California poppies and peat pots

I've been trying to grow poppies at various times over the past two months on a couple of bare plots in my front and back yards. The climate is the San Francisco Bay Area, and California poppies are found all over my neighborhood.
I tried some sort of hybrid ("California Twister" from Burpee) sown directly into a small plot, but only two seedlings managed to come up, and not where I directly planted them. I don't know if these are actually California poppies (eschscholzia californica) or some similar species. The way they've come up doesn't look like what I thought California poppy seedlings would look. I tried a different mix ("Tropical Sunset" California poppies from Renee's Garden) and I couldn't get any of the seeds to germinate when sown directly.
I had plenty of seeds, so I tried putting them in a 4" pot to transplant, and then in some small pots left over from when I transplanted some potted marigolds. I could get them to germinate, but most of the young seedlings succumbed after transplanting. One of my original transplants is still there. It's now got four small bluish-green shoots, and I expect that it will eventually sprout up the main plant from the middle. The other transplants either wilted or got trampled by deer. Some of the deer trampled ones looked pretty healthy until they got stepped on. I thought of transplanting them at a later stage, but I understand that they'll almost surely die if they're transplanted that late.
Anyone have luck with poppies germinated in peat pots? I got a pack of Jiffy-7 peat pellets as well as some of the 2-1/4" peat pots. I thought that if I do it this way, I could see how healthy they are before transplanting. I'd rather transplant without heavily disturbing the roots. I tried cutting out pieces of soil around the transplant, but I inevitably exposed the root. With the pellets, I don't think I'll need to remove the bag. I've researched the peat pots, and many of the recommendations seem to involve cutting out the bottom (to let the root extend) before transplanting and trimming the sides before planting.
I don't anticipate that any of the poppies are going to grow terribly well this late in the year, although we've got warm weather late in the year. I'm just hoping that the roots stay alive with our mild winters, as I hear they're typically perennials where it doesn't freeze.
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Nothing ventured...you may as well give it another try - at this point in the season, just scratch the ground where you want them and direct sow. I'd forget the peat pots - lord I hate those wretched things. Be careful you don't overwater - that may have been the reason your transplants croaked. As for poppies being a perennial in the Bay Area, mine always went to seed and died back as the summer wore on. It was actually their babies that sprouted and bloomed the next year.
Nancy T
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Seriously - I can't get them to germinate outdoors. I have heard of some people refrigerating their seeds before sowing in order to trick them into thinking they've survived a really cold night. I haven't had to do this when germinating indoors. I've also been reading that commercial seeds aren't the same as wild seeds. I believe wild varieties tend to germinate at about a 15% rate in the first season, while cultivated ones are bred for up to 85% germination. I suppose the wild versions have a delayed germination in order to survive shocks or drought that could wipe out one season.
I also see a lot of ants in this little plot, so I think that they're digging away and carrying many of the seeds that I planted.
I'm not sure what to do with the peat pots then. I went ahead and planted them anyways. Perhaps I'll just pull back the netting before transplanting. Or maybe rip off the pot before planting. My wife thinks I'm a little bit obsessive.
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Like I said, nothing ventured...Do have a thought about the deer trampling your seedlings...Have learned it's well worth spending some time observing deer traffic patterns before committing new plants to the ground. Took us a while to adapt, but we co-exist fairly successfully with a small herd that beds down in the woods behind our house.
Most mornings they saunter up the driveway, hang a left, and gather in the front yard for a nosh on the lawn before marching up the bank that separates the large front gardens from a meadow/orchard area. 90% of the time they take the same routes and I've learned the hard way not to plant anything tender (or delicious) in their path.
When I've been hellbent on planting in a vulnerable area, I've had good results planting in big wine barrels - they're tall enough that the deer just walk around them and could work well for poppies. If you go that route, I'd suggest planting deer resistant companion plants like lavender & creeping thyme so you have something to enjoy when the poppies fade.
Nancy T
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It's a little plot next to my driveway next to some junipers. I usually park my car down the center and I'm thinking the deer are going around.

The first thing my wife wanted to put in that plot was a flat of petunias. I just dropped them there to see how they took to the location before transplanting. We left for the day and she thought someone had stolen them. I backed up and noticed that the flowers were all gone. At first I was thinking maybe the wind, but they were clean gone, and I'm sure the deer got to them. I've been trying a couple of pots indoors, but they're not growing terribly well. I think I might be able to plant a hanging basket from an overhang above our deck. I planted marigolds (Bonanza) at the suggestion of a neighbor, but something ate them. Doesn't have the bite marks (they look like they've been cleanly clipped) of deer, so I think it could be birds.
I've told this story before on another forum. I was coming back from the Tahoe area with my (now) wife on US 50 near Placerville. As I went around a turn at the speed limit in the left lane, we noticed a deer in the right lane. I'm hoping that it doesn't move and I get past it. It doesn't move, but I notice a full-sized Dodge pickup moving faster than us in the right lane. The deer leaves my field of vision, but I hear this loud sound like a gunshot, and as the Dodge speeds up ahead of us, we notice that its bumper is now hanging at a strange angle. Also as we got home that night, a deer in the driveway ran off. Spooked us out.

