Master Propagators

For more information, contact the Master Propagators Committee: MasterPropagators@hcmga.org

Purpose

The Master Propagators (MP) Chair conducts a multi-day workshop to give Master Gardeners and Master Gardener Interns the opportunity to do hands-on sexual (seeds) and asexual (cuttings) propagation and to provide experience with growing seedlings indoors. The workshop is intended to provide intermediate-level hands-on propagation education and experience to those who already have elementary knowledge of plant propagation. 

History of Committee

Master Propagators is the brain child of two very dynamic women, Carol Jean Locke and Eileen Rickman. Carol Jean Locke was the Speakers Bureau when I entered HCMGA in 1992. She was the only one of the 40 members that was willing to talk with outside groups. Our Ag Agent, Rolla Parsons, really appreciated her. Carol Jean also had a perennial business and raised perennials from seed. Eileen Rickman trained as a Master Gardener in Niles, Michigan. She joined us in 1993. She was involved with raising herbs from seed for Carmel’s Green Space plant sale.

In the fall of 1993, Eileen became president-elect. At about the same time, Carol Jean donated her perennial stock to HCMGA and left the area to work for the government. Eileen decided that the best use for the seed stock was to establish a Master Propagators group to grow perennials to 3-5” size, sell them and use the proceeds to fund GrowLabs, a program HCMGA was involved in for a number of years.

In spring of 1994, Eileen held the first Master Propagators in her unfinished basement in Carmel. It was a single class of about 12 MGs that met once a week in the morning. It was loosely organized on the same basis as a card club. The emphasis was on the mechanics of growing and on maximizing the yield of plants. Eileen was uncertain about how much the students could do, so Pattie Chester (involved with the GrowLab program at Carmel Schools) and Eileen’s family pitched in as well. About 200 plants of 23 varieties were brought to sale that year. Eileen celebrated with a pot luck.

Eileen continued MP in 1995 and 1996. Class size increased to 15, but remained as a single morning class. Emphasis stayed on mechanics rather than theory. Numbers and varieties of plants brought to sale increased with ~40 varieties and close to 400 plants at the 1996 sale. Pattie Chester and Eileen’s family still helped a lot. We still had potlucks to celebrate.

In summer of 1996, about the time Bill Rice became our Agricultural Educator, Eileen’s family decided to sell their house, move into an apartment and build a new house in the McCordsville area. Eileen asked Kathryn Mascaro to take on MP temporarily while Eileen was between houses. Kathryn Mascaro is now entering her 21st year as chair as of Master Propagators.

The year of 1997 was a year of changes in the program. We went from one morning class to two classes – a morning (14) and an evening (17). The class was restructured to offer theory as well as mechanics. This took the form of short lectures before each class session rather than a single lecture on procedure before the initial session. Students were given seed starting tables with information on the germination requirements of individual seeds rather than simply a plant stake with a series of code numbers telling the student how to process the unknown seed variety. Houseplant cuttings were added to the agenda. Linda Beal, who had been in all three of Eileen’s propagation groups, offered support. She helped for the first 4-5 years. Much less was asked of Kathryn’s family. We brought ~55 varieties and ~800 plants to sale. We celebrated at a brunch at Paula Korzekwa’s house, the last celebration we held.

The year 1998 was similar to 1997. (14 morning & 20 evening) We brought ~60 varieties and 1100 plants to sale. This was a challenging year for Propagators because HCMGA expenses were increasing. HCMGA needed funds to replace two beds that had been demolished in the construction of the exhibition center – AAS vegetable and Daylily beds, plus replace the lost Iris/Perennial bed out at the Farm Bureau building. Our resources of revenue had decreased drastically (no daylily or iris sales). The emphasis had to be on selling as many plants as possible.

