted from little plastic cup. I found small 5l bucket with a small hole on the bottom. I placed it inside another container filled with rain water and rusty nails. Water inside the plastic tub is keeping soil temperature more stable and prevent it to dry out. Nails made the water look orange with Iron oxide that will also help Cyperus alternifolius to remain healthy green.

Cyperus alternifolius shoots are getting thicker.
Cyperus alternifolius shoots are getting thicker.

Soon after transplant, new shoots started to appear. When plant received even more heat, growth further accelerated and it didn’t take long until first flowers started to emerge. At that point it was certain, it was not Cyperus Papyrus seeds I received at all! Seeds were supposed to be from larger sibling Cyperus Papyrus, but I ended up with Cyperus alternifolius instead. Flowers appeared on plant that was merely 20 cm tall, which came as a surprise, because Papyrus usually doesn’t flower in it’s first year.
I started researching a bit to find out what version of Cyperus I actually received. Flowers and overall plant shape was screaming Cyperus alternifolius (also known as: Cyperus involucratus, Umbrella Plant, Umbrella Papyrus or Umbrella Palm). It looks like I’ll have to go shopping again to get real giant Cyperus Papyrus seeds.

It seems that it can double its size in a week.
It seems that it can double its size in a week.
First flowers showed up unexpectedly
First flowers showed up unexpectedly

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Some flower buds didn’t turn into flowers, but instead, started forming small plants. Usually that happens if it gets sunk under water, but this one decided to multiply above water level. If I ever decide to divide it, there should be no problems.

Small plants instead of flowers!
Small plants instead of flowers!
One of many flowers.
One of many flowers.
Clump from one tiny seed in only a couple of months.
Clump from one tiny seed in only a couple of months.

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In only a couple of months seedlings became large and well established. Most of them started to flower and some of them managed to grow small plants on top of their “heads”. Some of these small plants also started to flower, while still attached to the mother plant.

This plant is quite rewarding. It’s easy and fast to grow, looks great when it starts to flower and it’s really easy to divide it. Sadly it can’t handle Zone 7 winters, which means I’ll have to make sure it survives the winter inside.

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