I read recently of a grower who achieved success by sowing his Mesemb. seeds in the autumn. I decided to do a little experiment - I ordered some Lithops seeds (from tbe Mesemb. Study Group) and started them off in early November. Another batch (from BCSS) was started in late January and a third (once more from the Mesemb Study Group) was sown late in February. I will compare their rate of growth.
The soil recipe was one part chick grit to one part of John Innes No. 3. This was well mixed and then cooked in the Microwave oven for ten minutes. When the mixture had cooled down it was used to sow the seeds in 2" square pots. I stood the pots in a tray of boiled water until the surface was moist. They were then sealed into plastic bags. The November and January seeds were placed into a propagator with a temperature of 70 degrees in the daytime and between 50 and 60 degrees at night. My propagator broke down at the end of January so the final batch of seeds germinated on a window-sill. The pots were only left in plastic bags until the first few seeds were showing, they were then taken from the bag and I had to take care That they did not dry out. I didn't need to worry about shading them from hot sunshine - there wasn't any.
Germination was good with all batches of seeds. The November group is now looking green and strong and don't seem to have suffered at all from the short mid-winter days. The January batch, though smaller is also growing well. The final lot are mainly just the size of pin-points and are easier to see with a magnifying glass. I will let you know as the year goes by how the different groups are growing.
My other plants are responding to the spring sunshine and Mammillarias in particular are showing lots of buds though there are not many flowers open yet.
I had a new greenhouse erected late in the autumn and have not yet transferred any plants to it. Now that the days are getting longer and the temperatures higher I hope to get staging and plants in very soon.