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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Growing Cranberries from Seed

I love cranberries, and last year I got curious about how they grow. I decided to save some berries out of the bag I bought to make Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. I cut them open and picked out all the tiny seeds. Then I put the seeds in a prescription vial that was filled with damp peat moss, and left the vial in the refrigerator all winter so that the seeds could "stratify." This exposure to cold and damp is necessary before most seeds of cold-climate plants will sprout.

Over the winter, I looked around the Internet for info on growing cranberries from seed. There isn't very much, since most people who want to grow them simply buy plants that have been propagated from existing varieties. But seeds, like people, are a genetic mixup and plants grown from seed would be different from the parents as well as different from each other. I thought it would be interesting to see what variations I would find in a batch of plants grown from seed.

I found conflicting information about the temperatures the seeds needed to sprout. Some sources said they needed warm temperatures and other said to keep them cool. Another source said that variation in temperature was important. Every source said they needed acidic, sandy soil, and the professional database I consulted noted that the seeds must be exposed to light in order to sprout--so they should not be buried, but left on the surface.

I mixed equal parts of sand and peat moss, put it in a pot, and sprinkled the seeds on top:

This seemed like it would make the seeds dry out too much, so I enclosed the entire pot in a plastic bag to keep in the moisture, and put it out in the yard, where it would go through a variety of temperatures.

Now it's time to wait. If this doesn't work, then I'll keep researching it and try again next year. My yard is not exactly great cranberry habitate, so If I get any plants, I'll plant them upstate on some land owned by my family.

For more info on growing cranberries, go to http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Winter20042005/Cranberries/tabid/1278/Default.aspx


Carol said...

Hi :)

I have some seeds drying and will put them in the fridge tomorrow.

I'd be interested in hearing how you got on with yours.

Homesteader said...

Hi Carol, I sent you a message but am not sure if you got it. My plants did well and are thriving.

Here is something you can do with your seeds now--get some peat moss from the garden store and mix it with sand. Wet it thoroughly--this may take a lot of kneading with your hands and a few hours of waiting, because peat moss repels water until it is really soaked.

Take an empty milk jug or 2-liter soda bottle, take off the top, poke holes in the bottom for drainage, and fill it with the peat moss/sand mixture. (You can either cut the bottle in half, or make an upside-down-U-shaped slit in it to put the mix inside).

Put the seeds on top of the mix and don't cover them, because cranberry seeds need light to germinate. Tape the two halves of the bottle together with duct tape, or if you made a slit, tape that closed. Leave the top off the bottle for ventilation and put it outside, in the cold weather. The fluctuating cold/warm/wet conditions of spring will help the seeds to germinate. Keep an eye on the bottle and make sure it stays moist--it should, because the rain and snow will water it.

Let me know how it goes! I did more cranberry seeds this year and my milk jug is sitting outside right now.

Put the seeds on t