With the advent of longer days and warmer weather (at least on some days!) we now have seedlings emerging in great quantities at the nursery. We covered our hoop houses with poly film a month ago and over the next four weeks the little plants have popped up. Some species, especially from the shrub steppe, were up and growing even while snow still covered most of them; bitterbrush, big sagebrush and arrowleaf balsamroot are among this group. I think they are adapted to take full advantage of the soil moisture coming out of winter, quickly sending down long roots in preparation for the approaching summer drought and heat. Other species wait long enough to emerge to make me nervous that they aren’t going to show at all (I’m looking at you, red osier dogwood and blue elderberry!) Ponderosa pine, shown above, seem to go from nothing showing to having the tubes filled with lush seedlings in just a day or two.
We direct sow seeds of some species into the containers they will grow in, like the sagebrush shown above. We sowed 30,000 tubes of sagebrush last November and in most there have been three to five seedlings or more emerge, which means lots of hand thinning to get each tube down to one plant. I’m lucky to have an able crew of patient pluckers to perform this often tedious task, which needs to be done in a limited time period.
Lisa thins sagebrush… and thins, and thins, and thins…
The seeds of other species are sown into flats in the fall, from which we pluck out newly emerged seedlings to transplant into the tubes. This seedling transplanting also needs to occur within a limited time window, after the seedlings are large enough to handle but before the roots are too large to transplant without damage. Below are seedlings of Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii), ready to be teased apart and inserted into the tubes. You can see the high tech gadgetry involved: old pie pans and popsicle sticks.
I can’t do this work alone, especially if I’m to keep up with my daytime TV shows. I’m very thankful for the fine employees that allow Derby Canyon Natives succeed and are able to pitch in during this labor intensive and rapidly developing time of year.
Front row (kneeling): Fern, Nancy, Linda and Lulu (four legs)
Middle row: Lisa, Rosa and Juan
Back row: Adam and Jeff