Diary - January 2004
As I write, on the last day of January, the rain is lashing down and the wind howling around and threatening to demolish all in its path. It is difficult to remember that the growing season is starting and that Spring is just around the corner.
The plants seem to have come through the winter pretty well so far, even those in the unheated greenhouse are looking quite healthy. Aloes, and Crassula are in flower with Gasteria not far behind, and many of the early Mammillaria are budding up well. The bodies on the Lithops are looking old and wrinkled (I know just how they feel) but the new fresh bodies are already peeping through a number of them. If anyone is thinking of growing Lithops please talk to me. I would be delighted to find good homes for some of my many spare seedlings.
I have ordered my seeds from the BCSS and canít wait to get them. Opinions vary on when is the best time to grow from seed. I like to start them into growth as soon as I get them so that their first growing season can be as long as possible. I use a growing medium of three parts John Innes, two parts fine chick grit and one part silver sand. I cook this in the microwave for about ten minutes. While this is cooling I wash my pots in very hot soapy water. When pots are dry and potting mixture is cool enough to handle I fill the pots, gently tamp down the surface and sow the seed. I find that it is easier to sow the seed evenly if I empty it from the packet onto a sheet of white paper that has been creased down the middle. This means that I can see even the finest of seeds and try not to get them all clumped up together. I stand the pots in cooled boiled water until the moisture comes to the surface I then put them on a clean tray to drain before sealing them in plastic bags. I germinate the cactus seed in a propagator but find that mesemb seeds give good germination on a warm windowsill, away from warm sunshine, where there is a distinct variation in temperature between day and night. Cactus seedlings can survive in these plastic bags for many months but I usually give the Mesemb seedlings some air as soon as five or six have germinated. I still keep them shaded, as hot sun can wipe out a pot of seedlings in a very short space of time.
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