Seed Starting: Get Growing!

February 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Answers and Tips, Flowers, Herbs, Plants, Vegetables

Seed Starting:  Get Growing!

San Juan Nurseries, Inc. Seeds in blue pots

Whatever your motivation is for starting seeds indoors, the process can be fun and simple. When you understand what factors influence a seed you’ll be able to create a formula for success, and then repeat it again and again.

Many gardeners like to germinate their own plants each year, for a number of reasons.

  • Getting a jump on the season (having good sized plants when the time is right)
  • Not having to wait on commercial growers
  • Growing unique varieties, not commonly found in stores (check out Botanical Interest seeds)
  • Reduced costs, once you are set up you can grow great plants for next to nothing
  • IT’S FUN!!! This time of year it is great to see little plants growing, and kids love it!

Seeds respond to light (or absence of light), temperature, and water.  Also, making good choices for soil and containers will help you grow a strong plant, able to live a healthy and productive life.

Light

Your Botanical Interests seed packet will have any special sowing instructions you need to consider.  Ample light is one on the major factors influencing the physical strength of seedlings.  Sufficiently intense light of the right duration will make a shorter, stronger seedling than weaker light sources.  A basic and adequate setup can be as simple as four fluorescent tubes, two cool and two warm spectrum, hung no more than three inches from the top of your seedlings.  A timer will help you consistently deliver 14 hours or more of light per day.

TEMPERATURE

Temperature is the factor in the life of a plant, especially germination, which governs the rate at which things happen.  While the ideal germination temperature for some plants may be higher or lower, normal household temperatures are usually within the range that encourages germination in a vast majority of commonly grown plants.  If temperatures are too low, germination may slow or stop entirely.  There are some plants that germinate at a higher ideal temperature.  Many of these are tropical plants grown as annual flowers and vegetables in cooler climates.  They include but are not limited to: asparagus, begonia, celosia, impatiens, petunia, tomato, watermelon, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, pumpkin, zucchini, and melons.  All of these plants germinate at an ideal temperature above 70° F.  You can increase germination percentage and speed by applying heat to your soil.  You can do this by placing trays and pots near a heat vent, radiator, or other gentle heat source.  You can also buy a specially designed heat mat made for this purpose at San Juan Nurseries, Inc.

WATER

There is more water in a plant than any other constituent.  The way you apply it becomes one of the most important factors in determining the overall health of your seedlings.  When a seed comes in contact with water it begins to absorb it.  This signals to the plant that it is time to come out of dormancy, germinate, and grow.  The plants are fragile in the early stages of life.  At this time, consistent moisture is vital.  When starting seed indoors, they depend on you to create and maintain the right amount of moisture in theirsurroundings.  After sowing, seeds should be watered gently, but thoroughly.  If your seeds are tiny, or are to be sown shallow, you may want to wet your soil before sowing.  Moisture should be maintained consistently after the first watering, but never to the point of soggy soil.  Saturated soil can create conditions that will rot your seeds before they germinate.  You can cover your seeds with plastic wrap, removing it after seedlings emerge.  There are also capillary mats that supply water, via wicking, to the bottom of containers.  This is a good choice ifyour containers are relatively shallow.  If your sown seeds are allowed to dry out too much after germination, they may die.

Now that you know what a growing seed requires you can try starting some, or all, of your garden indoors.  Now that’s ‘advice you can grow with’!