Help Desk Gardening: Saving the seeds and protecting the trees | News, Sports, Jobs

Trees in overwatered landscapes cannot develop the robust root system they need to withstand the force of strong windstorms. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

I bought more seed packets than I ended up using this spring. Will they stay good and store better in airtight food bags? How long can I keep them in the bags?

Your seeds should probably be fine in a food sealer bag, but it probably isn’t necessary, unless you plan to keep them in the freezer for a long time.

Proper storage is important if you want to store your excess seeds while still getting good germination. Four conditions can affect the quality of stored seeds: light, humidity, large variations in temperature and weather. For some plant species all four conditions are important and for other species there may be only one. Fortunately, it’s easy to protect your leftover seeds from the four potential problems.

Placing your seed packets in an old canning jar with a cool lid, or other moisture-proof or airtight container will protect your seeds from moisture. Keeping the pot in the back corner of a refrigerator shelf will take care of large variations in temperature and give the seeds a predominantly dark place.

The fourth potential problem, time, is completely in your control. If your seed packets do not have the “packaged for” date, label them yourself before storing them. Learn the maximum number of years each type of seed should be viable, use the oldest viable seeds first, and discard seeds that are too old for good germination.

Anything that compromises a tree’s root system can make it more susceptible to failure in the wind. This tree was overwatered, blown over, causing extensive damage to the root system, and then put back in place. Several years later, the tree was blown again and had to be removed. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

If you want to store your seeds for several years then something like a food sealer bag will come in handy for storage and the freezer will be a good place.

Before putting your seeds in a plastic bag or other airtight container, make sure they are dry. If you put the sachets in a humid place and then seal them in an airtight container, the seeds may become moldy during storage. Move your seed packets to a dry place at room temperature for about a week and they should be ready for airtight storage.

I have big spruces; some are nearly 30 feet tall. A few have fallen into windstorms in recent years and I wonder if I should bet the others not to lose? What is the best approach for my trees?

Staking is an option for some newly transplanted conifers while they establish their root system in their first year of growth, but it’s not really an option for your spruce trees. They are far too big to be successfully staked. Sometimes a microburst will kick in and knock down a seemingly healthy, well-established tree, but if you lose a tree every two years, there are other issues to consider. Improper pruning or planting too deep can make a tree more susceptible to wind damage, but another common reason for trees to fail in the wind is root system problems.

Poor rooting can affect the stability of trees, and overwatering is the most common cause of root problems for trees. If your trees were watered more than once a week during the summer, they were overwatering. Chronic overwatering affects the health and vigor of root systems.

If you don’t see a “packaged for” date on your seed packets, label them yourself before you store them. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

Plants need oxygen for their roots and they get it when air enters the soil. If you water frequently, the tiny air pores in the soil remain filled with water and there is no room for air. As a result, plants often cannot develop the robust root system they need to thrive. The roots can suffocate or develop a root rot.

Restricting the area where trees can spread their roots is another common cause of tree failure in the wind. Trees in parking strips and street planters frequently fail during windstorms.

There isn’t much you can do now if your trees are growing in a place where their root zone is restricted, but if they have had a lot of room to root and grow, then a change in your watering habits can improve the outlook for the rest of your trees.

The best seed storage protects the remaining seeds from moisture and humidity in a cool or cold place. A cool, dark basement or a back corner in a refrigerator will do. (Courtesy photo)

The seeds can be stored in any clean container that will protect them from humidity and humidity. (Courtesy photo)

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