Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Growing with Your Planting Pyramid

In a previous post, we described how to build a Waterboxx Planting (half) Pyramid, a beautiful, terraced structure capable of holding between 9 and 27 plants, potentially without any watering after transplanting.
The Waterboxx Planting (Half) Pyramid - without soil or Waterboxxes, yet
Once we moved our Waterboxx Planting Pyramid into its final location and filled it with soil, we assembled 9 Waterboxxes and placed one on each level - before anything was planted, as seen below.  We then removed these before planting and replaced them after planting (a step you can skip).

We had several late hard frosts here in Indiana but then had an incredible hot streak with daytime temperatures near 85 degrees in mid April - not exactly a normal occurrence.  As the 10 day forecasts predicted night time lows well above freezing, we decided it was time to transplant our largest cucurbits outside to our Waterboxx Planting (half) Pyramid.  We moved spaghetti squash, Howden pumpkin, pie pumpkin, as well as green and yellow zucchini outdoors on Sunday, 4/17/16.

Although cucurbits (squash like plants) do best when direct seeded into the soil, we used peat pots to start most of the cucurbits indoors. Peat pots are ideal because they give sufficient room for the plant to start growing but also dissolve when placed in moist soil - allowing the roots to break free without being disturbed.  Note - if planting cucurbits that were started indoors we recommend that you simply make a hole for the peat pots and drop the peat pot right into the soil.  The moist soil enabled by the Waterboxx will ensure decomposition of the peat pot - if you remove the peat pot by hand you may damage the fragile roots of the cucurbit.

We had earlier planted either white icicle radishes, nasturtiums, or marigolds in the corners of each square (terrace) of the pyramid.  These were meant to either deter squash bugs and beetles (icicle radishes and nasturtiums) or encourage beneficial insects like ladybugs (marigolds).

The spring of 2016 was very cold and wet for us - and we had a very late and unexpected frost.  Fortunately, the damage to the plants in the Waterboxx Planting Pyramid was minimal - likely because the water in the Waterboxxes stayed warmer than the surrounding air and protected the plants in and around the Waterboxx.

Zucchini after our late frost only the smallest amount of damage on the bottom of the front leaf.  This zucchini would have been badly damaged or completely killed without the Waterboxx as it is 3 feet off the ground and very exposed.

Another 10 days passed since the unexpected frost - now with many 80+ degree days in a row.  This was also accompanied by a great deal of sunlight (although not much rain) and many of the Waterboxx Planting (half) Pyramid plants started growing rapidly, as seen below.  We of course have not watered anything growing in or on this pyramid since Waterboxxes were placed and filled with four gallons of water each.
Our Waterboxx Planting (half) Pyramid with zucchini, giant pumpkin, Howden pumpkin, pie pumpkin, and cucumbers all growing vigorously on 5/30/16

You can see the complete plans to build the Waterboxx Planting (half) Pyramid here and buy the Waterboxx here.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dealing with Unexpected Late Frosts

Much of the United States has had record cold temperatures and unexpected late frosts this year.  We were horrified to walk outside yesterday morning and find frost covering our car here in central Indiana - on May 16!  We came home late yesterday to find that indeed the frost had damaged some of our already planted garden.  In particular, our green beans had damaged foliage.

The dead and dying leaf damage to green beans from an unexpected late frost and record low on May 16, 2016.  These green beans were not planted in a Waterboxx.

We also noticed, however, that our frost intolerant plants planted inside Waterboxxes (like melons, peppers, and others) had no frost damage at all.  How was this possible?

Pepper plants inside a Waterboxx, without damage from the frost

Georgia Rattlesnake melons - a very frost susceptible plant - a day after the frost with no damage whatsoever

Each of these Waterboxxes is filled with water.  This water - while not exactly warm (the water temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the photo above), does hold a great deal of heat because water holds its temperature very well (called a high specific heat capacity).  This water and the heat it retains slowly radiates out at night, creating a warmer microclimate in the area immediately around the Waterboxx.  The most protected area, of course, is inside the figure 8 shaped central opening of the Waterboxx.  However, this warming effect is strong enough that plants that reach well above the Waterboxx are even protected - like tomatoes.

