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Before you think that I’ve finally crossed the threshold from eccentric, to dangerous, I’m not actually writing about plants speaking, or making sounds, more like being open to learn from what you see. I was going to use the title, Permaculture Principles – Observe and Interact, but I did that at this time last year HERE. So I’ve gone for something a little bit different in the title, even if the thrust of the post is the same.

Today I was potting on seedlings of the Amur Cork tree (Phellodendrum Amurensis). The seeds were sown last year, in a 12 inch shallow terracotta pot, and have been outside, unprotected, all Winter. I wasn’t sure if they had survived, but had not seen any evidence of dieback on the stems. I’m growing them for my bees, as the trees are a good source of nectar, flowering in June, and I can also harvest wood for fuel. However it was what I saw inside the pot that gave me the incentive to write this post.

Inside the pot it was a solid mass of healthy white roots, some of which you can see in this Photograph.

Amur Cork Tree Seedling roots

Seeing such a healthy root mass reminded me of another batch of seedlings that I had planted out into a nursery bed last month. Those seedlings were Italian Alder (Alnus Cordata), which were also sown last year. Unlike the Amur Cork tree seedlings, the Alder had been sown in two different ways. The majority were sown in plastic rootrainers. These were then put into larger tree modules in Augus, also plastict, by two friends of mine (Thanks Paul and Jo). However, whilst sowing the seeds, I got bored of all the fiddly work, so when I had enough modules filled, put the rest into some shallow terracotta pots. I got really good germination from both methods.

Last month, I put all of the module plants into an outdoor bed. The roots were a bit brown, but the plants were healthy, albeit a little spindly. When I went to knock the terracotta planted seedlings out of their pots, the roots were much healthier looking, and the stems (not really trunks yet) were stockier.

Italian Alder Seedlings 1

The picture above is of the Italian Alder seedlings from the terracotta pots, the one below is of those from the plastic modules.

Italian Alder seedlings 2

I did OBSERVE this, mentally noted it,and have planted all of my tree seeds in terracotta pots since then, but in order to really INTERACT, I need to take it a stage further. So when I potted the Amur Cork seedlings on, I put the majority into individual plastic pots, of two sizes, but I also planted some of the seedlings in groups into two sizes of terracotta pots. Now I am going to see  how the performance of the different batches of seedlings compares (Observe). This will hopefully help me to produce healthier seedlings. What I didn’t do this time, is to try batches of seedlings in plastic and terracotta pots of the same size. That will have to wait until I have seen the results of this experiment. I also will not know if there is some benefit from growing small batches of plants together, that you don’t get from single plants, nor if there is a benefit for some species, but not others. What I do know is that if I take the time to really look at what is happenning to my plants, and take note of it, my success rate should improve, and I should get healthier plants.

Perhaps they are trying to tell me something after all?

Take Care