Gardeners who rely heavily on vegetable, herb and flower seedlings in their community garden center are missing a chance to save significant amounts of money, expand their gardening knowledge, expand their array of options, and control their gardening calender. It is reallyn’t necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy equipment so as to attain excellent results starting your own plants from seed. What it does require is fantastic monitoring and note-taking skills, some basic supplies and equipment, and also the ability to maintain a normal schedule.
Keep It Clean
Consider your seeds as infants. You’re preparing for their arrival and you want everything as clean as possible that will impact them. So that your seed starting equipment, for example, soil medium you use, must be clean. (And if you have been handling different crops, wash your hands.) If you’re reusing anything, sterilize it first using a 10% bleach solution, rinse well and air dry. Reused soil can be sterilized in the oven by spreading on a cookie tray and heating for around thirty minutes at 180 degrees F, but I like to use new organic seed starting mixes as they are sterile and do not have any weeds or diseases lurking and my clay soil benefits from the inclusion of the milder medium at time of transplant.
Know your Seed
Just as people are different, seed types differ in their germination requirements. Is it a light-dependent germinator? Does this need a period of moist or cold”stratification” before sowing? Does this need bottom heat (and if so, how warm) or will it germinate in a cold water flow system. It’s generally quite easy to research these items on the internet so you might soon be trying even the hardest varieties. It’s very important that each and every seed, even the ones that you place along with the ground, make good contact with the growing medium or soil. So gently tap after placing. If covering soil, take action to the recommended thickness. And when watering – do not pour! Rather,”mist” with a fine mist spray bottle.
Calculate your time
Timing is everything in gardening, and particularly so when starting your seeds. To prevent having to maintain your seedlings for too long anticipating hospitable weather, or being too late to the backyard using a plant which requires more time to finish its cycle than is left in the growing period, you must figure out the ideal time to begin for your region. To do this you’ll require a calendar, understanding of your typical last and first frost dates and information concerning the kind or variety. For instance, tomatoes generally have to get started 6 – 8 weeks before your last frost date, based upon the reliability of spring weather locally. That 6 – 8 months comprises days to germinate, grow to transplanting point and a period of hardening off (slow exposure to the elements) before actually transplanting in the garden. But other plant types could have far different germination occasions and demands, so research . At the opposite end of the season, you’ll return from your average first frost date to compute whether there’s enough time to plant specific types. For instance, some watermelon varieties require more time than the growing season allows in Northern climates, hence the only way to grow them is to begin indoors sufficiently early and then transplant.
Write down it
Even in my younger days of gardening, when my memory was near flawless, I didn’t rely on it if it came to gardening. Partly due to the pleasure I’d get when the snows raged and I could pour over my documents from previous seasons and plan. But mostly due to the value from the currant season. One easy way is to make a graph of your seed flats. I’ve discovered this to be the most reliable way of understanding what’s what in any seed flat or even in my backyard where garden creatures routinely make off with markers. For apartments, mark one corner cell of the apartment “A” on one side and “1” on the opposite side. Then create a graph with sufficient blocks to correspond to the tray cells, and operate numbers and letters across the top and left side to make a grid. You may then”map” the cells onto the graph noting dates of sowing (“S”), germination (“G”), move (“TF”) and transplant (“TP”) in each block for each mobile. You can use the exact same process for your garden. Then keep an addendum page for notes about successes or problems.
Let There Be Light
Once germination has occurred, your seeds will require a fantastic light source. Without it your seedlings will immediately become”leggy” and will never be the strong healthful producers you’re hoping for. The issue with window gardening is that plants will turn to the light and even if you’re extremely good about turning the tray twice a day to fix them, your seedlings will nonetheless become rangy. So, you can skimp on nearly everything else up to this point, but this is the only piece of gear worth the investment. You don’t need something fancy, but a flexible grow light which may be kept at about 2″ over the seedlings tops is best. There are quite inexpensive table top models now available.
Feed Your Seed
I’m an organic gardener, so when I start seeds I need this to be organic also. I use only filtered water. And I use only organic feed, diluted to an appropriate power for seedlings. Most vegetables, fruits, and flowers can use the exact same solution, but if you’re starting exotics, you might require a special solution. Do not overfeed. Less is more, because too much will lead to shot-put growth, rather than powerful, stocky seedlings.
Give’Em a Hug
Once the true leaves have emerged, softly rustling them after a day either with your hand or by blowing over their shirts, can help to strengthen them. You’re enjoying Mother Nature here, and it results in another phase of plant beginning – prep to transplant.
This is where many a plant is missing or irrevocably hurt. You’ve spent weeks coddling your seedlings to great results. So it is now 70 degrees outside and you figure its time to put them in the floor, right? Wrong! Your seedlings will need to be gently introduced into the natural world – initially in 15 minute increments, rather on a cooler or cloudy day, building up time and sun exposure. And daytime temps are less important than soil temps. And remember night temps, so be sensible. When you begin the hardening off process, set a timer! I recall once setting out my prize tomatoes at the first phases on my deck and carrying an important telephone call. When I arose from my office an hour after the sun had cooked them down to nothing. So be very protective. By the time they’re ready you will know – they’ve managed to be outside in the backyard for hours at a time and will appear happy and healthy for this.
Ideally done on a cooler or cloudy day, or failing that, late in the day so that your seedlings have a opportunity to adjust for a couple hours before the full force of the sun hits them. Water well and keep an eye on them, maintaining their beds moist (but not soaking). This necessitates frequent checks until they are well-established. Happy Gardening!