Seed not germinating?

Seeds lose their vigour over time and, they can deteriorate more quickly than they should if storage temperatures or moisture levels have been unsuitable. If a batch of seed has not germinated well I do a germination test on some of the seed to see if it’s worthwhile trying another crop.
All I need for this is a wide mouthed screw-top jar, with a lid, and some cotton wool.
testgerm.jpg I place the cotton wool in the bottom of the jar, and add enough water to wet it thoroughly – but not enough to allow it to float in the water. Seeds absorb a lot of water during germination, and inadequate moisture alone can cause germination failure.
Then I sprinkle some of the seed from the suspect batch over the cotton wool. If the seeds are large, such as corn or cucurbit seed, I use the end of a pencil to press the seed firmly onto the surface of the cotton wool, so that they have good access to moisture. This is unnecessary with small seed.
When I replace the jar lid I have a miniature glasshouse. Most seeds require dark for germination; and I place the jar in a dark cupboard that is not opened frequently. I check the jar every three days for signs of activity. Large seeds absorb a lot of water. To test if the cotton wool is still moist and the jar is too tall for a finger test, I roll a piece of paper into a tight tube and touch the end if the tube to the cotton wool. If the end of the paper tube does not absorb water, I add a few drops before resealing the jar.
Some vegetables such as most lettuces, cape gooseberry, seakale, shiso and tomatillo, and some herbs require light for good germination. For these seeds the jar can be kept in a well-lit room. Seed packets will indicate the best position for the test jar.
Most common varieties of vegetable seeds will show activity in a fortnight or so, but some, including capsicum, carrot, celery, eggplant and parsley can require a month for germination to occur.
If the majority of the seeds show signs of germination, the problem is more likely to be the growing mixture, lack of adequate moisture, or unsuitable soil or growing mix temperatures. If germination is poor or the seeds don’t germinate at all, and the seed was purchased recently, the supplier should be contacted to replace the seed.
To reduce problems with seeds, packets should be kept in a cool stable environment where they are protected from moisture and pests. We find that metal biscuit tins make suitable storage containers. The tins are kept in a cupboard in the centre of the house where temperature fluctuations are minimal. We have to store a lot of seed, but one tin or sealed plastic container would be sufficient for most households.

More frogs…

It has been raining for the past ten days and I don’t want to seem ungrateful after so many years of drought but, I am anxious to get out in the garden again and get my hands dirty. At least the frogs are thoroughly enjoying the weather.
I really enjoyed visiting the Frogs Australia Network website, as it contains information about an amazing number of frogs, and you can listen to individual frog calls to aid in identification.

Garden seat

Another chain saw carpentry project, this garden seat is one of my favourite spots in the garden, in all seasons. It is situated on the south side of our vegetable patch, under one of the Jacaranda trees that grow beside our driveway. It’s a wonderful place to relax for a cuppa, admire our work and discuss future projects. The seat was constructed very quickly using hardwood from a demolished shed. The “coffee table” was made from a fallen ironbark on our property.

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This unique garden seat was constructed from a fallen tree at a property we visited recently.

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What’s chain saw carpentry?

It is a term my husband uses for various garden projects that are cut out using a chain saw, or where constructions are nailed, screwed or bolted together and the left over bits are cut off with a chain saw (after making sure those pieces are nail-free, of course). More refined DIYers can use a carpentry saw, if they wish. It is a useful method for people who are intimidated by precise woodworking projects, but like to build things. Basically, it utilises imagination and materials that are on hand, or from the building recycling centre. So far, this carpentry method has produced a small frog pond from the lower half of a swimming pool filter drum, a potting bench annexe attached to our shade house, a mobile hen house, and a garden bench and coffee table.

Frog update

Arthur from the Frog and Tadpole Study group (FATS) has informed me that the mottled frogs are “Bleating Tree Frogs”. We have heard these frogs in previous years but had no idea what they looked like. We thought we had lost them when one of our dams dried up during the drought, and our evenings became much quieter, so we are pleased to see that enough survived to restock their species.
Once the majority of the frogs had left the pool, we rounded up the few remaining stragglers and transferred them to our small frog pond. Among the stragglers were this tiny frog, and a similar froglet with a tail. Despite a thorough search of the pool, we were unable to find any more of this variety. I have never seen such a tiny frog before. He is sitting beside a 5¢ piece on the rim of the frog pond.

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Oleander butterfly

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In autumn, caterpillars of the Oleander Butterfly visit my potted Weeping Fig. The Oleander Butterfly has a wing span of 7.5 cm and is very dark brown or black, with white blotches on both wings and body. The caterpillars arrive in an amusing little caravan formation, travelling head to tail, then spent about a week munching on the fig foliage before each forms a chrysalis. I don’t know where they breed because we don’t have any Oleanders, but they seem to enjoy leaves from plants that have milky sap. I leave these creatures in peace because they do little damage to the tree, and the chrysalises are so pretty.

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Frogs

After many years of drought, we had a lot of rain earlier this year. It was impossible to keep our pool chlorinated, so we waited until the sky cleared before attempting to clean the pool. To our surprise we found the pool contained many hundreds of tadpoles. Frogs are very welcome on our property because they eat insects and spiders. They are also a sign of a healthy environment. Many pesticides and herbicides are toxic to frogs and tadpoles.
The tadpoles were feeding on the algae on the sides of the pool, and looked quite healthy. Apart from providing some shade for them over part of the pool, and providing some ramps for froglets to get out of the pool, we left them to do what tadpoles do best. An old window screen prevents them from being sucked into the filter when we run the pump. I haven’t fed them because I haven’t had any lettuce growing, and I didn’t want to feed them lettuce that could contain systemic pesticides.

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There appears to be three types of tadpoles, one brown, one black, and a very shy type that is a pale, almost translucent, olive. These tadpoles don’t look the same as the small green tree frogs that bred in our small frog pond, as they were quite green by the time their tails had been absorbed (see below).

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The first to become froglets were the brown tadpoles; the other two types still have tails.
These mottled frogs with a dark stripe down each side, aren’t particularly nervous around humans and will allow me to get close enough to photograph them. In sunlight, the tops of their heads look almost like burnished copper, but at other times they look grey-brown. It appears that these froglets belong to the tree frog group because they have no trouble climbing the tiles at the edge of the pool. I spotted one of them hiding in a Birds-nest Fern the other day but most of the frogs are treating our backyard like Club-Med, and spend the day lolling around the pool. I have no idea what kind of frog they are, and would be grateful if someone could enlighten me.

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