Two tomato plants, the day after the frost, without any frost damage.  The Waterboxx creates a warm microenvironment that protected the tomato from the frost 
Were any plants in Waterboxxes damaged by the frost?  Yes - one of the two zucchinis planted at the top of our Waterboxx Planting Pyramid did have some frost damage along the edge of one of its leaves.

Our top most planting in the Waterboxx Planting Pyramid - a zucchini with a small area of frost damage near the bottom of the photo.  However, the rest of the zucchini, even though exposed to the full cold of the night sky, was protected from frost by microenvironment created by the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon.
What is remarkable about this zucchini is how little damage it incurred.  Without the Waterboxx, likely the entire plant would have been dead (it is almost three feet above ground level and well exposed to both north and west winds).   However, the Waterboxx greatly reduced damage and will allow the zucchini to recover as soon as the sun returns.

A cutaway view of the Waterboxx showing how water is stored and released to a growing plant - without electricity or running water.  This surrounding cocoon of water protects the plant from frost.  Image courtesy of Groasis, www.groasis.com

The Waterboxx does much more than protect your garden plants from unexpected late frosts.  It provides water to them throughout the growing season, collecting condensation and rainwater, storing it, and slowly releasing it to the roots of the growing plant via a wick.  The Groasis Waterboxx also prevents evaporation of soil moisture and prevents weeds from growing near your plants.  If you are interested in gardening with the Waterboxx, visit our website, dewharvest.com.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Protecting Squash From Squash Vine Borers

Squash vine borers are one the banes of almost every gardener in the eastern U.S. who tries to grow zucchini and other members of the cucurbit family.  In this post, will talk about a few sustainable methods to prevent squash vine borers.

If you are new to gardening, you may not be familiar with squash borers.  However, you may have noticed your zucchini and spaghetti squash stopped producing all of a sudden last year, with a fine, saw dust like material at the base of their stem.  Within a few weeks the plant was completely dead - this is the result of the vine borer.  The vine borer affects most cucurbits east of the Rocky Mountains here in North America.

This pest, Melittia cucurbitae (also known as Melittia satyriniformis), is probably the greatest threat to all members of the squash family - whether that is summer squash (zucchini), winter squash (spaghetti, butternut, and acorn), and even cucumbers and melons.  Unless a gardener is vigilant, this pest can destroy a whole growing season of hard work.

Adult Squash Vine Borer; from By Pollinator at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1350965

The first tip to decrease these insects is to rotate where you plant your squash and related (cucurbit) plants each year.  As squash vine borers overwinter in the soil, rotating your crop from one year to the next will dramatically decrease infestation rates.

Secondly, keeping the base of the plant stem hidden may have some effect on decreasing infestation.  As we here at the Arid Arborist and Gardener advocate planting with the Groasis Waterboxx, The Waterboxx shelters the stem in its central opening (all while providing water without electricity or continued manual watering).  This sheltering can decrease the chance that the adult vine borer will land on the stems.

In the north the vine borer tends to emerge around June or July; in the south May is more common.  In much of the south, two generations of vine borer are active at one time.  As the vine borer seems to infect zucchini more often, a change in what you plant in this region may increase success.  The tatuma squash (also called the tatume squash or calabacita, available here) seems to have very good natural squash vine borer resistance.

If you don't wish to change the species you are planting, we understand.  As the squash vine borer attacks the base of the plant, this part can be sprayed with a mixture of soap, water, and kaolin clay, a whitish substance that is thought to gum up the mouths of insects.  The recipe for a gallon of kaolin clay is 2 cups kaolin clay (Surround), 1 1/2 teaspoons of dish soap, and just under one gallon of water.  Apply the mixture (after shaking well) every 2 weeks through late July to the base of your plants using a spray bottle.

Kaolin clay spray being applied to the base of a zucchini plant growing in the Waterboxx.

