seedlings durring winter

coachjohnsonlpJuly 17, 2014

A year ago I had no knowledge of conifers in the least. I met a "master" gardener as I was observing the amazing landscaping outside of his house. He took me on a tour of his property and told me about all the plants and trees. The next day I started researching conifers and growing conifers from seed and I grew over 500 of 15 different varieties. I gave most of them away to friends and kept 50 or so fo, r myself. I have Sequoiadendron giganteum, Pinus ponderosa, Picea omorika, metasequoia, Picea abies, Juniperus virginiana, Cedrus atlantica, Picea asperata, Picea wilsonii, Picea breweriana and Picea Meyeri. All are between 2 and 6 inches with the sequoia being the largest closely followed by the ponderosa pines. My question is what id the best protocol to follow during this upcoming winter. I will be moving to north eastern new jersey in zone 7. I started all of these seedling from December to February indoors. All of the trees have been outside since the first week of May. I also have 2 dawn redwoods that I bought at 10 inches. They are all most 24 inches tall now. Are they ready for a winter outside?

Thanks for any info you can give!


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I planned on keeping the sequoia in my garage that will range from 25-50 degrees during the cold months. I have plenty of lighting as I grew 500 plus seedlings during the winter in my basement in NY. I am more uncertain about the spruce, cedar and pine trees. Most of them are tiny and I can't imagine them surviving a winter like last year outside.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:11AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Pot them into at least 4" containers and overwinter them in your garage (unheated). Make sure they're moist going into the garage and water them every month or two months as needed.

Bring them in when you feel winter has arrived. Fall is over and weeks or month(s) of temps have creeped in and/if it's going to freeze overnight.

I'm usually outside all day or the days prior to freezing watering my newly planted trees of that year.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:14AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Somehow I missed your second message. Yes, keep them all in your garage. That's ideal temps!


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:16AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

zone appropriate plants .. free seed themselves ... i dont know why there is any concern as to temps on such cold hardy things ... it is simply not 'singularly' a low temp issue ...

the issue is.. vermin ... pots heating and cooling .... episodic heat waves ... watering in winter ..... etc ...

the key ... vermin aside... is to get the plants dormant.. and keep them dormant ... thru the whole dormancy period ... going in and out of dormancy is a big problem ... and its complicated by not having roots deep into mother earth to stay dormant .... little pots can warm too much ...

also note.. a garage ... in z6... can easily range into z8 temps .... in the heat of the day ... because the sun is shining on it.. and the doors are closed ... and it actually gets too hot... and in some warm week in january.. all of a sudden all the plants think its summer and start growing.... and then ma nature slams you into a month of z4 ... if there is a window.. and its secure.. you might consider leaving it open ... and openning the garage on warmish days.. to avoid heat build up ....

i am trying to list all the variables for you you can think of them... and trying to get you out of thinking.. your only problem is that your babies will get cold.. that is the least of our problems..

watering in winter is also extremely problematic .... i use ice cubes ...

as to the sequoia.. good luck... i have no experience ...


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:58AM
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Thanks Dax and Ken. That's a lot to think about... My current garage is insulated well and would usually remain around 30-40 degrees during the winter even if the temps get warmer the garage if left shut won't cool or heat up too much. I never thought about the watering issues so I am glad you brought that up. I have some of the trees in 6-8 inch pots all ready. The ponderosa pine tap root is over 16 inches long all ready even though the tree is only 6 inches tall. The sequoias root systems are equally as large so I moved them up so they wouldn't start wrapping around themselves. Are the metasequoia that are 24 inches in height ready to be planted outside this fall or should I wait until the spring?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:24PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

You definitely could plant the metasequoias in ground this fall if you want. I can't see why not.

They're more than hardy enough to be fall planted in zone 6B.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:28PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

anything growing out the bottom of the pot.. i would 'heal in' for winter ... in mother earth .... though at time a wicked cruel mistress.. she really is better at it than most of us ....

you have to separate each tree into its different cold tolerance.. and act accordingly .. it seems on some level ... that i think you are looking for one rule ...

i smoke.. i do not smoke indoors... its tough in winter ... on the worst days i spend a lot of time in my attached garage ..... i still think you are making some erroneous presumptions about your garage ...

i recall once... i had a bunch of small pots... and i potted them all into one giant pot... pots and all ... pot in pot ... the theory was that each little soil amount in each little pot had too much potential to thaw and refreeze at whim ... the idea of 10 gallons of media ... and wood chips was that a bigger wad of media... would temper changes in heat ... and then i left it in the pole barn ... not the attached garage ....

i would highly suggest.. in your zone 6b ... anything that will tolerate z5 or colder.. be HEALED IN... in mother earth ... you can repot them in spring.. if that is what you want ... or transplanted then ...

you are treating them like babies.. children ... and i fear.. on some level.. failure.. due to loving them to death ...

outdoors.. all you would have to worry about is voles and rabbits ... and many things can rebud and thrive if chewed on a bit ....

instead of temps.. humidity.. watering.. media failure ... etc .. wherein you rot the roots off in late winter or early spring.. there is no hope left ...

and this is the last time.. on thispart .. i have no clue on the sequoia ... and you will remember that.. and use none of my suggestions in regard to such ....


ps: if you are ferting.... STOP ALL FERT NOW ... we want them slowing down in fall for dormancy.... not on some speed trip ... and refusing to acclimate and slow down for winter ....

