Germination Aids

As long as I’ve been involved with saving and selling seeds I’ve seen it mentioned for a number of products that their use somehow affects germination. I’ve been saving these references for quite a while with the idea that someday I’d check them out so see if they have an effect on strawberry seed germination.

Along the way I started a worm farm and started worm farming. Vermicompost is often mentioned as having an effect on germination. I’ve even seen vague references to vermicompost tea (will be called vermitea from here on) and it’s effect on germination.

A couple of years ago I conducted the first test of the statement about vermicompost and its effect on germination. I had some old seed of a Fragaria vesca ‘Regina’. The germination was below the accepted standard for strawberries which is 60%. I was hoping to use some of the leftover subpar seed to grow some plants to use it up. I thought, “here’s my chance to test out these statements about vermicompost and its effect on germination”. I took a petri dish that we use for standard germination tests ad added a “pinch” of vermicompost to the moistened paper towel. In short, germination was improved to well over 60% and the resulting plants were grown on and eventually sold.

Suffice it to say that germination wasn’t 90% with vermicompost but it gave me a valid reason to include it in all subsequent seed mixes. Later I would discover that having vermicompost in the mix also reduced the incidence of damping off, a seedling disease complex.

Around the first of June, 2013 I initiated tests with other ingredients/products that claim to affect germination. Among them are vermicompost tea (known hereafter as vermitea), hydrogen peroxide, Liquid Karma, seaweed, Bacillus subtillis (a biofungicide), greensand, azomite, humic acid, Rootshield, and a couple of others – 12 treatments in all including an untreated check (water only).  The test is ongoing. We conduct germination tests for 30 days to give as many seeds as possible a chance to germinate.

Results? As I said it’s ongoing. Numerically, vermitea and greensand treated petri dishes has germinated the most seeds – more than the untreated check. We don’t know if there is a statistical difference, but numerically there is. We have also found that zero seeds germinated in some of the other treatments and a few treatments less seeds have germinated than the untreated check. Very interesting results up to now. Enough “proof” for me to add greensand into my seedling mixes.

We are planning to add a couple of new treatments and to adjust the rates used for some that were already used in upcoming trials. It appears that we will be doing a lot more germinating than originally planned. Hopefully, we will find an outlet for all these germinated seeds when they become salable plants. We will update this page sometime in the future.

Seed Saving Update

It is now mid June 2013. The business is evolving and we are now focused on seeds. We are still planning to ship plants as plugs but our focus is on seeds. This spring we setup pollination cages for the first time to isolate and pollinate  several species/selections. Here is an image of one of those cages:

The cage is 6′ tall, 4′ wide x 10′ long. It is professionally made. You can’t see it but we made a pvc domicile with tubes and released hornfaced mason bees into the cages. We observed them doing what they do best, pollinating flowers. Because of the success we intend to have several more cages made in the winter so we can expand this aspect of seed saving.