Diatomaceous earth is another sustainable gardening product that can help control squash vine borers.  Diatomataceous earth is the remnant of a type of mineral based ocean plant (diatoms) which is quite sharp on the microscopic level.  This sharpness scratches insect exoskeletons and kills them.  If you do wish to apply this, make sure you get only garden or food grade diatomaceous earth and apply it when wearing goggles and a mask (as it is a fine dust that should not be inhaled).  Apply it to wet leaves or the stem and soil of the plant, preferably when rain is not soon in the forecast.

Companion planting can also help repel these pests.  Radishes (and in particular white icicle radishes) can repel squash vine borers.  Nasturtiums, which have edible blooms, are also said to keep vine borers away.  Finally, marigolds may attract ladybugs which eat soft body insects (like vine borer larvae).  You can buy lady bugs (as well as praying mantises) online to stock your garden.

One tip we do not agree with is covering your cucurbits with row covers.  Row covers block all flying insects from landing on your garden.  This will of course prevent the adult squash vine borer from laying eggs on your plant, but it will also prevent bees from pollinating your plant.  This hardly seems like a good deal - beautiful plants that produce no fruit!  Also, the row covers only come in certain shapes so prevent people from planting cucurbits in new structures like the Waterboxx Planting (Half) Pyramid.

With all of these tips, you should be able to control squash vine borers.  As squash are especially prolific when growing with the Groasis Waterboxx, our techniques can eliminate watering after planting for many gardeners.  One Waterboxx acorn squash grew 13 fruit last year, another 29 zucchini (from two plants in one Waterboxx).
A Waterboxx (hidden by the squash leaves) grew 13 extra large acorn squash in 2015

Another Waterboxx grew 29 zucchini from two plants - all without watering after transplanting.

You can learn more about Waterboxx growing at our main website, www.dewharvest.com

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Building a Waterboxx Planting (Half) Pyramid

Raised bed gardening is, for most plants, a great improvement over previous forms of gardening where tilling and soil preparation was needed.  The best book about raised bed gardening is of course, All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.   The main drawback of raised bed gardening, in our experience, has been the frequent watering needed with shallower raised beds.  Also, because the soil mixture used with raised bed gardening is very absorbent of water, heavy rains can cause splitting of tomatoes and melon.  We found a solution for both these problems using a device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon® or Waterboxx, for short..  This device is a self refilling water battery for plants.  It collects condensation and rainwater on its tan lid, funnels this water to a reservoir, and then slowly releases the water to the roots of a growing plant through a wick.  You can see how this works in the schematic below:

The Waterboxx Cross Section View: Water (including dew) is collected on the tan lid, funneled down the siphon shown in red, into the green reservoir, and released by the white wick

We had good success growing vegetables of the cucurbit family (pumpkin, zucchini, squash) last year with the Waterboxx without any watering after planting.  We decided we wanted to repeat our success this next year but with more compact and vertical growing platform, a three tiered raised garden bed, or something we call a Waterboxx Planting (Half) Pyramid.  This idea was sparked by stories of one of the ancient wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon - a terraced garden that allowed lush foliage in the desert.

An artist's depiction of the hanging gardens of Babylon (Maarten van Heemskerck, public domain)
First, we purchased the lumber.  We wanted this box to last indefinitely, and as treated lumber is toxic and cannot be used for raised garden beds, we got cedar for its resistance to decay.  Cedar is a very expensive wood but we expect it to last more than a decade.  Other wood can be used (including standard untreated lumber), if you are not planning on using the box for more than about 5 years.  There is a product available called Soy Seal which some gardeners use for raised garden beds (we have not), which is purportedly non-toxic.  Soy Seal will likely extend the lifetime of your wood by at least a few years.

We planned to build a box with 9 spots for Waterboxx grown plants, or a total of 9-27 Waterboxx plants (depending on what is grown).  The Waterboxx is 16 inches wide at the base and 19 inches wide at the top, so each space needed to accommodate this size.

We purchased 6 quantity 2 inch wide by 10 foot long pieces of cedar wood.  These pieces can be 6, 8, 10, or 12 inches in height. We also purchased a large box of coated 3 inch deck screws.

