Author Topic: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)  (Read 2934 times)

jeanluc83

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The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« on: August 08, 2014, 08:33 PM »
 This is a project that I started this spring.  I have previously posted this over at Bnut but since this post was partially what inspired me I wanted to post it here as well.
 
 I decided to try the most foolhardy thing I could and start pine trees from seed (I'm still a beginner so I don't know any better). To make things even more interesting I chose not to do Japanese black pine (like everyone else), but Pitch pine (Pinus rigida). I have seen very high quality collected pitch pine bonsai but, to my knowledge no one is starting them from seed. (Since I posted this originally I have found at least one other person starting pitch pine with seedlings)
 
 Before I get people telling me "don't bother with seeds it will take too long". I understand. I figure if I do everything correct and luck smiles down on me I might have something presentable in 10 to 80 years. I also think back to how many times I've read "I wish I had planted some seeds when I first started out".
 
 The main references I used are the "Growing pine from seed" article in the "Pines" book and Jonas' articles in his bonsai tonight blog.
 
Seeds
 
 The best place to start with growing seedlings would be with to get some seeds. I could have collected seeds but purchasing them saved me some time and effort. The seeds I used came from DA Tree store. It was about $6 including shipping for 100 seeds. I figured that wasn't too bad.
 
Stratification
 
 The card that came with the seeds recommended approximately 30 days of cold stratification. In mid-February I soaked the seeds at room temperature for about 3 days. Any floaters were discarded. I then wrapped the seeds in a damp (not wet) paper towel, put them in a sandwich bag and placed them in the fridge.
 
 Most books recommend damp sphagnum moss or sand for stratification but using paper towel is easer and cleaner.
 
 In the beginning of April the seeds were removed from the fridge. It ended up being a little more than the 30 days recommended. If anything I think it is better to go longer than shorter. There were a few spots with mold when I opened the bag but nothing major.
 
Sowing
 
 I used a standard 72 cell seed starting tray. For a substrate I used a 50-50 mix of stall dry and oil dry with about 20% pine bark. This was then topped with approx. 1/4" of play sand. I'm still working out my mix so this is what I had on hand at the time. I think next time I'll go with pool filter sand rather than play sand. The sand I have is too fine I think something a little coarser would work better.
 
 I planted 1 or 2 seeds per cell just deep enough to cover the seeds and placed the tray with the dome in the upstairs of my garage. I was still getting big temperature swings so I was reluctant about putting them outside. The garage is unheated but insulated so the temperature is much more consistent.
 
Update: Next time I will use a shallow grow box or something similar.  I decided to do seedling cuttings with about half of the seedlings that sprouted. The rest got repotted into a grow box.  By starting out in the box I could have avoided a step.
 
Germination
 
 At about two weeks I started to see some of the seeds start to sprout. After three weeks I had about 50 seedlings with some more just starting to poke up.
 
 At one month I moved the tray outside. I also sprayed the seedlings with Daconil to prevent damping off. I removed the dome when I moved them outside to improve air flow and it would have blown away anyway.
 

jeanluc83

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2014, 08:37 PM »
Timing for Cuttings
 
 At about 6-7 weeks from germination I got around to taking some seedling cuttings. The stems had just started to lignify. Is it the best time? I’m not sure. Most sources say that when the stems turn violet it is time to take cuttings. This is for JBT anyway. I believe there needs to be a balance between enough foliage to support the tree but not too much to tax the plant when the roots are severed. Most pictures of seedling cuttings show that the second set of needles just starting to grow.
 
Substrate
 
 Any free draining substrate will work. I used a 50-50 mix of dry stall (pumice) and oil dry with about 20% pine bark. For the cuttings themselves I used regular play sand. Something coarser like filter sand may work better but I don't know for sure.
 
 I used a growing box to house the cuttings over individual pots. My theory is that the larger soil mass will keep the moisture content and soil temperature constant. After 1 to 2 years I will remove the cuttings from the box and plant them into individual containers for further development. It also gives me a chance to monitor the root development.
 