In 1999 we were still pushing for maximum production. Eileen, now in her new house and working outside the home, offered to host a perennial cutting session rather than host MP. Consequently, cuttings went from a few houseplants to a full class session of cutting perennials at Eileen’s (morning group) and Kathryn’s (evening group). We made our first attempts at propagating shrubs from seed. There were 14 MGs in the morning & 17 in the evening. I had tried a new procedure of allowing people to sign-up for MP on the night of plant propagation lecture for the MG course. This proved to be a disaster because most of those who signed-up made other plans before February. Not realizing this, I had turned people away at the January meeting sign-up, only to find myself short-handed. It was a real scramble to fill the class, and I dealt with a lot of hurt feelings. I have not taken sign-ups before the January meeting since this time; this is a more equitable system. I also tried having one experienced helper at each of the tables with mixed success. We had ~64 varieties and ~1000 plants in the MP sale.

In 2000, Master Propagators introduced Experienced Propagators. This was a small group of 8 graduates of MP who met one evening at my place to sow trays which they took home and grew under their own lights. They then returned for a second evening of transplanting to larger pots. The object was to increase the number of plants going to sale and to give these individuals more hands-on experience. In 2000, the regular MP classes had 14 MGs in the morning and 18 in the evening. We had ~70 varieties and ~1200 plants in the MP sale. The first ever Plant Sale followed the MP sale that year and brought in $5000. The pressure was off Master Propagators!

In 2001, morning cuttings moved from Eileen’s to the home of Pete & Pat McKay. We tried shrub cuttings for the first time, quite successfully. There were 4 Experienced Propagators (EPs), 18 morning MPs and 19 evening MPs. We tried a few special annuals from seed for the first time. They were fairly well accepted. We brought ~70 varieties and ~1400 plants to sale.

In 2002, morning cuttings were at the Parsons Patch. I had 8 EPs split over two nights with 2 not finishing. There was some discussion whether EPs should change to a class of advanced techniques (difficult with my space limitations) or a fast way to learn what Master Propagators teaches (impossible). EP was not changed. Due to unprecedented demand and limited space, I set a class limit at 18 this year. I ended up with 17 in the morning and 18 in the evening. We had ~70 varieties and ~1100 plants at the sale.

In 2003, morning cuttings were at Colleen Widdis’ home. Her neighbor graciously allowed us to cut in her yard as well. There were 7 EPs. Enrollment for MP was reduce to 16 per session in response to a neighbor’s and my husband’s complaints about the parking situation. The morning group had 15 and the evening 16. We tried vines for the first time. We had ~50 varieties and ~1500 plants at the sale.

In 2004, morning cuttings were at Cindy Hoy’s home for the first of three (non-consecutive) years. We tried root cuttings for the first time (little success) and did a large numbers of shrub cuttings. The EP program was discontinued. I needed the extra time to assist on the 4-H Wildflower Project. I gave the names of participants in EP to the Plant Sale Committee to help with their seed starting efforts. Class size for MP was limited to 15, where it still remains. There were 12 in the morning group and 15 in the evening. We had ~40 varieties and ~1300 plants at our sale.

2005 was the first time we sold over-wintered shrubs from the previous year’s cuttings. We had ~50 varieties and ~1000 plants at the sale (both seedlings and cuttings). There were 14 in the morning group and 15 in the evening group. Morning cuttings were at Cindy Hoy’s house. This was the year I learned of and introduced the concept of grow-on temperatures, resulting in larger plants for the sale. This was also the year of allopathic vines. The roots of allopathic plants give off chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants in the immediate area, cutting down on competition. Whether all plants (even those of the same species) are eliminated or only certain plants are destroyed depends on the allopathic species. In indoor culture, allopathy presents itself as more than one seed germinating in a pot or cell and then all but one of these plants dying off rapidly soon after the first two leaves are open. I have not seen any evidence of the allopathic chemical being wicked to other cells through the capillary mats, but I haven’t pushed my luck.

