help me decide on seeds from nargs, please

vegangirl(z6 VA)January 7, 2005

I just joined NARGS and got the seed list today. Can some one who has the list give me some suggestions of some pretty rock garden/alpine plants that are fairly easy from seed? I'm not a beginner with seed sowing, but I don't want to waste my 25 packets on seeds that are difficult until I have more experience with rock garden plants:-) I see lots on the list I would like to try but can't find anything about how easy they are from seed. I live in VA mts, zone 6, naturally acid soil that grows kalmia, rhododendrons, blueberries, etc. I can ammend of course if you suggest something that likes a more alkaline soil. Thanks!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leftwood(z4a MN)

Welcome to NARGS!

Of course most alpines grow in neutral to alkaline soils in their native habitat, I am sure that ammending the soil to raise the pH will be helpful. And while you're at it, the rich, humusy soils prevelent there are too rich for alpines: ammend with sand and grit, especially in pots. This will not only lean out the medium, but also provide the sharper drainage that is so important, even though humusy soil drains well.

Did you receive A Rock Garden Handbook For Beginners booklet from the NARGS when you joined? The 87 page book list "100 Plants for the Beginner".

Equal or even better would be to contact your local chapter for advice. Addresses are always listed in the quarterly bulletin, but you can contact them by email through the NARGS web site Click on "meetings", then "local chapters" and choose your chapter.

For seed sprouting, the Ontario Rock Garden Society has a most excellent germination guide on their web site:


    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 11:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vegangirl(z6 VA)

Rick, thanks! I did get the handbook for beginners but I had forgotten about it:-( I'll check on the Ontario RGS guide and the local chapter. I don't expect there will be a local chapter near me but I'll check.

Is there a rule of thumb on how many parts sand to how many parts soil, etc?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2005 at 10:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vegangirl(z6 VA)

Rick, thanks again for sharing the Ontario website. It is awesome!!! I checked the local chapters and as I suspected, the closest one is several hours away. I found my Beginner's handbook and is does answer several questions that I had. I feel so stupid for forgetting that I had it LOL! I also have a Rock Gardening book by H. Lincoln Foster that I can't find. I really wanted to read it over before I ordered my seeds but Can't remember where I put it. We're moving from trailer to new house and everything is in confusion:-)

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 7:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leftwood(z4a MN)

Foster's book is old, but still very good. I wouldn't bother hunting for it before you order seed. Really, all you need right now is in the beginner book. Seed orders are filled first come, first served, so try to get you order in by Febuary 1st or so.

Regarding soils, that's in the book too. My advice is: if in doubt, add more mineral(sand, pebbles, grit, perlite, etc.). Infertility can always be corrected by fertilizing; but if you've planted in soil that is too rich, the only thing you can do is start over.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 3:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vegangirl(z6 VA)

I mailed my seed order Friday. Can't wait to see what I actually get. The soil thing confuses me. I have a hard time deciding what type of soil I have. DH tells me that what I have where I want to make the rock garden has no topsoil, it was moved during the digging of the foundation. I can see lots of rocks from very, very tiny to Bing cherry size. We've had a couple of days of rain and it seems muddy and sticky. I know when we dug our footers, there were pockets of clay of several different colors, especially a pretty pale green. I don't know if there is any of that clay underneath this soil or not. How do I determine if its the right texture?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2005 at 7:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leftwood(z4a MN)

Clay is the only thing that is sticky, or slimy. That's the worst type for alpines. If that is where you want to plant, I suggest building your soil on top of that, and not dealing with the clay at all. Trying to incorporate that much clay base into an alpine soil is futile in my opinion. Your future plants will thank you.

You will here that the best regular garden soil is one that you can sqeeze into a black ball, but break apart with a gentle touch. The best alpine soil will be so loose and gritty that you will have difficulty making a ball at all. It just falls apart - no clay to hold it together. This being the optimal, remember that many alpine plants are easy and quite forgiving.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 11:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vegangirl(z6 VA)

Well, I went out there and squeezed a handful and it stuck right together so I guess it has a lot of clay. I have a lot of rotten sawdust. Can I use that as the humus or to replace the shredded pine bark or peat mentioned in the beginner's handbook? For the grit, just what do they mean? Is that something I could get from the local rock crusher/gravel place or is it something I need to buy from a nursery/landscape place? Is it little round pebbles or sharp, irregular pieces or does shape matter?

Rick, I appreciate your patience with a alpine beginner and you taking the time to answer my questions!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 5:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leftwood(z4a MN)

Unless the sawdust has decomposed completely and turned into humus, you should not use it. Is it black? There should be no trace of original sawdust shapes.

Micro organisms that break down organic matter (like sawdust) need nitrogen to do the job. Because sawdust is what it is, it requires incredible amounts to do the deed. So nitrogen is a limiting factor, and it might take many, many years to decompose if the sawdust sits in a pile. When the micro organisms are done, the nitrogen is released back into the finished humus. My point is that these nitrogen imbalances are to good.

Pine bark is naturally resistant to decomposition, so it is good. The peat will be either: sphagnum peat, which is also resistant(but low pH), or sedge peat. Sedge peat is already decomposed and looks like good rich black soil. This is the kind of the peat I would recommend. I don't think I have actually ever seen anything labeled "sedge peat". It may just say peat, without the word "sphagnum" anywhere on the bag. In my opinion, anything labeled compost, compost humus, humus or peat will be just as good.

Grit is angular rock, not round pebbles. You can get it at feed stores or co-ops in 50 lb. bags labeled "grit", "chicken grit" or the #4 size is usually "turkey grit". Use these for troughs or small areas. It can get expensive for whole gardens. What you find at your rock crusher will be great. Try to get all different sizes, from sand to even half inch size. If your choice is only round stuff, that will work, but not as well. Angular pieces shed excess water better, especially as a soil component. This is one of the essentials of alpine soil (and why clay is so bad). What kind of rock really doesn't matter, and varies according region.

This is not a science. Get somewhere close to recommendations, and you'll do fine.

You may decide to use round rock as a surface mulch. It is a lot easier to work with when spreading, reworking and planting in.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 7:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vegangirl(z6 VA)

Thanks so much for the advice and the encouragement! Maybe it will all come together in my brain soon :-)

The sawdust is black and is crumbly and soft.

Thanks again!!!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 8:24PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Is this soil mix good for rock garden, and these plants???
This Wednesday a truck full of 25-to-30 200lbs moss...
using a cold frame
Hi,just getting into alpines,not bothered about a greenhouse...
happy gold quad and few other.
I am sorry, I post in the wrong forum. How do I delete...
Fairy, gnome miniature gardens
Is anyone using alpines in miniature container gardens?...
where to buy this dianthus
Hello! I lost all of these mini dianthus plants over...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™