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It's the season to look back at the past year and contemplate goals for the upcoming year.

With that in mind, it would be helpful to find out how to improve Growing with Science to make it most useful for you. We would appreciate it if you would take a moment to give us a bit of feedback by answering the following two poll questions. You may select more than one answer for each question.



Thank you!

If you have any other suggestions for topics, features or activities you would like to see in the upcoming year, please leave a comment. You never know where it might lead!

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A question came in about growing apricots from pits, and because it would be a fun project to do with children, let's learn more. (The question is on the Seed of the Week:  Apricots post.)

First of all, can you grow an apricot tree from a pit or seed? The answer is yes, it is possible.

Another issue is whether the fruit will be any good. When you grow seeds from plants that have not had controlled pollination, or where you don't know much about the source (such as a fruit you bought at the store), you are taking a chance. You will not be able to predict what the fruit quality will be until your tree is big enough to produce fruit. The good news is that peaches, nectarines and apricots show less variability in fruit quality than some other fruit trees do.

What you will need:

  • reasonably fresh apricot pits
  • hammer, vise or nut cracker to open the pit
  • plastic close-top bag
  • paper towels
  • water source

Later you will need potting soil and a pot.

To grow a plant more quickly, you will need to get the almond-like seed out of the pit (the hard outer covering) without crushing it. If you are good with a hammer, you can set the pit on its side and with a single stroke the pit should break open. If you are not used to using a hammer, try a nut cracker or vise instead. Using pits that are clean and dry is easiest. As a last resort, you can germinate a seed in the pit, it will simply take longer.

Once you have the seeds out, wrap them in a clean, moist paper towel. The best way to prepare the paper towel is to wet it thoroughly and then wring it out until it is like a moist sponge. Try to keep everything as clean as possible, so you don't get a lot of mold growing. Place the paper towel with the seeds in it in a plastic bag and set them in a window.

Check regularly for changes. Water as needed to keep moist. Change the paper towels if things start to look moldy. Once the roots start to emerge, transfer the seeds to a pot full of potting soil and water regularly. After a few months you can replant outside, depending on the planting season in your climate. Contact your local fruit tree growers organizations or Cooperative Extension for growing tips in your area.

Stratification or not?

Some people recommend giving apricot seeds a period of cold temperatures (less than 40°F) for over 60 days prior to germination. Subjecting seeds to cold is called stratification. There seems to be some disagreement  about whether apricots really require cold to germinate or not. It is possible that the fruit you buy has been held at cold enough temperatures already. To hedge your bets, save a few seeds, wrap them in moist paper towels as described above and store them in a fridge. If the ones in the bags don't germinate within a few weeks to a month or so, try again with the ones you have chilled after 60 days. Sometimes it just comes down to luck with getting the conditions right.

The person in this video does not mention chilling and yet she seems to have been successful. She does suck the air out of the bag, perhaps to keep down mold?

Aren't those plants inspiring?

If you grow some apricots, peaches or nectarines from seeds, we'd love to hear what works for you.

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Did you flip a rock today? Below are photographs of what I discovered. As soon as I get linked up with Wanderin' Weeta, I will post a list of the participants so you can see what everyone found.

The rocks:

A pile of what we call "river rocks" used to stabilize a drainage area. This particular area is mowed grass, so it is irrigated often.

You would expect to find an isopod (also called rolypoly or pillbug), after all there's one on the International Rock Flipping Day badge.

But what is that with the isopod?

What is that brownish coiled object in the lower right of the photograph?

It is a tiny snail! There's another with its head out.

It's blurry, but definitely a snail. Finding snails is amazing in this hot, dry climate.

The snail wasn't the only one carrying it's house.

What is the gray object that looks like a small tube of mud? It is moving!

There is some sort of insect larva inside.

I think it is a beetle larva carrying a case. It is most likely a member of the leaf beetle family (Cryptocephalinae). It probably got washed to the drainage area during a recent storm.

Another tiny beetle scurries away.

Mites were common. Here's a brightly colored one.

Spiders were also abundant. This tiny jumping spider seems to have its eyes on something.

Maybe it was trying to catch one of these Indian house cricket nymphs.I don't envy any predator that hunts these.

I know I had trouble capturing them with my camera. The springtails that were everywhere were even worse. I never did get a photograph of them.

Finally, I did find some ants. I posted those results at Wild About Ants.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of creatures I found. And in addition to finding different kinds, I also learned a little bit more about my neighbors that live under rocks.

Did you flip any rocks this weekend? What did you find?

For more information about the creatures featured here try:

Isopods

Indian house crickets

Jumping spiders

Mites

Snails and raising snails