Friday, November 9, 2012

Anthurium seedlings update

I've been working on a couple of large posts lately, and I'd hoped to be ready to post one of them today, but I didn't quite finish in time. So, instead, please enjoy this photo of about 250 Anthurium seedlings:

This picture is from mid-September; there are 274 seedlings now, out of 288 started (95% success rate). My plan to give them all drag queen and/or roller derby names is still in effect, though it's harder than you'd think to come up with 274 of those.1

As you can see from the photo, all seedlings are not doing equally well; the ones closest to the center of the flats seem to be happier than those on the ends. This is probably because the ones on the ends dry out faster (the air is more humid if you're surrounded by other plants), and the lights run down the center of the shelves too, so those in the middle get more light than the others. This has since changed for the oldest sets: I've had to spread them out a bit, into every other square on the flat, because they were getting so big that some of them were shading out others. This naturally results in some of them occupying different spots on the shelves, though some of them get to move more than others.

The basic set-up is visible here. This picture and the one following are also from September 2012.

Looking at the first photo, I'm actually struck by how much they've grown in the last six or seven weeks. The oldest ones are now about a year old, and although they're not producing adult-sized leaves yet, there are several individuals with leaves four inches (10 cm) long. The pots are only two inches (5 cm) on a side, so a four-inch leaf does seem pretty big.

It'll be another two years, minimum, before I start seeing flowers. Probably more like four years. Assuming they all live that long. There are already observable differences between the plants: the new leaves of some seedlings emerge plain green; others are green with a little bit of red along the main veins; others come in dark red and slowly lighten up to green. The first time I noticed that, it pleased me, so I can't imagine how I'm going to be with them once they start producing flowers.

Finally, because I know someone will ask if I don't address it now: the tags are handmade, by me, in a really time-consuming process.2


1 Presently only the first 198 have names. Ten favorites, in no particular order:
• Nathan Ofithlam
• Frieda Runamuk
• Aurora Boreanaz
• Vanna Rocking
• Zach Treplica
• Phil Endeblanc
• Jay Gerschatz
• Mario Speedwagon
• Yvette Horizon
• Roxanne DeBree
2 1. Cut up milk jugs into more or less uniformly-sized rectangular pieces of plastic with a point on one end.
2. When seedlings are ready to be started, print a piece of paper from the computer listing the ID number, ancestry, and date germination started for each of the new seedlings.
3. Cut up the paper into strips of text.
4. Place a strip of paper on a manageable length of packing tape.
5. Set a plastic milk jug strip over the paper.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until there's no more usable length on the packing tape.
7. Cover the packing tape with a second piece of packing tape.
8. Cut around the plastic and discard excess tape.
9. Repeat steps 2-8 until there are no more seedlings to be tagged.
Though time-consuming, this poor-man's-laminator process was deemed necessary because nothing else was working. It had to be plastic from milk jugs because there wasn't anything else cheap and abundant enough that was also easy enough to shape. Sharpies are the only things that would write on the plastic, but they fade after a few months. So there you go.
When starting seedlings, I make similar tags, but hand-write the information on the paper instead of printing it. The paper tends to get wet anyway (perhaps because of the higher humidity in the germination chamber?), so the ink runs, but the germination-chamber tags don't have to last as long as the individual seedling tags do, and the ink doesn't run to the point of illegibility, so that still works out fine.


Anonymous said...

Use paint pens (Wal-M or any hoppy store) instead of Sharpies. They write on plastic and do not fade. They have their own issues, but if you can do a bunch at one time some of my issues with them can be avoided.

Texas Anon

mr_subjunctive said...

Texas Anon:

Paint pens don't fade, but the plastic is flexible: the husband thought it was likely that the paint would peel off as soon as the plastic bent. (I've never worked with a paint pen before and so have no theories about how it would work, but he has, so I'm trusting his judgment.)

Anonymous said...

I use flat extruded plastic pvc that is flexible and they have never peeled off so far. When I want to reuse one I use steel wool to scrub off the writing. A pain, but I'm cheap. More aggravating to me is the paint pens can be short-lived re their tip. Those have become unusable when the pen is still full of paint, so I like to be making a lot of tags at once. Mine are used outside in the weather primarily. Hail has been more of a problem than fading or peeling. I guess after a few years the pvc is somewhat brittle after exposure.

Texas Anon

mr_subjunctive said...

Texas Anon:

Oh. Well, maybe it would work then (though I'm not nuts about the idea of one going dry while still full). I'll keep it in mind, I guess?

Ed Kramer said...

I use white mini blind slats cut to length and write with #2 pencil.

Pat said...

The last time I had to keep track of seedlings I cut a combination of triangles and squares out of the lip of the pots they were in and kept a record of which code was which plant in a book.

mr_subjunctive said...

Ed Kramer:

I'm familiar with the concept, but for the moment, the closest thing we have to that is a set of vertical blinds, which are made of thick plastic and seemed like they'd be a pain to work with (both to cut and to stick in the pots). If the situation arises, though, I'll happily try mini-blinds.


But then how do you re-use the pots for anything else without going crazy? Or is not going crazy not a consideration?

Also it seems like that wouldn't offer enough potential combinations to encode multiple parents (currently I have six) and start dates. Though I suppose it could encode ID number of the plants, and all the other information could be kept elsewhere, linked to the ID number. Which is sort of what I'm doing already. So never mind. Answered my own question.

Pat said...

When you re-use the pot you just note the code for the new plant. The old plant goes into a new, larger pot and you can either give it a new ID or repeat the old one and note the new pot size.

Going crazy is also an option.

Also effective, though not neat, is duck tape on the side of the pot, written on with a biro. You do have to lift the pots up to see what they are, though.