The year 2006 was the year of bad soil. The bags of soilless mix arrived dripping wet, having been torn when they were stored outside at the retailers. We had problems with mushrooms and many other types of fungus growing in the trays as well as problems with damping-off and fungus gnats. After the problems arose, I spread the remaining unused soil in trays on the floor of my basement and dried it with circulating fans for 3-4 days. I dealt with the fungus by physical removal and sprinkling on vermiculite. I tend to use as few chemicals as possible because we are dealing with tiny, easily over-dosed seedlings in a very confined environment (indoors under domes) with little air circulation to dissipate the chemical. I am also concerned about the health of my students and my family in this confined atmosphere. The fungus gnats were controlled by flypaper. Damping-off was controlled by removing and throwing in the trash anything affected by it, followed by sterilizing the cells with bleach. Amazingly, we did manage to bring ~45 varieties and ~800 plants to sale. There were 15 MGs in the morning group and 14 in the evening group. The morning cuttings were taken at the Parson’s Patch. This year was our biggest success with root cuttings. In my basement, we made significant numbers of Rex Begonia and Vick’s Plant cuttings for the sale, a return to houseplant cuttings.

In 2007, the morning cuttings were back at Cindy Hoy’s house. Unfortunately, this was an extremely wet spring (a lot of anthracnose problems) and many of the cuttings from both classes (especially shrub cuttings) succumbed to an incredible assortment of pretty bizarre fungus. I was constantly tossing cuttings in the trash and sterilizing. I had to go to the extreme measure of wiping down the basement walls, floor, etc. with bleach rather than simply wiping down the plant stands, the sink and the benches with bleach. There were 13 in the morning group and 15 in the evening group. We brought ~60 varieties and ~1100 plants to sale.

In 2008, we responded to the rapid rise in seed and supply cost by encouraging donations of seed. We had had some seed donations all along, but had not actively sought them before. In the past, I had been quite picky about using some of the donations, since people tended to give us stock they were getting rid of “in case there is anything good in there that you might want.” This year I gleaned a significant percentage of the seed we used from donations. My ideas of how long different types of seed are good for (see #15 under responsibilities) began to coalesce in 2008. I also learned that native seed tends to have a lower germination rate because the plant is producing not just to propagate itself but also to feed the wildlife. (I realize that analytically this make little sense. But the theory is firmly held by naturalists and does explain the phenomenon we witness.) This important learning answered the questions of frugal MGs wishing to use their seed stocks as long as possible and answered questions coming from the growing number of MG native plant enthusiasts. However, the learning did affect our productivity for the year. We brought ~65 varieties and ~800 plants to sale. The morning cuttings were taken at the Parson’s Patch just before they began renovation.

In 2009, we could not get peat pots and peat cell-packs. Peat pots are used for plants that dislike being transplanted, especially plants with tap roots. They also serve the purpose of supplying acid to plants that need pH 5.5 or lower to germinate and/or thrive. Some peat pellets were available, but peat pellets tend to be too moist if you’re using domes, causing too much mold & damp-off. (My basement, unlike a greenhouse, has too little humidity to operate without domes.) What biodegradable pots were available were coir pots (coconut fiber). These are neutral pH, and only the matrix that holds the fibers together is biodegradable. For our purposes, it is best to use individual coir pots rather than coir cell-packs. The sturdiness of the fibers makes cell packs very difficult to cut apart. Our standard procedure for peat pots has been to place them on a half-inch of moistened soil (to keep the pot and its content moist and allow the roots to grow through the bottom of the pot). We tried the moistened soil with the coir pots; but it didn’t keep the pots and its contents adequately moist. This procedure needs more work. We also used tea (sun tea made with one tea bag per gallon of non-softened water) to water plants needing acid. This procedure needs tweaking. 2009 was the year to learn that the taboo on fertilizing herbs isn’t accurate for all herbs. There were 14 MGs in the morning group and 15 in the evening group. We brought ~70 varieties and ~1200 plants to sale.

