|Celery seedlings must be started early, these were planted on February 1st, and are now ready for transplanting|
into individual pots before being hardened off and set out into the garden.
To make things easier for you, I designed this poster showing the basic seed-starting facts for a few of the most common vegetables. Save in, pin it, or print it out to use as a guide.
What I am trying to help you avoid, is something that we all do when given a stack of seeds - that is, to in the interest of time, just tear them all open, and sow them in any old soil, and water them. This may work for the easiest of seeds such as beans and tomatoes, but we all learn as gardeners, that even the most challenging seed can be germinated - all you need to know, is what the particular species which you are sowing, requires - environmentally ( temperature, moisture, soil).
Some seeds come from plants that grow in tropical climates in South Africa or South America (melons and cucumbers) demand soil temperatures near 80º F, but then again, so do many cold weather crops that you may think need cold soil in which to germinate - cabbage and broccoli come to mind. Other plants such as those from central America (tomatoes, zinnias and Dahlias), benefit from light, or surface sown, yet need to be covered with cardboard to block out any light 0 such as Scabiosa. With your garden hosting plants from all over our planet, from South East Asia, China or even from the dry mountainous areas of Turkey. I like to think of seed starting as managing a zoo - where every animal comes from a different environment, penguins to jungle cats, and each need different stimuli and environmental conditions in which to grow properly.
My 10 tips for starting seeds.
1. Use proper containers for optimum results. Use deep seed pots for tap-rooted veggies like Artichokes, or wide pots for fibrous rooted veggies like celery. People - Enough with the up cycling when it comes to producing the finest vegetable seedlings.
2. Find out what the optimum soil temperature should be for your seeds to germinate - remember, it's different for each type of plant that you grow.
3. Once your seeds have sprouted, then find out what temperature your seedlings need to grow at - as this is often different than the germination temperature.
4. Use sterile soilless growing media, and yes, I advise not using coir for seed sowing.
So proceed carefully here. There are many Pro Mix blends, and the one generally available at retail in small bags is also not the same mixture, so you might be on your own here. I stay far, far away from coir products ( I just think that they are bad for plants in my opinion – I’ve killed more plants with coir than any other soiless product, and the way it is produced in India isn't all that good for the environment either ( let alone it's carbon footprint). In a year I will be creating all of my own soil mixes without peat, but for now, I still use peat. My two bales are my contribution to global warming.
The ideal mix is generally impossible for most people to create - garden soil baked or steamed to kill the nasties, mixed with composted Beech leaves, sharp sand and you could end up with the finest seedlings of all, but the professionals use a virtually clean peat mix, drenched with fungicides, starting with chemicals to stimulate first root growth, and then chemicals to shorten the cell growth so that stems become thick, and leaves dense ( think of those awesome, "healthy looking" tomato plants you will soon see at the big box store). There are chem's to stimulate flower growth so that the flats will sell in full bloom, and you know the results. My use of peat based mix and some water soluble professional fertilizer may be frowned upon by some, but it doesn't come close to what commercial growers use. Be realistic, be responsible, be serious about what you grow, and I believe that there is a middle ground.
5. Fertilize often ( weekly) and use the right formula for the right plant.
Gardening is a science, not a craft.
|Baby Snapdragons ready to be transplanted into flats. These were sown in February, and now they have deep, strong roots due to a fertilizer formula that is 5.17.24, high phosphorus, low nitrogen.|
|Yes, I an still growing crazy rare things too! Two years after sowing, this wild collected |
Narcissus is just germinating! Yay!