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Seed Starting 101—easy steps to seed germination
Feb 28, 2011 - Charlotte from Peaceful Valley
Seed starting is easier than you think.
There’s nothing to be afraid of if you follow our simple steps.
A lot of gardeners will back away slowly when the conversation turns to seed trays and heating mats, and they start muttering things like, “I just buy organic seedlings from my local nursery.”
That’s one way to go.
But to get the most out of your gardening dollar you cannot beat starting vegetables and flowers from seeds. Plus (and this is what motivates many gardeners) you can choose exactly the vegetable variety or much-loved flower that you want.
In our new video, Tricia walks you through the seed starting process and explains the different equipment options. Your major decisions will be:
Timing your seed starts
If you already have your seeds in hand, check your seed packet for germination times.
Still making up your mind? Here’s a chart from North Carolina State University with germination times for popular vegetables and flowers.
The date of the last frost in your area is crucial. Planting your seedlings outdoors before the last frost typically leads to heartbreak when the seedlings are zapped by a cold snap. So please, don’t try to jump the gun on that outdoor planting date.
Count back from the last frost date to calculate when to start your seeds. Get the last frost date from your local Master Gardeners or Cooperative Extension office. In California you can find your Master Gardeners by county with this list. There’s a national map too, to guide you to your local Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners.
How to choose a seed starting container
Speedling trays have their own insulation and are designed to air prune plant roots. Standard plastic trays are easy to work with and very durable. To minimize transplant shock, try Soil Blockers or the new CowPots that are made from manure and can go straight into your garden soil.
Fill your containers with a soilless mix, like our organic QuickRoot, place your seeds two to a cell (Tricia likes to use the Widger as a seed spoon), and water well with a fine spray. Our classic Haws watering can has a removable “rose” on the spout that will sprinkle your seeds and seedlings with droplets. Make sure your seeds and seedlings get a continuous supply of water. If they dry out during germination they will die.
Do you need an additional heating source for your seedlings?
Using Speedling trays, with their built-in insulation, means you don’t need a heating mat but can simply put the trays in a warm place (like the top of the refrigerator).
Heating mats will help with all other containers—including soil blocks, which are set onto undivided trays. Most plants germinate best in a temperature range of 65F to 75F. During cool weather that means a heating mat will be required.
Common seedling problems and how to prevent them
Damping off —Use a soilless mix, which allows for air circulation and discourages the fungus organism that attacks seeds and seedlings in saturated soil.
Root-bound seedlings—Tricia talked about the air pruning that happens with seedlings grown in Speedling trays. Air pruning allows enough oxygen near the seedling roots to burn them, and then encourages new roots. The result is a well-constructed root system that is ready to expand as soon as it is transplanted.
Categories: Organic Seeds, Seed Starting, Soil Blocker, Seed Starting Trays, Biodegradable Pots, Plant Labels, Heat Mats, Hand Seeders, Transplanting Tools, Growing Medium, Organic Quickroot, Grow Lights, LED Grow Lights, Table Top Grow Light, Grow Light Bulbs, Watering Cans, Organic Gardening 101