Ad Code

5 Seed starting tips

Seed starting tips

Few gardening endeavors are as rewarding as growing your own plants from seed. As the nursery manager at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello, I have started thousands of ornamental and vegetable plants from seed. Growing plants from seed is not always an easy task and over the years I have developed and followed the following techniques to get seeds off to a healthy start.

1. Keep records to allow better planning

An often overlooked aspect of plant propagation is the art of recording. Whether you produce a few plants for your home flower and vegetable gardens or work in a large-scale nursery, creating a propagation journal is essential. Here at the Center for Historic Plants, we record when the seeds are sown, the germination date and success rate, and when the seedlings are ready to plant each year.

At the end of the year, we will evaluate the timing of our production schedule, noting what went right and what went wrong. These observations help us make adjustments for next year and ensure we grow our plants under optimal conditions. We also monitor where we purchase seeds, as the quality and reliability of seeds varies by source.

2. Store seeds properly to maintain viability

Seeds are a fragile commodity and if not treated properly, their viability will be severely reduced. While some seeds can survive for thousands of years under the right conditions, others lose viability quickly, even when stored properly. To maintain dormancy, store seeds in a cool, dark place with low humidity, such as a refrigerator. I recommend labeling them (seed name, provenance, year) and storing them in a small resealable bag or empty film can, which, in turn, is placed in a large plastic container.

When you are ready to sow, you can test the viability of several seeds, but in all cases, soak them in water for a few hours. Still living seeds sink to the bottom, dead ones float to the surface. This test generally works best for larger seeds, but is not perfect.

3. Use wide, flat containers to avoid crowding

Plastic pots or containers are preferable to clay pots when starting seeds because they retain constant moisture. Wide, shallow containers prevent overcrowding of seedlings and excess moisture around fragile, young roots. Plants resistant to root disturbance during transplanting are sown in small, individual containers such as cell packs or plug trays. Recycled plastic containers like empty yogurt or margarine cans also work well, provided you put drainage holes in the bottom.

Whatever type of container you use, it must be clean and free of pathogens. To clean a container, soak it in a 10 percent bleach solution for 15 minutes and let it air dry.

4. Tamp the seeds into direct contact with the soil

Use a kitchen sieve to evenly spread soilless seed-starting mix over the top of the seed to a depth twice the seed diameter. Very small seeds and seeds that require light to germinate should be placed directly on the surface. Whether covered with planting medium or not, each seed must be in firm contact with a moist surface to begin germinating. Use a pestle or the bottom of a glass to gently smooth the surface.

5. Prevent disease by providing ventilation and drainage

Fungal infections often referred to as damping-off are usually caused by excess moisture and poor air circulation. However, there are certain cultural techniques that can help keep fungal agents at bay. After covering the seeds with planting mix and tamping them down, spread 50 percent ground sphagnum and 50 percent starter chicken grit (finely ground stone) over the surface to dry the soil around the growing shoots and create a dry environment. Pathogens.

Place a small fan near your seedlings to promote good air circulation. Keep the fan low and blow it so that air is trapped and stagnant in containers at soil level.

Post a Comment