of seeds and soil

Greetings and salutations everyone; once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, here to tell you all about the latest news from our garden. You may remember me from such entertaining and informative posts as “Halloween” and “The Seed Whisperer”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose. Slightly apprehensive, because the other evening the guy I live with took my picture and the flash went off. He said that was the other camera, but I think it’s best to be cautious. This is me being cautious. 2014012915I mentioned my superior and delightful post “The Seed Whisperer” for a reason; today’s post is going to be another didactic one, but don’t worry, we have a surprise at the end. Might make up for all the didacticity.

Today he said we were going to be hanging around the house all day. My mommy used to ask him if they were going to be doing that, because that was her favorite thing to do. It always conjured up images of bats hanging from the gutters. Hanging around the house. Get it?

The first thing that happened today really started yesterday evening, when the guy I live with noticed that the stratified seeds of Calochortus gunnisonii were germinating.2014012902At first he thought he would take them out with tweezers, and he crushed the one you see there, so what he did instead was fill up the freezer bag with water and pour the seeds out onto pots of soil-less mix which then went back into the “stratification box”, here.


2014012903Then they went back into the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. There aren’t any actual vegetables in there. The seeds will stay in there for just a day or two longer, maybe, then will be brought out to grow like normal plants.

Even though you can see that the guy I live with is being all scientific and precise and stuff, I can still offer pretty convincing evidence that he really is kind of a nut. I keep saying that, I know. But look at this.

seeds here

seeds here

seeds here

seeds here

seeds here, too

seeds here, too

seeds here, from 2011

seeds here, from 2011

seeds here, from 2012

seeds here, from 2012

guess what's in here?

guess what’s in here?

Agave toumeyana var. bella germinating, sown 01-23-14, from year-old seed

Agave toumeyana var. bella germinating, sown 01-23-14, from year-old seed

I ask you, is this proof, or what? Wait, look at our kitchen table. (That’s the bitterroot book he talked about a while back; he got another copy.)


and what do you think these are?

and what do you think these are?

Well, have I made my case? Kind of a nut, for sure.

I watched him sow more seeds today.

2014012913In other news, the guy I live with has been obsessing about soil, and something called “inverse texture effect”. Basically, he says, drought-tolerant plants inhabit soils which are highly aerated, because more water is usable to plants in sandy soils than in clay soils. Clay retains more water, but less is available to the plants because it’s bound to the clay kind of like glue. So a little bit of rain goes a longer way in sand than in clay.

In our neighborhood, many of the lots were backfilled with what the guy I live with calls “clay gunk”, trucked in from some infernal region, and today he walked over to a neighbor’s house to look at the subsoil, since the front yard was being dug up to find a root-clogged sewer line. He brought back some of the subsoil. He said he wished the whole yard had been this, instead of the icky clay. True, he can dig down to the “good stuff”, but he said it takes work, and so, well never mind.


Of course this sample required analysis. So he enlisted the help of The Professor to explain this type of soil. Some of you may remember The Professor from earlier posts. He wanted to entitle this “a dirty movie” but I overruled him.

Very educational, I’d say.

That pretty much wraps things up for today. I had two good walks, learned an awful lot, got some tiny pieces of mortadella (it was good), and we had a nice nap in the afternoon. I guess I’ll go now.


Until next time, then.


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12 Responses to of seeds and soil

  1. Susan ITPH says:

    Why does the Professor sound like Wernher von Braun? “Ven zee rockets go up who knowz vhere zhey comm down?” I would pay good money to hear the professor do an entire lecture, provided there was popcorn.

    I feel your pain about the imported clay. A landscaper was hired to install a large flagstone patio surrounded by sizable boulders. He brought a truckload of dense clay for backfill. I could have made pots out of it. Now I have clumps of clay plopped on top of my alluvial deposit of rocky, sandy loam with big boulders stuck in it.

    • paridevita says:

      Someone has been listening to Tom Lehrer ….
      Clay is basically icky. On the other hand, there are a number of highly desirable rock garden plants which grow on clay hills throughout the West. The ecology of such situations is a mystery.

  2. Linda Meyer says:

    Hey, Chess, would you please ask the guy you live with why some of his seed pots are under cover and protected from the snow? They seen naked in this weather which is going to be pretty cold again next week. Will he uncover the seeds so they can get a coat of snow?

    • paridevita says:

      Excellent question. That’s actually the way it’s always been done here, but the real reason why is that there’s no more room in the frames. Or, that’s not the real reason, I guess. The real real reason is that the frames are frozen to the ground and he can’t get the tops off.
      The pots on the shelves are frozen solid, which is fine. If it got really cold, then they would be covered with something to keep them warm. Warmish.
      The idea here is not to let them get too cold, but around freezing temperature is fine.

  3. Sharon says:

    Very informative lesson. It’s so good to see somebody else’s seed pots! Wish I had some of that “whatever the professor says” soil too. Making do with plunge bed sand with bits of small stone in is the best I can do mixed in with the forbidden soil-less mix. My sand supply is buried under 4 feet of snow! Understand why the cage surrounds the pot/tray house….the little beggar!

    • paridevita says:

      Cages everywhere. Gardening life would certainly have been simpler here if the native soil had been left, instead of scraped away. The stuff that was spread over it, to a depth of about a foot (30cm), is icky. Digging in it is like digging into a pint of frozen Cherry Garcia, but much less rewarding.

  4. Cliff Booker says:

    We are still reading and still enjoying … even if we don’t always say.

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks. That’s okay, WordPress is having a weird moment. Have to log on to answer comments instead of just replying by email.
      The good thing is that I know it’s not just me…..

  5. Alison says:

    Your kitchen table looks very much like my dining room table. I’ve been known to put my seeds out in the winter snow too, so the nuttiness is more common perhaps than you think. Although we get very little snow here in the Seattle area, I used to live in Massachusetts, and put seeds out every winter for stratification. I love the photo of you being cautious. I hope the flash has been retired.

    • paridevita says:

      What you see, really, is the guy I live with’s version of the kitchen table. When my mommy was here, which we still wish she was, she had her stuff piled on her side, too. The green and red blankets on the chair are hers. (You can see those in “Nothing Much To Do”).
      The table was piled so high with stuff sometimes they could barely see each other when the had dinner together. The rest of the house is fairly neat, though.
      Flash has been retired, on the PowerShot, anyway. So he says.

  6. Very good educational post. My previous garden was heavy clay…some of it even slippery blue clay. I was glad to leave the clay behind.

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