Weekend Update: New Seedling Tactics, Repotting, and One Cat’s Trail of Destruction


Well, I didn’t pose a compelling enough argument to my partner this weekend to take me to either Ikea or to see the new Star Wars, so it was a decent time for my love of plants to take me into…. 3d modelling? I spent the better part of Saturday morning learning to use Sketch-Up and pricing 3d prints of custom planters, but eventually decided that this lark wasn’t going to be a viable avenue and pursued other options.

Perfect is the enemy of good, and I figured I needed to get more of the mail order plants into some sort of more permanent home; a short trip to the craft store later and I picked up these small containers on an Easter “spring” sale.  I put on my snow boots and trundled to the yard shed and managed to find some disposable plastic planters from purchases at the local nursery that fit nicely enough to act as liners.  I was surprised at how extensive the haworthia roots were (extensive enough that I gave up trying to dislodge the old soil it came in, as I was pretty sure continued efforts would end up cutting through roots) and how minimal the echeveria roots were.  Everything still seems healthy enough, so we’ll give it a go.  I put a new battery in my old Flower Power and stuck it in the haworthia pot so it could help me get a good handle on the rhythm for this plant – and to find its best spot in the house, temperature and light wise.  After a few days, I think nothing is “good enough” in winter for enough light, but my original guess as to location in a broad north facing window seems like the best.

Shameless Product Endorsement

A short note here about the Parrot Flower Power – seen in the image above .  If you’re a newbie to the whole green thumb thing, this is a great product.  A bit on the spendy side at $60, but I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it.  It syncs to an app on your Android or iPhone, and measures moisture, “fertilizer” levels (it doesn’t break out information about the NPK, but gives you a general gist), light levels, and temperature – and once you tell it what plant its monitoring and general conditions — indoor vs outdoor, pot vs ground, etc – it will beep alerts at your phone when it’s time to water, if it needs to be moved to a sunnier or warmer spot, etc.  I have used it with new plants or plants that seem to be struggling long enough to figure out the general rhythm for that plant and that pot (since the size and material of the pot affect things like watering frequency) until I get the general rhythm down, and then move it to a new pot.  Also, if you’re a data nerd, it gives you nice graphs over time for all the information it collects.  It’s still running about $60, but it’s been very useful to me and I’ve recommended it to several folks.

Eyedropper: new tactic I should have tried before now!

Seedling Tactics

Meanwhile, in the basement, I obtained some small eyedroppers via Amazon and have been using those to deliver small amounts of water to my seedling roots rather than using a mister (after suffering from some marring on the leaves).  It seems to be working although progress is still painfully slow.  The toasted lithops seedling that I left in the pot as a curiousity is showing some activity, and I appear to have lost one or two echeverias but the rest are still trudging along.  One or two are actually getting large enough leaves now for me to really appreciate how the smaller ones are struggling.  I’m extremely tempted to make another online purchase and start a new batch with what I’ve learned, but I’ll let these go a while longer first.  I still need to learn where exactly you cross the line between “don’t let these fragile tiny plants dry out ever” to “this is a succulent, overwatering it is the fastest way to kill it.”

I accidentally let this lithops dry out and thought it was a goner when the cotyledons went crispy, but it’s amazingly still trudging along.  I don’t really understand the leaf patterns emerging in the secondary leaves considering the adult form of lithops, so this is turning into a rather curious process.
And finally — echeveria week five progress.  I went back to capping some of the pots to keep humidity up on the small seedlings, and it seems to be helping.

In terms of cuttings — my schefflera and dieffenbachia are plugging along without noticeable change, which I think is a good sign. My sansevieria I actually did poke around in a bit to confirm there was root activity, and was relieved to see some – although I fear I might have planted those with the rooting bottoms too deep for new sprouts to appear anytime soon. As soon as I see new growth on any of those cuttings you’re going to hear an immense cry of delight from me.

Light Tables and Grow Shelves

The stores around here are already starting to stock up their immense seedling displays, and I’m considering ordering a tiered indoor seed starting rack, but I’ve been told by other bloggers on the internet it’s fairly easy to put your own together using some basic shop shelves and lights from Lowes or Home Depot plus some chains and s-hooks.  That may be a project soon to replace my workable but sketchy looking current solution, which involves a large cardboard box and shop lights lowered from my basement ceiling.

Not overly pretty, but it works.

And finally, poor Moe.

We’ll see if I splurge on this project next weekend. First, though, we have a chronically sick cat (our latest rescue, Moe) who just this week has permanently destroyed a leather couch I’ve had for 13 years.  It was the first piece of furniture I bought out of college for my first apartment, and while it was still in decent condition, it was more of a leftover piece of furniture that’s followed us through several moves, and was currently stuck in an out-of-the-way room and we didn’t use much.  It didn’t owe us anything, so if anything he just gave us a reason to finally get rid of it and take that space of the house back.  That was the first warning, and the second was a rather unpleasant surprise when I put my slippers on this morning to take the dogs out and found one was full of cat urine.  THAT’S an unpleasant start to a Monday.  It does start to shed some light as to how this crazily affectionate kitty came to be a stray cat in the first place, and he’s lucky that we’re a) extremely soft hearted and b) he’s chosen an old piece of furniture and an easily cleaned rubber croc so far instead of things I’d actually be more upset about.

He’s currently sequestered in a tiled bathroom, which is serving as litter box boot camp, and he’s already vomited once, indicating that his current problem is likely health related.  My extremely patient partner is making two trips to the vet tomorrow (one routine follow-up with two dogs, and one later in the afternoon with two of the cats, including Moe) so there’s a fair chance I won’t feel like splurging on shelves and lights for another project come Monday. We shall see what the vet says about this guy.  He’s gotten a lot less skinny since he’s come inside with us, and is starting to get some shine back to his coat.  He seems to like life indoors again, although he does like to escape whenever a pizza is delivered.  When faced with our current sub-zero temperatures, though, he has returned pretty promptly each time though.

This cat knows a pair of suckers when he sees them.

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