Anything that would deter the deer would block my driveway or the sidewalk. There's plenty of lavender around the neighborhood; the deer will have nothing to do with them. I went for the non-standard poppies because I really wanted to plant something a little different than any of our neighbors. Maybe I'll try some lavender from seed.
I'm just hoping my planting of non-orange California poppies doesn't contaminate the gene pool of the naturally growing varieties in my neighborhood. In any case, even the orange varieties sold as seed are supposedly cultivated.
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Petunias = deer candy. We found that out the hard way too...painful lesson, isn't it? Suspect snails got your marigolds...they used to inhale mine in CA - now I just have to fight off gigantic Oregon slugs.
Think you may find lavender is not so easy to grow from seed, but is a snap to grow from cuttings. One pot from the nursery to plant now will give you stock to grow more from cuttings. Am told the deer don't generally munch zinnias - I've started some a while back and will be testing that theory next week.
You may not have thought about bulbs, but that might be a nice choice for next year - deer don't eat daffodils. They utterly ignore all of my varieties of iris and daylilies. A small Stella D'Oro daylily would give you a bright burst of color and several months of blooms.
If all else fails, think about something walkable - once established, my thymes and Corsican mint have stood up to hoofs and filled in bare areas nicely. Whatever you put in is going to require some protection until it gets going if that's only route the deer can take.
Nancy T
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I didn't see any slime trails.

I'm now addicted to growing from seed. ;-)

Well - I checked this morning and found hoof prints in the same area. None of the seedlings were outright stepped on, but some of the soil was displaced. I might be better off trying to block off the area, but I'm not sure with what. I'm also getting promising results from the peat bags. I planted them Mon and by Wed morning some of the seeds are already germinating. I'm also moving just germinated seeds around to different pots.
The only surviving seedling from my first transplant attempt is coming up nicely. I can see the main plant sprouting up from between the leaves.
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Quick update.

Well - I tried to get tricky with more petunias. I found a really nice hanging pot for $6. Looked great too. Only I forgot to water for maybe 3-4 days in the hottest time of the year. They're looking pretty bad now (not completely dead bu close), but I guess I could always go back and get another one. And the hanging pot has to be worth $3 on its own.
The marigolds (some came up with a really rich red on yellow - darker red than I remember when I bought them) come up periodically, look great, and then get eaten by something. Nothing with a slime trail, so I doubt it's snails or slugs. Deer chewing seems to rip off the flowers/foliage, so I doubt that too. Really - I think it's birds.

Maybe daffodils next Spring. I've got sandy soil in the back yard plot, but clay soil in the front yard.
The poppies are coming around nicely. Many shoots are giving away to main foliage. Some are well established. Some of the foliage seemed to have been eaten by something. And I see a lot of seedlings sprouting where I don't think I planted any. They're either from the seeds that I planted earlier (I've turned the soil quite a bit transplanting seedlings germinated indoors) or previously ungerminated seeds from the transplanted pots. Their color seems to be different - generally darker and almost black. I've been thinning out the ones that grow too close to more mature seedlings but letting others fill in previously uncovered areas. In the end, it might be a little bit dense, but I like that look.
And deer continue to trample the area. There's an expressway to the back yard. Once I was transplanting seedlings into the back yard, when a buck ran right by me. I don't normally fear deer, but a buck with 24 inch antlers gives me worries about being gored or kicked as a defensive response.
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I've been replanting more seedlings that germinated indoors. I probably shouldn't have during a hot sun, but they don't seem to have wilted. Ovenight I noticed three deer prints. Two of the prints seemed to have trampled some seedlings, including two that was coming along very nicely. I've got several seedlings which are starting to show the little ruffled leaves. I can sort of tell this is going to happen when the color changes from a grass-like green to a darker blue- green.
I can get some bamboo stakes. Maybe that will make the deer think that they should walk around this little plot.
I'm also trying to condition some of the seedlings before transplanting. I place them outdoors and see how they survive in the heat. I've also tried placing them next to window in the garage. They're coming out slanted as the direction of sunlight.
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