Flasking Orchids

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The number of questions on seed propagation and flasking prompted Graham to ask for some of the details to be printed in the bulletin for those who wish to experiment. Flasking can be a costly operation or, with a bit of commonsense and ingenuity, a sterile area can be produced with very little cost at all.

The flasking medium can be purchased if required from suppliers who advertise in "Orchids Australia" or "Australian Orchid Review" and cost $9.00 to $8.00 for a pack sufficient to make 1 litre of medium. This contains agar (the jelly base), sugar and the minerals and trace elements necessary. Manana must be added.

A suitable medium can be made up using one of the foliac fertilisers in your garden shed and my experience has obtained best results from Aqua Feed.  Add the fertiliser at the recommended strength specified by the fertiliser.  ie. if the fertiliser recommends 1 spoon per litre, add 1 spoon to a litre of flasking medium.

To make 1 litre of medium:-

1 litre demineralised water
1 level tablespoon (9 gms) Agar (from Health Food Shop)
1 level tablespoon (20 gms) sugar
40 gms (approx half) of nearly ripe Cavendish banana blended
Potato walnut size, optional blended with banana improves root formation.

Bring to boil and decant into prepared jars for sterilising. Sterilise complete jars with lids for 15 minutes in pressure cooker.

Seed may be sown as "green pod", that is before the pod fully matures and splits open. In this case, the seed is sterile and can be sown directly into the flask. A pod which has ripened and split (dry pod) is immediately contaminated by fungal spores which are ever preset in natural air and must be sterilised in a suitable solution for 10 to 15 minutes before sowing. A 10% solution in water of Snow White (Sodium Hypochloride) is an effective sterilising agent.

When sowing seed or transferring plants in your sterile case, everything introduced into that area must be sterilised and a 20% to 25% Snow White solution will accomplish this.  If possible, use a different set of intruments for each flask.  This ensures that if an instrument has not be sterilised properly and contaminates a flask, only that flask will be ruined, not the whole batch.

With care and thought in maintaining a sterile atmosphere, you will indeed find "flasking is easy".

Alan Robinson


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