Our starting materials - 6 quantity 2x12 inch x 10 foot cedar boards.  You will also need gloves, a measuring tape, a right angle/triangle, a marking pencil, as well as a circular saw (not shown).
Note, there is a PDF file on our main website with a chart with all the cuts needed for the planting pyramid.  It may be easier to view it there rather than seeing the cuts written out.

First, we used two of the 2 x 12 inch x 10 foot pieces of cedar to make the back base.  It should be noted, that if you just want to create a simple patio raised bed that will fit up to 5 Waterboxxes, this design will suffice.  We measured 103.25 inches from the end of both of these pieces.  We then measured (to confirm) 16.75 inches from the other end - we made sure these two measurements agreed.  We used a straight edge to mark this line, and cut both pieces to 103.25 inches.  We then put the 16.75 inch pieces in between the two 103.25 inch pieces, and secured them with three coated deck screws from each end side, for a total of 12 screws.  More screws can be used if desired.  We were careful to make sure the box was on a flat surface and as close to level and perpendicular as possible. 

The bottom-back section of the raised bed garden box.  This section can be used alone for up to 5 Waterboxxes and potentially for 10-15 garden plants, all without any watering.

Next we needed to measure pieces for the middle base section. (Note: there is also a PDF file with an overall blueprint on the main Dew Harvest website here).  Take a third cedar board and measure off a length of 62.25 inches.  Cut once after measuring 3 times (cedar is expensive) and put the remainder off to the side for later.

With another full length board, measure off 20 inches 6 times (so six equal boards of 20 inches).  Measure three times, cut once.

Place the 62.25 inch board in front and two 20 inch boards behind and connect with deck screws. The easiest way to do this is to make a "bench" that is 62.25 inches long with two "legs" that are 20 inches tall (inside length). Make sure the inside corners of this are square (at 90 degree angles) before fastening.

Measure 20.375 (20 and 3/8) inches in from the ends of the long (103.25 inch) back piece and mark this. Place one 20 inch piece of wood perpendicular to the 103.25 inch piece (front of the original 9 foot box), just inside the 20 inch mark from the edge. The other 20 inch piece (the other "leg" of the bench, now turned on its side), should be lined up just inside the other 20.375 inch marking. Working from the side of your largest rectangle, drill 5 holes into the 20 inch "legs", through the 103.25 inch pieces.  This forms the middle section of the base of your half pyramid.

Next, mark 21 inches in from either end of the now front portion of the pyramid.  Cut a 20.25 inch piece (see our blueprints here) for a "seat" and attach two 20 inch "legs" to it, making a bench as described above.  Next, attach the bottoms of the two "legs" to the 62.25 inch board in the same fashion as done before.  The first or bottom level is now complete.

The first level of the pyramid
The middle tier consists of two rectangles, and is similar, but not identical to, the front 2/3 of the base.  Take one of the remaining 62.25 inch boards (if it has already been cut by using our blueprints).  Attach 16.5 inch boards inside of the ends of this - using the bench method described above.  Remember - always use the longer board on the outside.  Next, flip the "bench" upside down and add the final 62.25 inch board to the bottom of the 16.5 inch bench "legs".  This will make a rectangle that is 62.25 inches long and about 20.5 inches wide.  Lay this rectangle flat so all four sides are touching your flat working surface.  Next, get another 20.25 inch board, and attach two 20 inch board "legs" to it, using the bench method (the 20.25 inch board should be on the outside or the "seat" of the bench"). Attach this to the center of the 62.5 inch box you just made.  You can then place these two rectangles (and the middle level) on top of your first tier of the pyramid - but do not attach it yet.

The first 2 levels of the (half) pyramid
Making the top level of the pyramid is the easiest step.  Of the remaining purposely cut pieces (not the scraps) - you should have two 20.25 inch boards and two 16.5 inch boards.  Assemble them in a square, using the bench method to start, with the 16.5 inch pieces on the inside of the 20.25 inch pieces.  Make sure the corners are perpendicular, using the carpenter's square.  This is the top level, and can be placed (but not yet secured) onto the back center of the second level.

