growing tough seedlings … by being mean

Learning how to grow seedlings has kept me busy for nearly 2 decades, and working out the best survival tactics for seedlings is one positive result.

Now, a student at Curtin University in Perth describes my processes. Treat them rough, for they are the eventual survivors:

image|Haylee D’Agui Seedlings were raised with enough water, or in drought conditions.
Want tougher, more drought-resistant native plants? Treat ‘em mean.

Want tougher, more drought-resistant native plants? Treat ‘em mean.

Research by Curtin University PhD student Haylee D’Agui has found that plants established during a drought produce more drought-tolerant seedlings.

Haylee studied four species—two banksias and two hakeas—using seeds gathered from parent plants in Eneabba.

Half the parents had enjoyed a rainy start to life, while the rest grew up with drought.

For two weeks, Haylee offered her seedlings either 200 ml of water every second day, or half that.

Then she did no watering at all for three months.

She found the offspring of drought survivors grew longer roots, had greater water content in their leaves, and survived better than their pampered counterparts.

The photograph they use look like pampered seedlings to me. Here is my table design, used in a Commercial Nursery for the first time. No pampering, but careful use of the sun, and the ability to adjust shade whenever wanted. No bending over to weed and maintain.

aThe crew, sowing seeds.

The Curtin student is right, pampered seedlings often suffer the most when planted in a prepared landscape, from heat, cold, too much or too little moisture or any number of foibles in the plant world. The tough survive and thrive. They get tough by certain standards of neglect, for which there is no training, only experience can get away with it.

Our own seedlings often have reticulation removed once established, and then have to withstand up to 9 or ten months of dry conditions before the next wet season. They need to be tough to survive public parks and gardens”

dsc02564 a ptilotus-nobilis parks-gardens-010

About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley)
This entry was posted in Broome/Kimberley, Environment, Resources and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to growing tough seedlings … by being mean

  1. crisburne says:

    Looks fab Tom – I love your setup for working with the seedlings, and the gardens look amazing. Congratulations!

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