May 2003 Special Page
Craig Presnell has soil (nearly pure sand), water (on the alkaline side) and weather almost identical to ours and his method with Victoria babies has produced excellent results for him. We have been trying it here and see a definite improvement in seedlings of all varieties, from planting (with hastates and roots) through the next two pot sizes, after which we have no problems.
We have only been testing Craig's method here for a few weeks but we are seeing fewer deaths of just planted seedlings, quicker first floating leaves, less rapid deterioration of those leaves and quicker second floating leaves with better size. With plants that managed to survive initially in just sand, they are so far growing far better with the peat added in their next size pots than those boosted without peat.
This MAY NOT WORK at all for those with more acid soil and water! The key ingredient is peat and a discussion on our email list indicated that use of peat for waterlilies was terrible for some people. If that has been your experience or you're not sure of your soil and/or water, approach this with great caution!
Update January 2004 - Reports from other growers indicate the peat enhances seedling survival in all soil and water types, as long as the other ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS are met.
Craig puts a layer of Canadian peat in the bottom of his pots, then the sand and seedling. He has better luck with pots with holes and we see the same. We are now poking holes in the otherwise hole-less 3 ounce and 8 ounce Solo cups we use.
In the 3 ounce starters, we are putting one tablespoon of Scotts bagged peat (not stated as Canadian but with no additives and it seems of good quality) in the bottom, then the sand and seedlings. At the first floating leaf we and Craig give the "cocktail". When we boost to 8 ounce, we put a tablespoon of peat in the bottom and in 6" we put a handful. At this stage Craig adds some Osmocote between the peat and sand. We are staying with the baby cocktail which has dissolved Pondtabb in it.
Because of the greatly improved root growth, we are boosting from 3 ounce to 8 ounce with the second floating leaf rather than waiting. We also seem able to boost to 6" quickly, as with the 'Columbia' above, boosted that day.
Update November 2003 - Over the summer and fall, we have continued to experiment with peat in the pots. The success using it has been enormous. See Peat Works