Too late to start ET seeds outside?

sherri09(5 CO)March 5, 2010

Hello everyone,

I have a few Hellebores in my garden that I purchased as young plants & wanted to start some more from seed this year. I've been going through the archives on the best way to do it, so thanks for all the great posts!

I just received my seeds in the mail today from Elizabeth Town & am ready to get them started, but I'm second guessing myself on which way to go. I had planned on starting half in the fridge & half outside to try both methods and see what worked best for me. I really like the idea of letting nature take its course, however I'm wondering now if it's getting too warm outside...

I'm in zone 5 & the average temps for March are 28low & 56high, then 34-63 in April. This year has been really cold though & we still have alot of snow on the ground.

Do you think it will still be OK to try them outside? I've read that they don't necessarily need to be at a constant cool temperature, but like decreasing cold. So I could also put them outside for a month, then maybe put them in the fridge for the last few weeks? I'm just not sure if the warmer hours in midday will cause a problem

Any advice is appreciated!! The varieties I ordered are so pretty, I'd hate to lose them to poor planning.


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ladywindsurfer(Z7 SE)

Since the seed are from ET, I assume they are fresh seed, as it is near the end of summer down under.
Some of the seed may require only a few weeks of chill temperature and then warmth to trigger germination.
If your soil temperature is still below 40°F, you could plunge the pots in the ground (assuming it isn't still frozen!), out of the sun and cover with clear glass or plastic, to prevent disturbance by rodents and heavy rains.
Moisture from the soil should wick into the pots, to keep the seed starting mix moist, but to be sure, check them frequently to insure that it never becomes dry.

Not all of the seed will germinate simultaneously, some will probably not germinate until next spring or even later. Remove the ones that have, when they develop true leaves and pot them individually. Handle the seedlings only by the leaves, to avoid bruising the stems and roots, which can often cause the plant to fail.

Good growing! Hope you will have some nice colors.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 1:15PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Sherri, I rec'd a second order yesterday and those are sown and outside. I don't cover with plastic but I do top with grit - there is very little chance of a seed pot drying out in my maritime climate. The pots are in a tiered plant stand on my deck where I can easily reach them to give them attention should they need it. Rodents aren't a problem for me, I lay a length of chicken wire over the pots to keep the sparrows out.

This is a month later than I have ever sown ET seeds outdoors and I'll be watching my temps carefully over the next few weeks. My day/night temps combined are averaging around 40F, that's plenty cool enough. If April does something odd (we've had a warmer than normal winter), I'll bring the pots in and refrigerate, or, even refrigerate during a stretch of warmer days, place back outside at night. Fresh and moist packed, I don't anticipate a lot of trouble with germination, these seeds have always been reliable.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 4:17PM
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sherri09(5 CO)

Thank you both. I'll check the soil, I may be able to dig in a few inches at least. I hadn't thought of that, but it will probably keep them cooler & less prone to getting knocked over by any critters or my dog:)

Morz8 - Good to hear you are doing it at the same time as me! That makes me feel a little more comfortable & I can also keep monitoring the temps. I really wanted to sow them outside, since I'm also a big wintersower.

On using the grit - where do you guys get this? I've looked in the garden centers, but no luck yet. I do have some coarse sand, would that serve the same purpose?

Thanks again.
- Sherri

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 6:33PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Try a feed or farm store for grit if you aren't finding horticultural grit....get the one made for chicks, chick grit. Usually sold by the pound. Another substitute I use for topping pots instead of grit sometimes that works well with hellebores is fine aquarium gravel, from the pet store and also often by the pound.

As a seed topper in an emergency (if there is such a thing :)), I've used parakeet gravel in a box in the pet supplies aisle of your grocery store.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:05PM
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sherri09(5 CO)

Thanks, Morz8. I found a feed store this weekend & got the chick grit. They also had baby chicks in under lights, they were adorable! Since I live in the suburbs I never go to this type of store, it was an interesting excursion.

My hellebores are all planted now & hopefully chilling away. Elizabeth Town was very generous with their seed count, so I potted 1/2 outside, 1/2 in pots in the fridge, then put all the extras/freebies in baggies with vermiculite in the fridge. I'll be curious to see which comes up first!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 10:22PM
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