Guys, I have a problem that many of you may not consider a problem, but I’ll ask anyway.
My normal stratification scheme here in Zone 6 begins in mid-October, when I extract and place the seeds from each individual cross into a Petri dish with potting soil medium. I then allow 3-4 weeks at low room temperature (a closed off room in my house, typically varying in the 55-65F range dependent on outside temps this time of year), before placing the dishes into ca. 36F refrigeration for about 6 weeks. I then remove them, right around the 1st of January, and place them back into the same room, with temps now variable around 40-50F. And I’ll typically get a very big flush of germination during January. This timing works very well for an anticipated late April transplant to outdoors.
The problem is, as I was checking yesterday on moisture levels, I found that I already have sprouts from 3 different crosses (1 sprout each) after only 2-1/2 weeks. I was very surprised, and this has never happened before. This is not good for me, because I’m not really prepared to care for them all winter. But I’ll manage that somehow.
My real question is, how would you approach refrigerated stratification at this point? Or would you? I’m afraid if I carry on with my original plan (which would be to place into refrigeration approximately Nov. 15th), that I am not doing any favors for at least the crosses that have proven they don’t require colder temps to germinate. But by that same token, I’m afraid to wait another week and have even more unwanted early germinations on my hands.
Any thoughts or recommendations are appreciated.
If this happened to me and I didn’t have a good way to grow the seedlings on indoors until spring, I would probably put the remaining seeds into the refrigerator as soon as possible. In all likelihood it will probably only slightly slow the sprouting of any seeds that have already begun the germination process (and you’ll be stuck checking them every so often until you deem them to be finished stratifying), but it might help hold off those that haven’t started. In any case, it shouldn’t do them any harm. Keeping them refrigerated until your usual removal date might help get the less precocious seeds more or less on track for your usual April hardening off goal, and six weeks is on the short side for cold stratification anyway (at least compared to what I do), so that should be fine.
I don’t have a set timeframe for putting seedlings out, and I pot up sprouted seeds as they germinate over a period of months, but that is specific to my conditions and preferences. To (theoretically) reduce the number of seedlings that I have to keep indoors for long periods, I actually delay the start of stratification by leaving my shelled seeds out to dry until I want to start stratifying them–usually from the end of December to the middle of January. I’m putting seedlings out for the first time anywhere from April onward (a seedling that’s especially promising might even find itself being propagated before it sees real sunlight).
Thank you for that, Stefan. I think I’m going to follow your advice and put them all into refrigeration tomorrow, only about a week early, but I will keep a close eye on them for a while after that.
PS: as of yesterday, I have two more volunteers from a 4th cross. Next year, I may really have to rethink my strategy.