The completed (but not yet filled or situated) Waterboxx PlantCocoon (half) Planting Pyramid
To prepare a site for the planting pyramid, find an area that is level but also gets sunlight during as much of the day as possible.  You will likely want to tamp down the earth here - make this area level first (check with a bubble level).  You can put the the planting pyramid on a cement patio (if that is all that is available) but be sure to attach weed cloth tightly to the bottom to prevent soil escaping (as discussed below).

An ideal flat surface for the planting pyramid
You will want to move the Waterboxx Planting (half) Pyramid to its final location, but before you do, we would suggest putting weed cloth fabric (not plastic) at the base of the pyramid. Weed cloth is porous to water but not generally penetrated by roots. This can be secured with tacks or staples. If you are placing the pyramid on weed free dirt, this is not absolutely necessary. If you are placing the pyramid on cement, we would recommend two layers of weed cloth secured tightly to the bottom of the pyramid base. This will allow the water to drain but will (generally) keep the soil inside the pyramid.  You may have some dirty water running off the pyramid depending on your natural rainfall amounts. Make sure your final pyramid location is as level as possible. 

 Move over each of the three tiers, bottom first, than middle, than top to their final location (ask someone to help with this - it is not a one person job). Stack them and line them up correctly so that each successive layer is in the middle of the one beneath it. Get out your level to see if the pyramid is level with the ground - if it is not, try to correct this by adding soil beneath the lower portions.

You are now ready to connect the levels of the pyramid. To make the pyramid as aesthetically pleasing as possible, we will use connections inside the pyramid which will be hidden by soil. Find your two left over 4 inch scraps from cutting boards 3 and 4. 

Hold the connecting boards scraps in place using cement blocks.
These pieces will have three screws attaching them to both a lower and upper level, or six screws total. When in place, there should be about half of their width touching both the upper and lower level. To keep them in place, you can have another person hold them while you drill pilot holes, or prop them up yourself with cement blocks or other wood scraps as shown. 

You can also hold the connectors in place with wood scraps as shown here.

Use at least one connection between each tier - for better results cut up the remaining 17.25 inch board into 4 inch tall connection joints and use at least 2 connection joints per level - one along the back (inside the pyramid) and one along the front (inside the pyramid).

Here you see how the "scraps" will connect the different levels of the pyramid
 These will keep dirt and water from escaping by minimizing space between levels.

With your Waterboxx Planting Pyramid in place you can now fill it with soil. As potting soil and the other additives can be expensive, you can perhaps use some simple excavated garden soil for all but the top six inches of every level (i.e. -only the top eight inches of soil need to be of highest quality - just like topsoil in nature). If you live in a wetter climate and are concerned about drainage, you can use large stones and then small pebbles on the bottom of the pyramid, with only the top 8-10 inches being high quality soil. First, decide what soil mixture you would prefer for the top level of soil. 

Our rocks at the base of the pyramid

 We use Mel's Mix (from the book "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew) of 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss. If you don't have sufficient compost yet available, you can use high quality potting soil (we recommend MiracleGro purchased from a warehouse club like Sam's or CostCo). Fill the pyramid up to about 1 inch from the top at all levels. You can water the soil to compact it slightly if you would like. Next, either plant directly or transplant any garden plants you desire that you plan to grow with the Waterboxx. You can use the included white evaporation cover to choose spacing of plants.
You will want to have the Waterboxx assembled when planting to make sure everything fits. Once your plant reaches about 10 inches in height (or immediately after transplanting if the plant is already 10 inches tall), place the Waterboxx gently around the plant and add about 4 gallons of water to the Waterboxx. Do this with each planting space.

If you would like to see the chart detailing the lengths of each wood cut, or the overall design blueprints, please visit our website page devoted to the planting pyramid here.

A fully stocked planting pyramid  - with zucchini, tomatoes, squash, and other plants - all without any water needed.
If you would like like to know more about the Waterboxx or see results of using it, visit our main website, www.dewharvest.com.

