A Garden Blog About Saying Goodbye

I'm a gardener in Chicago, IL, and I'm leaving my garden behind at the end of the year - The Last Garden is about my garden's final year. Share & Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Aquarium Chaos: Episode I

Subtle, nefarious mold. Keep looking, it's there. February 6, 2011.

As I mentioned in the intro post for the seed-starting aquarium, problems are bound to occur when starting seeds, and the very first one is usually mold. I have haven't may have conquered that problem (thus far).

Mold may also be more blatant. February 6, 2011.

I used two methods to keep the mold at bay: a fan to increase air movement, and when that wasn't entirely effective, I sprinkled cinnamon over the molded spots. Turns out that the oil in cinnamon leaves is a strong fungicide, and a half-decent bactericide to boot. The ground cinnamon bark that's gotten as a spice is not as effective as pure cinnamon leaf oil, but it does the trick more often than not. Here's the same affected toilet paper tubes, eight days after cinnamon-and-fan treatment:

Er... So you can't quite see those particular spots, but, trust me,
that mold's outta here. February 14, 2011.

The fan's kept the tank fairly dry, so the mold hasn't had that many chances to creep up again. I tried to see if I could maintain the mold-free status quo without the fan for a little while, but the botrytis just crept right up again, so the fan is staying on for now. A note about spotting Botrytis: it spreads fast, and you want to get it when there isn't too much of it. Unfortunately, it won't jump out at you until it's spread pretty far, as in the second photo. My camera isn't sensitive enough to show you what early-stage Botrytis looks like, but here's my two cents: If the soil has been moist for more than two hours and its dark, rich color looks a little grey, take a closer look. You usually can't quite spot the mycelium of the mold (the visible, fuzzy part), but there's a hint of it, and if there's a hint of it, stop that hint, right there. Air movement, and a fungicide if necessary.

Well, I never got photos of the worst of the mold, just because I was dusting
with cinnamon and putting the fan up to its highest setting, but, again,
trust me, this is way better. February 14, 2011.

In the meantime, many of the seedlings have grown their first set of true leaves! All seedlings start out with mundane "seed leaves," or cotyledons, which form with the plant embryo inside the seed and tend to look pretty similar between species and genera. As the tiny plant grows, it forms its own true leaves, which show the plant's character more clearly. You can see the seedlings here developing the characteristic "kitten's paw" shape that pansy leaves have. And there's your science lesson for the day.

See? The cotyledons are the simple leaf pairs, and the true leaves are
growing in above them. February 14, 2011.

After the mold debacle, I had to thin the seedlings. I'm very bad at thinning plants, for this reason: Every seed you plant will become a completely unique organism, each equally extraordinary, each a certain triumph of something or other. In any case, while they're wonderful and extraordinary when they're tiny paired cotyledons, they will quickly grow and suffocate each other if you don't kill some of them off first. Each tube I planted had three seeds - most tubes germinated all three seeds. I snipped off one of the three seedlings at the roots. Really, I should have taken them down to one seedling per tube, but I can't quite bring myself to do it yet. Maybe next week.

Goodnight, sweet... um... small green creatures. February 16, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Hi i am new here, just followed your comment from Noel, and realized you're formerly from the same patch of earth i am in. Besides, you talk about mycelia and Botrytis and cotyledons as if we have a common background, haha! But that's a good lesson for me today about cinnamon, i dont know that. I just know i like cinnamon roll from Goldilocks.