A packet of seeds thrills me like nothing else! Seed starting is perhaps the most rewarding yet, intimidating, of all garden activities.The whole process of preparing the soil, sowing seeds, watering, germinating, transplanting and finally blooming is almost magical! Over years, i have played with various methods to start seeds and have settled upon the best and easiest ways to go about it.
Most newbie gardeners start with houseplants. I, bought lots of seeds and started them all in everything i could find. Surprisingly, most of them germinated and bloomed. Sometimes, over-effort is the exact cause of failure. Our point of fulfillment comes only after we achieve a task through a difficult route, though it could have been done in an easy manner. Me being a naive gardener know nothing about complicated procedures back then. Hence i just sowed and they grew, just like Mother Nature intended them to. It was then that i discovered, this love affair will last a lifetime!
So, it is given that as soon as winters knock on the door, i am up and about making numerous lists of what to order, what to sow, how and where to sow, the planters to use, things to buy blah blah and blah. While i was doing that this season, it occurred to me that i have never posted about the most basic thing on the blog – STARTING SEEDS.
SEED STARTING MIX FOR DIFFERENT SEASONS
- BLACK GARDEN SOIL – Skip if you do not have good soil. Mine has been enriched over time so i use it.
- SAND – For drainage.
- COMPOST – For nutrition.
- PERLITE – For aeration and to lighten the mixture.
- VERMICULITE – To cover the seeds and keep them moist. (You may do without it)
- COCO-PEAT – For water retention and aeration of roots.
Seed starting mix for summers:
GARDEN SOIL, COMPOST, COCO-PEAT in equal parts. Add only some sand for drainage. Too much will cause the soil to keep drying out.
Seed starting mix for winters:
GARDEN SOIL, COMPOST, SAND in equal parts. Add only some coco-peat to retain moisture. Too much will cause seedlings to rot.
*ADD SOME PERLITE, IF AVAILABLE.
USING EGGSHELL POWDER FOR SEEDLINGS
Yes, this is what i use for healthy seedlings. Calcium is great for bone structure of plants and hence i provide it to the seedlings while they are developing. I keep collecting eggshells and then dry them before powdering in the mixie. Make sure to powder and sieve before mixing as any sharp pieces can harm the delicate roots. THIS IS HOW I MAKE AND USE EGGSHELLS FOR PLANTS
SOW SMALL SEEDS EVENLY
An excellent tip to sow small seeds is to mix them with sand first. This makes them easy to scatter on soil with proper spacing. This method has been explained in detail HERE.
HOW TO START SEEDS IN TRAYS
STEP 1: Start with a clean seed tray. Dump the seed sowing mixture over the tray and smoothen out with your hands. Fill up all the plugs evenly. Moisten thoroughly with a sprayer.
STEP 2: Make small holes on the center of each plug with a dibber/toothpick.
STEP 3: Place a seed in each hole and close it. Alternately, you can place a seed in the center of each plug and press into soil using a toothpick.
For very small seeds, mix with some sand( as in this tutorial) and spread over each plug.
STEP 4: Cover each plug with vermiculite or a mixture of compost+cocopeat. Both help retain moisture though vermiculite is recommended.
STEP 5: Moisten again.
STEP 6: OPTIONAL- Cover with a clear plastic. This is done to conserve moisture and retain heat for germination in colder weather. You may do without it but take care to never let the seed trays dry out. I keep mine in partial shade and spray twice a day. Remove the plastic cover once you see germination.
USING POTS & PLANTERS TO SOW SEEDS
This is same as above with a few advantages(listed here) like deeper root depth and ease of sowing. Basically, fill a pot with the seed-sowing mix and spread the seeds over it. Follow the same instructions as above or go here to read about sowing finer seeds like petunia, in detail.
SOWING SEEDS IN DISPOSABLE PLASTIC CUPS, GLASSES
I keep food containers with lids to sow some special seeds that take a long time to germinate or are hard to do so. The presence of a lid ensures moisture and helps with germination specially in colder months. These also include the disposable cold coffee/iced tea glasses (with dome lid) from Mc’Donalds.
MAKE YOUR OWN PLANT LABELS – CHEAP , EASY & REUSABLE
While i can easily identify most of the seedlings once they come up, it is a good idea to label the seeds so that you can keep a track of what is germinating. I use the back of disposable spoons or wooden ice-cream sticks and write with a waterproof marker. Works well and the spoons are re-usable.
GROW HEALTHY SEEDLINGS – TIPS & SUGGESTIONS
1. Use as fresh seeds as possible. It affects the germination rate. Fresh seeds grow quickly and are bound to produce better seedlings.
2. Never let germination seeds or seedlings dry out. They do not come back like plants do.
3. Take utmost care of drainage. Do not think about giving more water than necessary. Standing water will kill the seedlings.
4. Ensure adequate light from above. If seedlings need to search for light, they do not grow up and strong. Instead they grow thin, tall, leggy and bend to look for light. This will eventually kill most of them at the base.
5. Ensure enough air-circulation to prevent fungal diseases.
6. Do not overlap seeds while sowing in a container. If they do not have enough root space of their own, they do not grow properly and develop a host of diseases. Just like humans need their own space, plants do too.
7. Do not transplant too early. Let them develop at-least 2-3 sets of true leaves.
8. Handle from the leaves. Delicate stems of seedlings can break off easily during transplant.
9. Do not fertilize seedlings. Most of them can’t take the strong nutrients and die of it; just like a baby cannot eat adult food.
10. Transplant to a rich, healthy soil mix to speed up growth.
11. NEVER GIVE UP. Seed sowing success depends on a lot of factors like climate, location, season, type of seeds, container, sunlight, soil etc. Some are easy and some are extremely hard. Experiment and discover your own best method, like i did!
Happy sowing and do share pics from your garden and your seed starting experiments. I love having a look at what my readers are up-to!
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