In 2010, we introduced native plant seed collected locally into our repertoire. The accepted theory is that our native seed requires stratification (a cold, damp treatment) because Indiana winters are cold & wet. Hence, we stratified (refrigerated in a wet filter for 2-4 weeks) all the native seed from Indiana. This method worked beautifully with some seeds and not others. However, there was enough success to encourage us to explore further, especially with the increased interest in native plants. We did learn the importance of putting vermiculite on the surface of pots whose seed had been hand collected to discourage the growth of fungi found in nature & present on the seed coats. We also tried germinating vine seed in paper pots (more root space than a cell pack and less transfer stress) with good success. Morning cuttings were taken at Nancy Slye’s home; she has beautiful shrubs. There were 14 MGs in the morning group and 16 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~75 varieties and ~1400 plants to sale.

In 2011, we continued our exploration on native plant seed, increasing it to ¼ of the attempted seed. We also explored replacing nicking of hard seed coats to permit germination with a 1 hour tea soak (less dangerous for the fingers when dealing with hard, round seeds); we had some success, especially with hibiscus. There were 15 MGs in the morning group and 13 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~50 varieties and ~1000 plants to sale.

2012 was the year of Pythium, a parasitic fungus spread by fungus gnats and fruit flies. It spread over the soil surface in the cell packs before the seedlings could even germinate, blocking the flow of water & air through the soil. Unlike with other fungi, sprinkling vermiculite over it did not discourage its growth. Finally, a complete scrub down with bleach water after the class and just before the 2013 class solved the problem. Morning cuttings were taken at Liza Frydenlunds home, an impressive garden of perennials & shrubs. There were 15 MGs in the morning group and 15 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~40 varieties and ~600 plants to sale.

In 2013, we expanded into annual vegetables, a subject drawing more interest with the increasing popularity of high tunnels. We tried onions, asparagus, green peppers, and even strawberries (from seed). We learned that the dried, rock-hard, red asparagus “seed” was actually a fruit containing many small white seeds and, like most fruits, the flesh inhibited seed germination until it was scrupulously removed. We learned that many annual vegetables grow large earlier than most annuals flowers and perennials, a warning not to start them too early. All cuttings were taken at my home; we had much better success working on a few trays as groups rather than many trays as individuals. There were 11 MGs in the morning group and 13 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~45 varieties and ~900 plants to sale.

In 2014, we germinated some seed for the AAS flower bed, finding these unusual annuals with varied germination rates make an interesting lesson for the group. We discovered that filling peat pots to the brim cut down on fungus growth on the soil surface. But most importantly, we discovered that placing clean, slotted, clear plastic produce containers from the grocery over the growing seedlings that were too tall for a standard dome kept the mice & voles who visited the basement (wet year) from chewing on the plant leaves. There were 14 MGs in the morning group and 13 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~40 varieties and ~900 plants to sale.

In 2015, I adopted a formula of what to plant to make sure I was accommodating all the varied interests of my students – (1) select annuals, perennials & biennials, (2) include vines, herbs, vegetables & shrubs, (3) aim for 25 brand new seeds, 14-16 one-two year old seed, and 5 older seeds. This worked well both in accommodating interests & in providing interesting challenges that were not too overwhelming. There were 9 MGs in the morning group and 14 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~40 varieties and ~400 plants to sale.

In 2016, we had no new interns because we’d had no intern class the previous year. The class was composed of MGs who had never taken propagators & returnees who were retaking propagators, some after a long break. It was a challenging combination. However, I got to address a number of practical questions from individuals who had been putting their MG knowledge to practical use in their own gardens. We tried growing from seed several types of lilies that are usually propagated by dividing bulbs; success was mixed. We put the sporadic germinators in clam shells instead of cell packs; this worked well space-wise with the bonus of less disease in the trays. There were 13 MGs in the morning group and 11 MGs in the evening group. We brought ~40 varieties and ~800 plants to sale.