Please leave any comments or questions below.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Growing Giant Sequoia Trees From Seed

Giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are the largest living things on Earth.   They can live for thousands of years, reach almost three hundred feet in height, resist droughts and forest fires. The single largest sequoia tree now living, General Sherman, has sequestered over a lifetime of carbon emissions by the average American.   What is more, giant sequoias can grow throughout much of the world in temperate regions, including most of the continental United States, so long as they have sufficient water (around 30 inches or 762 mm each year).  Sequoias grow in Britain, but also in mainland Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, and almost every state in the U.S.

Establishing sequoias is very difficult, and with trial and error you can expect years of frustration, even if you buy saplings rather than seeds. Even with saplings we didn't have any success establishing sequoias outside in the Midwest until we started using the Waterboxx PlantCocoon to grow sequoias for the first few years.  Since starting to use the Waterboxx PlantCocoon, we have had 100% success, detailed here and here.

As sequoias proved such fun to plant and are so beneficial to the environment, we wanted to know if we could grow sequoia trees from seed.  We had tried this before, but had very poor germination rates (around ~1%), and many of our trees that did germinate soon died.  We were determined to try again, but to follow the best advice available for growing these seeds.

So, to start off, we acquired 2000 more sequoia seeds from Myseeds.co, our preferred site.  We expect again about a 10% germination rate, so perhaps around 200 trees.  We plan to distribute these trees across the country for growth with the Waterboxx in a few years.

First, assemble all needed materials.  To stratify (prepare seeds for germination), you will need to following materials:

  • A clean paper plate
  • Two clean paper towel squares
  • A clean sealable kitchen bag
  • Sequoia seeds (at least 10 seeds for every desired tree)
  • Distilled water (which won't have any fungal spores which can kill young saplings)

Seeds on July 16, 2015, right after getting them in the mail.  Our biggest problem was having the patience to not plant before "hardening" for a month in the fridge.  
We covered these seeds with another moist paper towel, and them put them on a portion of a paper plate.  We then put these in a clean, sealed plastic bag.  This simulated our wet "fall", in order to reawaken the seeds.  For our winter, we placed this plastic bag in the vegetable crisper in the fridge for 30 days.

What is needed to cold stratify the seeds - paper plate, two paper towels, sealing kitchen bag, seeds, and distilled water

First, wet one of the paper towels with the distilled water.  Lie this paper towel flat on the paper plate.  Then, carefully spread the (small) sequoia seeds on the wet paper towel, as evenly as possible.

Spread the sequoia seeds on the paper towel wetted with the distilled water - do this with clean hands only

Next, take the second paper towel and wet it with the distilled water.  Lay this carefully over the paper plate now covered with sequoia seeds.  If some seeds get pushed off the plate, we would pick them up and put on the plate - remember that each seed may grow into a tree that will store a lifetime of carbon emissions and live for millennia.

Our two thousand covered sequoia seeds (you probably don't need so many seeds unless you have many acres you wish to plant - expect 1 tree per 10 seeds)
Next, we need to make the large paper towel fit in the plastic bag.  We folded the corners of the paper towels in to fit it on the paper plate.  We then slid the paper plate into the bag, labeled it with the date we plan to open it (one month later).
We plan to plant the seeds into their germination site - cone-tainers - in about one month.  After about one to two years - when the trees reach about 12-16 inches in height, the sequoias will be ready to plant.  We will plant the sequoias with the Groasis Waterboxx during our annual spring sequoia donation and planting, or distribute the trees to our customers.

Update: May 3, 2016

We have had truly terrible weather here, so we are a few days behind in planting the seeds, but we did pull our sequoia seeds from their fridge scarification to be planted in the cone-tainers.  We tried to plant about 11 seeds per cone-tainer, going on the assumption that we actually did have 2000 seeds to start.

The sequoia seeds after a month's cold stratification on May 3, 2016 -about 2000 in all.