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 8:46AM
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Thanks Ken for the detailed advice. I think I will split the seedlings between the garage and all natural outdoors other than my Atlantic cedar and sequoia trees. You are probably right about me babying the trees. I guess you could compare me to a first time parent which I am also. I try to stay away from the seedlings for a few days at a time to help resist the urge to messing with them some how. As for the garage I am fairly certain on how temperatures as I spend a lot of time out there. I have a digital thermostat in the garage and can actually see the temps from the last month on my smart phone or computer.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:19PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

You are probably right about me babying the trees. I guess you could compare me to a first time parent which I am also.

==>>> you hit the nail on the head .... when you vary wildly from mother nature.. you add so many variables.. that you cant perfect them all ... and usually.. in my experience.. screw one variable up so bad ... you regret not doing it the easy way ...

so by using ma nature... you reduce the variables you can screw up.. to a minimum ... and increase your odds wildly ..IMHO ...

they are not children ...

stop feting now ... water properly .. and let them wind down ... plant in early fall.. when days are warm .. but nights are starting to cool ... fall is root growing time.. for me until ground freeze.. for you perhaps all winter ... depending on how cold the soil gets.. how deep down ...

once you have done this.. you are down from protecting from rabbits.. and mice.. and voles ...

if you have yard space.. a small plot with chicken wire and posts.. can keep away the evil bunny ... there was a post about this last year..

when you try to think it all out.. think of them as 100 foot trees .. no matter their current size.. and treat them accordingly ... they are not children ...


    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:38AM
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Ken - would now be a good time to heal in all the zone appropriate seedlings and my newly acquired young grafts? I have a nice spot about 30 feet by 20 feet where I was planning on putting most of the seedlings, new grafts and some trees that are in 1 gallon pots. I was going to start next week after this 80 plus degree weekend is over... Should I do anything to prep the soil for healing in? So basically I am putting them in the soil and mulching over? I will be bringing a few trees into the garage but want to put as many as I can outside. That would also make my wife very happy :)

    Bookmark   September 26, 2014 at 12:46AM
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On this subject....If this winter is anything like last year any dwarf conifer i plant will be encapsulated in a block of ice until the thaw in march. Our snow pack although not usually deep will thaw and refreeze until it is like a block of ice. Usually high enough to cover a small dwarf. Can theses young plants survive encapsulation in a block of ice for 2-3 months?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2014 at 7:46AM
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Ryan, I am really curious to see how your seedlings do this winter and your outcomes. I've been attempting to grow sequoiadendron giganteum for the past three years. My first two attempts involved starting the seeds in the fridge for cold stratification, potting indoors and keeping indoors until a good 4-6 inches, then transplanting outside. I didn't have success with this method. Then this past winter I tried to 'wintersow' some seeds outside in ventilated milk jugs - seeds went out in late January, and I had roughly 6 seedlings come up in early May. I planted the seedlings in the ground and have watered frequently all summer and this has worked the best for me. I did have to put cages around the tiny seedling as I lost a couple to rabbits. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they do ok this winter being so tiny (7 inches). No leaf drop yet (although the mature deciduous trees around here have started). I tend to think that the seedlings do best when grown outside and exposed to the elements from the get-go. Please keep us posted as to your progress. It's a fun endeavor, growing from seeds :)


This post was edited by sarafungal on Sat, Sep 27, 14 at 10:09

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 10:06AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what is your base soil ... will it drain ...

if clay and wont drain .. you might have problems ...

else.. yes.. its a great time to heal things in ...

how about a new post on this subject.. with a searchable title ... indicate soil type ... potential vermin ... and any other pertinent facts .... are you aware if voles are an issue in your part of the NE ? ??????

and let me mull it over ....

if bad clay ... i wonder if you can get a load of wood chips this late in the season????

mull... mull.. mull ...


ps: at least i think i dont sound crabby in this reply ... lol ... i have been felling guilty ...

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 12:55PM
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I appreciate all your advice as I am still a newbie at the whole conifer game. I will start a new post with the particulars. Not sure on the soil type other than it is not clay and it drains very well.
Sara - not sure I am going to heal in the sequoia trees. I met a guy that has one that is fairly old and actually made it through the last winter with not too much winter damage. He kept his in his garage from the beginning of December through the beginning to middle of April for 4 years. He said they need to build up substantial woody mass to have a shot at zone 6 winter weather. Most of mine are between 4-7 inches with one around 10 or 11. I think I am going to keep them out until the low temps are consistently bellow freezing.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 8:49PM
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That sounds good, I am certainly a newbie with a huge learning curve. I have extra sequoia seeds that I'll be wintersowing (along with some shrubs and trees). Best wishes for success! Heres a pic of one of my seedlings from about six weeks ago. Please continue with updates. Best

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 9:50PM
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