In 2017, we had one intern class in fall of 2016 (afternoon), giving us a lovely bunch of fresh faces & enthusiasm in MP. The class emphasis was on teaching lots of different techniques. Our seed list was heavy on natives, plants whose seeds develop in fruits (especially iris) & shrubs with a smattering of perennials & vegetables.   We did grow some annuals for AAS. Unfortunately, the classes were each one week shorter than normal because of my daughter’s wedding. There were 14 MGs in the morning group and 6 MGs in the evening class. We brought ~30 varieties and ~300 plants to sale.

Other Committees Involved

  1. Plant Sale Committee: We answer their propagation questions. We pass all our unsold plants on to the Plant Sale. After the Plant Sale, the MP chair retrieves the MP plants and all other “tiddlers” (small plants in small pots) and cares for them.  MP finds homes for these plants – 4H Fair Sale, requests from other MG beds, 4H Wildflower Project, other donations or compost heap (last resort).
  2. AAS Flowers Committee: We answer their propagation questions. We take two varieties of their seed, grow them to 3-4 inch seedlings and bring them to their plant-out. We also occasionally take care of their cuttings from arrival to plant-out. In the past, we have bought seeds for shade AAS annuals to grow under the crabapple trees. (AAS Flowers had the say on which seeds, though Impatiens ‘Blitz’ mix is one of the few readily available.) We germinated and grew the shade annual for them, delivering 3” pots to them at the MP sale. We also coordinated soil purchases with them and allowed them to bag the soil for distribution to their seed starters in our basement.
  3. AAS Vegetable Committee: We answer their propagation questions. In the past, we have coordinated soil purchases with them and allowed them to bag the soil for distribution to their seed starters in our basement.
  4. Herb Bed Committee: We answer propagation questions & have taught them how to make cuttings. In the past, we have coordinated soil purchases with them. We have also grown herbs for them.
  5. Parsons Patch Committee: Sometimes we use their bed for morning group cuttings. In the past, we have grown some plants for them when they were doing a complete renovation.