We first filled the Cone-tainers with potting soil, then scattered the seeds on top of the soil.  If the seeds are still moist, you will find them somewhat difficult to get off your fingertips.  To help, we would suggest using tweezers.

We filled 177 Cone-Tainers with seeds - we had 8 sequoias that had survived from our first (largely unsuccessful) trial which we also transferred outside to grow (which soon died) - May 3, 2016

We then gently pressed placed the seeds on the top of the soil, before pressing them slightly into the soil and covering them with the smallest layer of potting soil we could.  We then moved both trays of cone-tainers into our outdoor coldframe in an attempt to prevent excessive cooling of the soil at night (which would retard germination).

Within about 3 weeks, we did begin to see germination.  We had used two different lengths of Cone-tainers.  The smaller SC7 had a depth of 5.5 inches, and the larger SC10 had a depth of 8.25 inches.  We began seeing a large difference in the germination rates between these two Cone-Tainers, even with almost everything being equal.  The longer SC-10 cone-tainers had a much higher sequoia seed germination rate than the SC7 Cone-Tainers.  We believe this was  almost entirely due to the increased water holding capacity of the longer Cone-Tainers.  For this reason, we plan to plant in the future using only these SC10 Cone-Tainers.

These are the SC7 Cone-Tainers on June 12, 2016 with rather poor germination rates

These SC10 Cone-tainers had much better germination rates

Many of the SC10 Cone-Tainers even had multiple seeds germinate - a truly impressive feat!
The other issue that may have been causing a difference in germination was the amount of shade.  The better germinating SC10 Cone-Tainers had at least a few more hours of shade each day.  For this reason (as our test plot was mostly open to the direct sun) we moved both underneath a shade cloth - better mimicking their natural environment.

We did notice that some Cone-tainers (each of which have about 11 seeds) had multiple seeds germinate while some Cone-tainers had no seeds germinate.  We wanted to move the extra seedlings to empty Cone-tainers, so we waited until a decent rain when the soil was moist and malleable.  We then gently grasped the extra sequoias by their crown, usually one at a time, and pulled straight up.  We were as careful as possible not to disturb the tap root.  We then used a tweezers to create a deep, narrow hole in an empty Cone-tainer and inserted the sequoia there.
How to pull up and transplant a sequoia seedling - the delicate but straight tap root is marked by the arrow

We water our sequoia seeds and seedling every day.  This is the most important step - dry sequoias equals dead sequoias at this point in their life.

By early July, some sequoias are still sprouting but others are finally starting to develop quit an impressive crown.

A sequoia grown from seed, at approximately 2 months old.  This tree might live for 2500 years after being established with the Waterboxx.  
We hope to see these sequoias grow to the point they can be transplanted outdoors with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon®.  They will need to be about 10-15 inches tall at that time.  We are growing these sequoias for donation to a few growing partners in the South and Midwest and perhaps to a few lucky customers as thank yous - we will post those plantings online when pictures are available.

Our miniature woods as of August 2, 2016 - about 180 actively growing sequoias

Like much of the eastern U.S, August was very wet for us, with up to four inches of rain in 2-3 days time.   Our sequoias were outside in all of this, and even with good drainage, their roots quickly became waterlogged with the near constant rain.  We subsequently lost about 85% of our crop, another very dissappointing outcome.

Terrible loss of tree life after days of heavy rain - a bitter disappointment.
As we cannot control the rain and cannot bring the trees inside during heavy rains, we plan to try again next year with all the tricks we have learned.  We will be growing the sequoias inside cold frames with 30-70% shade cloth, all with the larger cone-tainers.  This will be our third attempt to grow this giant tree from seed on a large scale.

It should be noted that the tree survives superbly once planted with the Waterboxx - as seen here and here.

Our greater hope is to see giant sequoias planted on public and private property throughout the United States and rest of the world.  This tree grows so large, so fast, and lives so long, that it may be one of the few affordable ways to decrease carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, counteracting the problems caused by excessive carbon dioxide.

If you would like to plant sequoias you already have outside, with the Waterboxx, you can buy a Waterboxx PlantCocoon here.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.