 The grow box was filled with about 2" of the substrate. Every 2" I made a hole for the sand about 1" by 1". After a good soaking I used a nail to make a hole about 3/4" deep in the center of each sand pocket.
 
Seedling cuttings
 
 Taking the cuttings was fairly easy. I picked the strongest of the seedlings and cut the roots leaving about 1" of stem.  I then dropped them in water to keep them moist. The cuttings were then dipped in rooting hormone. Each was placed in its own hole prepared earlier. The sand was gently pressed around the cutting.
 
 The cuttings were placed in a shady spot sheltered from the wind. After approximately 4 weeks I started to move them into more sun.  At 6 weeks they were placed in full sun.  Fertilizing began at about 4 weeks with 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer at double strength.
 
Next step
 
 The mode going forward is lots of sun and fertilizer.  The trees will grow freely next season.  They will be repotted the following spring.  Depending on their size the trunks may be wired at the same time.
 

jeanluc83

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2014, 08:40 PM »
I've had fairly good success so far.  I started out with 100 seeds of those I would estimate 80% sprouted.  I had a few of those that failed for one reason or another.  I took 36 cuttings and left about the same number uncut.  A few of the cuttings failed within a week.  I had some more losses due to interference by my helpers.  (My twin boys have a hard time understanding that my trees are not their sand box.)  As of today I have about 10 seedling cuttings and 10 uncut seedlings still going strong. 
 
One of the surprising things is that the cuttings are not all that far behind the seedlings that were not cut.
 
I have since been told that it is not all that necessary to perform the seedling cutting technique on pitch pine.  One of the goals of doing the cutting on JBP is to get low bud break so that you can build taper.  Pitch pine readily send out buds on old wood without any intervention.  My aim was to establish a good root spread early in development.  I will be interested to see how the cuttings differ from the uncut seedlings when it comes time to repot. 

Here are a couple of pictures of the trees as they stand.  The first is the uncut seedlings.  The second is the seedling cuttings.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 08:42 PM by jeanluc83 »
 

jlushious

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2014, 10:05 PM »
Awesome! Very well documented too. I did the same thing with red pines this winter, definitely rewarding work. I look forward to seeing how they grow over the next few years.
 

Leo in NE Illinois

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2014, 10:54 PM »
I was inspired enough to order P. rigida seed from Sheffields. Right now, they are dry in the refrigerator, should remain viable upwards of 5 to 10 years stored dry and cool. Will stratify batch this autumn.
 

Sorce

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2014, 01:23 PM »
Nice. Very nice.
 

jeanluc83

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2014, 06:40 AM »
I plan to keep this thread updated as the trees progress.  It will be a while before there is much to see but that is the fun part.

Leo, that’s probably one of the best complements I could have received.  It is a very rewarding but s l o w process.  If you have any questions along the way go ahead and post them here. 
 

exitsanity

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2014, 11:16 AM »
Thank you for documenting this! Can't wait to see how they do over the years.

Are you going to do a batch each year?
 

jeanluc83

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2014, 11:35 AM »
I think I will but I haven’t decided fully yet.  If I do I think I’ll forgo taking seedling cuttings.  It’s not all that hard but I have yet to see if it is worthwhile for pitch pine.  I’ll also collect my own seeds this fall.  The seeds are cheap but I think it will be fun knowing that I did everything including collecting the seeds.
 

jeanluc83

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2014, 07:52 PM »
Here is a sneak peek at next year's batch.  So far of the 12 I collected all but three have opened or started to open. 

For anyone planning on collecting their own cones I would recommend bring some good gloves and a pair of shears. Pitch pine cones are very spiny and they don't let go without a fight. Pitch pines do not drop their cones so you will find several years of cones clinging to the branches and trunk.
 

jeanluc83

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Re: The Pitch Pine Experiment (growing from seed)
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2014, 07:07 PM »
For some reason it looks like the pictures from my first couple of posts are gone. Here are most of them I'll see if I can get some updated pictures in the next few days.