Committee Chair Responsibilities

  1. The chair person needs to have considerable hands-on experience with many types of indoor plant propagation techniques – raising perennials, natives, herbs, annuals and shrubs from seed and making cuttings from annuals, perennials, houseplants, herbs and shrubs. The chair person needs to be knowledgeable about plant propagation techniques, to have experience with specialized plant propagation equipment, and to stay up-to-date on major advancements in this field. Following the new research also helps. (This describes both individuals who have chaired this committee to date.)
  2. Provide the space & some of the equipment for the Master Propagators Workshop. (Space is an unfinished basement that holds plant lights, work tables, seed-starting and plant-cutting supplies & storage space for them, common work areas, a sink and space for at least 15 MGs to work. The advantages of an unfinished basement are one has no worries over major messes and it is a convenient walk downstairs for the daily inspection and care of plants. Another consideration is an alternative work area for those unable to navigate basement steps.) Seed-starting supplies are plant trays with no holes, capillary mats for even & easy watering, tray liners for 72(preferred) or 45 plants, domes, coffee filters & plastic sandwich baggies for stratification, mat knives & sand paper & tea for scarification, containers that can tolerate boiling water for pre-soaking, buckets & trowels for mixing soil, and ~seven 40# bags of soilless mix (3 seed starting, four transplanting). Plant cutting supplies are tray liners with 24 round holes, rooting hormone, dibbles (old pencil stubs), and rubbing alcohol or disinfectant wipes for cleaning scissors & dibbles between plants. I have the students bring their own scissors for cutting.
  3. Design an interesting “course” of study for each year including seeds which need special treatment (like stratification, scarification, pre-soaking, biodegradable pots, acidic soil, deep pots for tap roots), seeds that are easy or hard to germinate & a variety of plants for cutting. Seeds should have different starting dates and length of germination times. You sow seeds during the first 3 classes with each group, transplant seedlings during classes 3-5 and do cuttings during class 6. Two transplanting sessions for the rooted cuttings are held in late June, usually the same day of the week and time as the regular MP classes to maximize participation.
  4. Prepare and submit a budget to cover the cost of materials for the workshop. This is for supplies. The MP chair provides the electricity, non-softened water, tables (saw horses & plywood covered in black plastic) for working on, some refrigerator space for stratification & seed storage and some of the plantlight frames.
  5. Order seeds and purchase soil (soilless seed-starting mix [no fertilizer] and soilless transplanting mix [with slow release fertilizer], labels (plastic 4” fit under domes), additional pots (2 ½” or 3” squares or rounds) and other supplies like powdered rooting hormone (Auxin) or fertilizer (12-12-12). Seed comes from retail catalogs, other MG committees like AAS flowers, or seed donations from MGs (both commercially packaged & hand collected within the past year).  Soil, labels, pots, trays, domes, etc. come from Brehobs on the southside of Indianapolis. “Run” is made in early February.  Capillary mats come from the MG Garden Store. Other supplies are purchased from a big box store or grocery store. Natural white fluorescent tube lights (32 Watts) are changed when they become visibly dim, purchased in bulk from hardware discount stores.
  6. Write & photocopy seed starting tables. (Botanical name of plant, when to start plus stratification time, what temperature(s) to germinate at & to grow on at, whether the seed requires light or dark, stratification, scarification or pre-soaking, how long it should take the seed to germinate, any other helpful information.) I make 4 copies – one for each work bench and one for my records. I email a copy to any student who requests one.
  7. Schedule 12 weeks of sessions (6 for the morning group and 6 for the evening group on alternate weeks). (By using alternate weeks, there is always  a group present every seven days to do major seeding or transplanting. For this reason, I have gone to the same day each week.) Five of their six days are spent on seed-starting and transplanting of seedlings. The sixth day is cuttings on perennials & shrubs outdoors. Both cutting sessions are done at the chair’s house. Outdoor cuttings cannot be done earlier than the final week because the plants would not have leafed out yet. This means cuttings root after the MP sale (and Plant Sale), are transplanted at an extra session in June, and are given to the MPs or are sold at the following year’s MP sale (shrubs must over-winter outdoors before being sold).
  8. Recruit participants through the plant propagation lecture or workshop & sign-up sheets at the January HCMGA.  Since there is limited enrollment for this project, I find it best not to take any pre-enrollment but give everyone an even chance at the January meeting. This also solves the problem of people’s schedules changing between the propagation lecture and the January meeting and forgetting to tell you. It is policy to give space first to those who have never taken the workshop (both interns and members) and then finish filling with repeaters.
  9. Write weekly lesson plans. Spell out exactly what we are doing each week. At the beginning of each class, I give a show and tell on how everything is growing, pointing out interesting development and usual & unusual plant behaviors and growing complications. Then I discuss what we are doing this week and why. Each table gets a list of what seeds they are starting or seedlings they are transplanting and any special instructions.
