Friday, 8 February 2013

Seeding How-To

Here are the basic steps that one should follow for starting pretty near any kinds of seeds...

You will need these things...

A good soiless mix medium to plant your seeds into -
There are many different one on the market to choose from or you can just use a regular soil less potting mix. However, seedling mixes tend to be a bit higher in porosity, meaning that they provide a better airflow to the root system as the mix contains higher amounts of perlite ... so less chance of issues like damping off.
There are also mixes with moisture beads and although I have never used them, I do not recommend them for seeding purposes as I would worry about a higher risk of damping off. It is also much more expensive!

A tray or shallow pot to plant your seeds into -
You can use Styrofoam cups, egg shells, small pots, seed trays, margarine containers, anything that has drainage holes or that drainage holes can be put into.
Is best if they are not too deep.

Seeds - of course :)

Labels, markers, stick tags - for marking down what is growing in each pot and the date that you started them.
I always put the name of the plant and the date that I seeded them. It helps to keep track of whether or not the seed is viable, how long it took to germinate, and for simple record keeping. My memory, though I like to think that it is great, is not always as infallible as I would like to think ; )

Plastic Wrap or bags, cling wrap, etc...
To cover the pot and keep in humidity and moisture which helps the seeds germinate quickly and keeps them from drying out.

1. First of all, fill tray or pot with soiless mix. Do not pack it in, but lightly tamp it in to make sure it is not too loose. Then water it well, not till dripping, but till damp throughout.

2. Take your seeds and place them into the tray. Read the package directions to see what the requirements are. However, in general, the seed is covered to a depth of 3 times the seed size. So if your seed is small, 1mm in size, then you cover it with 3 mm of soil mix. Some seeds require light to germinate, in which case, you do not cover them at all. Some seeds require dark to germinate, in which case, you would cover them with cardboard, dark plastic, etc.. to prevent light from getting to them. A good seed company will tell you on the back of the package if there are any of these out of the ordinary requirements.

Note - If the seeds are large, like artichoke, pea, bean, etc.. you may want to plant each seed into an individual pot or 1 per pot in a 6 pack.
If seeds are smaller, like tomato, cucumber, etc.. you may want to plant 2 seeds into a pot or 6 pack pot, and then cut out one at the base if both germinate.
Otherwise, small seeds are often started in one pot and then the seedlings are transferred to a larger pot after they germinate.

3. Water again. I use a very light spray, almost like a mister at this point, as you do not want to uncover your seeds. Others will place the pot/tray into a sink of water and let the water soak in from the bottom.

4. Place on a heating mat, or on a refrigerator, something that produces bottom heat.
Some seeds like onions, leeks, cabbage, peas, etc... do not need bottom heat as they prefer the cooler temps and germinate better off of the heat.

Here I have used clear garbage bags to cover the seeds until they germinate. 

5. Cover the seed tray with a plastic bag or plastic wrap to keep in moisture and humidity.

Here plastic bags are pulled over the pots to provide humidity till the seeds germinate,
or in this case, until the cuttings take root. 

6. Check daily to see if the seeds have sprouted or if it needs more water.

7. As soon as you see that some of the seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic covering and take the pot off of the bottom heat. They do not all need to have sprouted, just a few. The others will continue to sprout even though they are off the heat.

Place in a cooler yet bright location like a sun room, bright window,etc... or place under grow lights in a cool room. Rotate the seed pot regularly if placed in a window. I also like to brush the tops of the seedlings with my flat hand, feel that this makes them stronger.

After seeds germinate, remove them from the bottom heat and place in a cool yet bright location...

8. After the seedlings have germinated, begin to fertilise with a half strength solution of liquid kelp or seaweed till they have at least two full leaves. Then begin to give full strength fertiliser. I find that a foliar feed is more effective with the liquid seaweed or kelp than it is to water the soil with the solution.

Organic fertiliser's... I use the Liquid Seaweed at half strength on the seedlings.  

Foliar feed means to spray the fertiliser onto the foliage of the plant.

9. Transplant your seedlings into their own larger pot or six pack pocket to grow on in size.

10. As weather warms up and seedlings have sizes up, begin to harden them off. This means acclimate them to being outdoors. even if you have had them in a bright greenhouse or sun room, window, etc... they still need to be hardened off as the sun is harsher outdoors.
I begin by placing them under a table or bench so that they only received dappled light. I start with an hour or two for a few days, upping up the time till they are fully acclimated.

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