Last fall I did not have a very good success rate with starting from seed, so this season I was determined to improve upon that. I read several books on growing from seed, and while there are lots of things to try, the basics involve:
- Soak the seeds in water (or sometimes a seed stimulant) for an hour or so before you start them in the seed pellet. This should speed the germination rate.
- Get a seed germination heat mat – these raise the temp 10 – 20 deg F, and seeds germinate really well around 80 degrees or so. This was probably the biggest downfall last fall.
- Once started, have a decent light source, better than south-facing window. Best if a flourescent bulb is 1-2 inches from the top of the plants.
So here’s my makeshift germination station – some people pay $96 for a shelf with a light, I figured I’d just use a sawhorse and shop light that I had in the garage, and I strung it up:
I put the seeds in and on the heat mat (on top of glass from a dismantled TV stand – don’t want a heat mat doing who knows what to the rug) on Saturday and left the light off until Sunday – veggies don’t really need light for germination, I read. I also added Roma and Cherry Tomatoes on Sunday evening. Then I turned the light on Monday morning at 6 AM. Here’s what they looked like Monday night when I came home:
That was a shocker! Most seeds have a 7 day germination time at best, some 14 or 20 days. I simply did not expect so much so soon. Tuesday (tonight) when I came home, I was floored:
Wow, some of them are growing like weeds! I am no longer able to keep the seed tray cover on, which means that the pellets will dry out a little faster.
Okra and thyme:
Basil (yeah, I put way too many seeds in each, overcompensating for my bad luck last time):
Winter squash and cucumbers, my giants. Notice the roots have busted out the sides of the pellets – I am worried they will dry out:
At this point, I should transplant those last two to bigger containers and move them off of the heat mat. That would allow me to keep the lid on the rest, preventing the heat mat from drying them out… but some things I’ve read say people don’t even use a top… so maybe I’ll go a day or two without it and see what happens. Tomorrow we are supposed to get a lot of rain, so I am not going to put them into Aquaponics just yet, but maybe Thursday. In a normal garden, you should transplant and keep inside and fertilize for a month until they get strong, but when I have a nice fertilizing grow-bed outside, I wonder if it makes more sense to just gamble and put the seedlings in their gravel and let them run.