  10. Care for propagation trays and seedlings from the first class to the final transplant session for the cuttings. This requires daily visits to the basement to check for adequate moisture, domes which need removal, disease that needs immediate attention, and any equipment disasters. I’ve learned it’s best to concentrate on root growth for the healthiest plants that thrive despite being sold at a small size or being dragged through two sales. Root growth is best when plants are bottom watered in the cell packs (only allowed to dry out slightly), top watered in the bigger pots until the water flows out the bottom (don’t allow to stand in water), allowed to dry out between waterings in the bigger pots, and only fertilized with ¼ strength 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 (starting after the first true leaves appear). If the number of plants in the final (2 ½ to 3”) pots being hardened off for the sale gets burdensome, have some of the students take them home to baby-sit with care instructions for the last 2-3 weeks before the sale.
  11. Make colored signs for the Master Propagators Sale. This sale occurs at the May membership meeting. Labels are made by the Plant Sale committee. I put together a chart listing all the plants we are starting, plus any overwinters we will be selling. Its columns are botanical name, cultivar, common name, year seed was obtained, where seed was obtained, germination technique, number of seeds, temperature for germination, comments (annual/perennial, is it salt or drought or deer/rabbit tolerant, what pollinators does it attract), height, width, origin. (Origin is important in determining the germination technique & sometimes in tracking down information on the plant.) A copy of this chart is sent to the label person designated by the Plant Sale committee by the 3rd or 4th.  The label person enters the information into their data base & sends back a form for recording how many of each label is needed. That form is due back 3-4 weeks before the propagator sale. The label person will print the labels, box them & drop them off at the Extension Office front desk for pick-up (usually get an email or phone call). We make our own colored signs and keep them from year to year. The pictures for the colored signs are cut from seed catalogs or printed off the internet. The information is gathered from reliable sources like the seed source or Missouri Botanical Gardens. Colored signs are hand-labeled with a Sharpie to look less commercial.  Colored signs are covered with clear contact paper (both sides) and a “property of HCMGA” is placed on the back. Colored signs are kept from year to year.
  12. Organize & run the MP sale at the May membership meeting with the assistance of workshop participants. The morning group does the set-up for the sale on the afternoon of the membership meeting. (Arrangements to be in the hall that afternoon must be made with Lisa Hanni in the Extension Office the previous October or November.) Plants are placed on 4-5 tables along the south wall  in front of the “garage” door.  Plants are grouped according to type – vines, annuals, perennials, natives, herbs. etc. A label made by the Plant Sale team (see #11 above) is put in each pot. Colored signs (see #11 above) for each variety are placed on a large clothespin stake near the matching plants. (The large clothes pin stakes are handmade by attaching a wooden spring-style clothespin to a large wooden “popsicle stick” with hot glue; they are reused each year.)  To keep the set up time to 2 hours so mothers & grandmothers can get their children off the bus, I organize ahead of time which trays will go on which table and bag labels and colored signs according to plant type (annuals, perennials, etc.) After the afternoon group leaves, I make sure everything is in order and properly watered before leaving. It is best to arrive back early for the meeting to deal with the mass confusion that always occurs as various committees set-up tables & jockey for space. The evening group does the selling. The chair takes charge of the cash box & fills out the receipts provided by the treasurer (receipts go to the treasurer, not the purchaser). All pots sell for $1.50. (Check with the treasurer two weeks ahead to arrange for a cash box with change and receipts.) We use cut-off brown grocery sacks to hold the purchased plants and retain our trays for the coming year. Don’t let the colored signs disappear.
  13. Clean, sterilize and store pots, trays, mats, soil mixing bucket, etc.  Mats are washed in hot water & microwaved wet. Domes and other clear plastic is washed in warm soapy water, rinsed, wiped with Clorox wipes, rinsed again and air dried (bleach clouds clear plastic). Trays, pots and soil buckets are washed in warm soapy water, dipped in bleach water (3-5%?), rinsed and air-dried. Coffee filters and sandwich baggies (used for stratification) are one-time use.
  14. Over-winter any shrub plants grown from cuttings; new little shrubs have a high mortality rate their first year. Shrubs are not sold until they are two years old.  One method to do this is digging the pots into an established garden area which lies fallow over the winter (eg. vegetable garden). Do this in late fall and cover the plants with loose straw after the first frost or two. They are uncovered in the spring when the weather has warmed up enough, keeping the straw nearby to re-cover the plants if the temperatures dip down into the 20s. An alternate method is to group the plants in a protected spot and cover with straw. (Keep an eye out for critters digging in the pots.)
  15. Maintain Propagators seed stock. The seed stock is sealed in plastic freezer bags and stored dry in the refrigerator at 40 degrees. Could also be stored dry in freezer bags in a cool, dark place. General rule of thumb: perennials keep for ~15 years, and annuals, vines, and vegetables keep for ~5 years. Do not hesitate to use even older seed as a demonstration of decreasing germination.
  16. Maintain records of what was grown & how it behaved & any corrections to the seed-starting procedures. Keep your logs from year to year.
  17. Contact HCMGA Board (through your Officer-at-Large) for any assistance or questions throughout the year.

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