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 proper stratification method? 
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Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:30 am
Posts: 78
Location: Springfield, OH Zone 6a
Post proper stratification method?
I came up with a few questions while in the process of trying to grow different fruits from seed regarding stratification. I've have several small Ziploc bags of various apple, quince and red aronia seeds in my fridge right now. The first bag of apple seeds was placed in the fridge in October and it's already broken dormancy and started to sprout. The others, which were placed in the fridge from October to November just look like they have small amounts of white mildew on and around the seeds. I followed what was the easiest way, simply putting the seeds in the bags with peat moss and dampening it with water. I have no idea what temperature my fridge is set on though because it just has 1-7 settings. My fridge is set at 5.

So my questions are:
Is my fridge likely set at too high a temperature?
Have I done this too early?
Could I have simply dripped too much water into the bags causing the mildew, and moreover, is the mildew even a problem?
And should I allow the one apple sprout to remain in the fridge until spring or should I attempt to pot it now and see what happens?

Also, I neglected to mention that the aronia seeds have no traces of mildew.


Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:39 pm
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Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:56 pm
Posts: 16
Post Re: proper stratification method?
For the apple seeds starting to sprout, I would plant them out within a week or two of sprouting - you don't want a full root forming in the refrigerator. Try putting them in a pot outside that has some overhead frost protection - if it's too cold, they will slow down.
For the mildew, it may be tough to save them, I would usually scatter them out in a trench outside or spray a shot of fungicide in the bag - but since mildew is there already, it's probably too wet and hard to really get back to normal.

Follow up next Spring with what you tried and how it worked - building our searchable knowledgebase :)


Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:25 am
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Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:30 am
Posts: 78
Location: Springfield, OH Zone 6a
Post Re: proper stratification method?
Thanks for the advice, Eric. I'm going to pot the apple sprout in a few days and I'll also try some fungicide on the mildew and see what happens. I'll also lower the temperature in my fridge for future seeds that I accumulate over the winter.


Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:45 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1166
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: proper stratification method?
Sohoppy, may I ask what you plan to do with the seedling apple trees..?

Are you hoping for an improved new variety or planning to use them as rootstock?

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Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:15 pm
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Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:30 am
Posts: 78
Location: Springfield, OH Zone 6a
Post Re: proper stratification method?
I'm actually very interested in trying out my luck in finding new varieties. I know the chances are slim, but it costs next to nothing and it beats just throwing away the seeds with the apples. I don't think I'll use them as rootstocks though. Hopefully I'm lucky and in 5 years or so I can start taking some scions from a tasty new variety and spread it around.


Tue Jan 01, 2013 12:13 pm
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Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:30 am
Posts: 78
Location: Springfield, OH Zone 6a
Post Re: proper stratification method?
Just to post an update, I've had to throw away all the seeds because the mildew couldn't be stopped. Even the apple sprout succumbed to it. I've started collecting more seeds from commercial apples such as granny smith and gala. I also have more red aronia seeds. The method I'm going to try now is just dry storage in Ziploc bags in the fridge, since the moisture proved to be an issue. If anyone is interested in growing fruits from seed, I wouldn't recommend adding soil until you're planting the seeds after stratification. You may have better luck than me though.


Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:59 pm
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Re: proper stratification method?
I have grown a lot of trees and shrubs from seed. I just soak the seeds for a day or so (some don't need this), moisten some soil or peat moss, mix it with the seeds, write what it is on a ziploc, put the mix into the ziploc, and put the ziploc in the refrigerator.

After 3 weeks, begin checking the bags for signs of sprouting (sprout, or split seed coat). If you see sprouting, transplant the seeds to pots immediately. This can be a little tricky if the weather is still cold, so you may have to have them indoors in a cool spot until the weather warms. If they really start to grow, they will need a lot of light to avoid getting too "leggy". Most sprouts like warm feet and cool, moving air. And of course they need to be watered when they start to get dry.

The key points are:

1. The moisture in the soil needs to be just right - get it wet, then squeeze it out like a sponge. You should not see water puddling in the bottom of the bag. I usually just wet it in the bag then squeeze out the bag.
2. Check for sprouting weekly, without fail. If the sprout gets too big, they do not transplant well (i.e. they are very likely to die). I have seen complex calendars with different lengths of cold stratification for different plants, but in my experience it is a lot easier & more reliable to just check them often.
3. Label your bags and your transplants. It is very easy to forget what they are, or get them mixed up. I learned the hard way that cut up yogurt containers make poor labels (they fade quickly). Now I like to use pencil on cut up aluminum blinds.

The only failures I've had with this method were blueberries. I still don't know why those did not work.

I think it is great that you are trying to grow some new varieties. One of my apple seedlings makes great apples, though it took 10 years to really start producing. If you have the space & at least 10 years, you should definitely plant some seedlings. If the fruit turns out to be "spitters", just cut it down and try another.


Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:52 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1375
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: proper stratification method?
I get lots of seedlings just from my compost. I distribute my compost out to the yard in early autumn, so I can fill them with leaves. Then the next summer or so, I start to see little apple trees. After a year or two, I graft them. I 'm going to have to start giving them aaway or guerrilla gardening because they're growing too big for my yard. I look forward to having several apple trees in parks and forgotten areas of my neighborhood with really good fruit on them. Go for a bike ride and gather delicious heirloom apples!
John S
PDX OR


Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:33 am
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Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:30 am
Posts: 78
Location: Springfield, OH Zone 6a
Post Re: proper stratification method?
Thanks Dave and John. It sounds like you've both had good success with growing apples and other fruits from seed. I hope my ventures turn out just as well. Since warmer weather is a couple months away in Ohio, I'll just leave these seeds in the fridge and then plant in late March or so. Then when the weather is consistently warmer I'll try your quicker method. Also, my property is not very big, so I'm hoping some of these start producing in about 6-7 years. My father in law has plenty of extra land, though so I do have an alternative to my backyard.

There are so many different methods for stratification that I've read about ans oddly enough, last summer I ate an apple, took out about 5 seeds and planted them in different plastic cups and got 2 seedlings out of them. They could have broken dormancy while the apples were being stored though.

I definitely don't mind the challenges though. I'm not sure what else I'd do to pass time in the winter.


Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:48 pm
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