Growing from Seed-A guide to the perfect seedlings

Growing from seed is most definitely an art form.  When I first learned to plant from seed I quickly realized how many tiny steps and decisions each seed required to produce a healthy little seedling.  It took time, patience, and lots of failures.  In the end I learned a lot of what NOT to do and developed a good basis of what worked.  We want you to hit the ground running with all the things that DO work so that you can be successful, even on your very first year ever starting seed.  The most important thing to remember is that like most things in life, expect failure and let it be your teacher... not the reason you quit. 

Ok.. let's get growing!

Material List:  Here is what we use.  I have linked each item to amazon (yes, we are affiliates and therefore get a small percentage of all purchases) but like always feel free to go find the best deal out there and use this as a reference!

Seedling Trays This item is worth buying a heavy duty one!

72 cell seed starting trays

spray bottle

Watering can with a thin spout

Peat Moss

Perlite

Soil

Sow Edible Seed Starting Soil Mix:

  • 5 Gallon Potting Soil 
  • 10 Gallon Peat Moss
  • 1 Gallon Perlite

How to fill the planting trays:

  1. Break up clumps and mix well
  2. Fill Tray
  3. Use fingers to gently push down to get out air... not too packed
  4. Refill holes and level off dirt
  5. Set each into a bottom tray.  This will help stabilize the cells so they don't spill when transporting them (ask me how I know...ugg), as well as be vital during the sprouting watering stage.

Now you are ready plant your seeds!

Follow the directions on your seed packets for seed planting depth.  Make sure you label your seedlings.  We have done this with a silver sharpie, plant stakes like these, or even plain colored craft sticks.  What ever works- just make sure you label and date.

Germination

As soon as you have planted the seeds you will want to spray the seedlings from the top of the tray.  We spray 3 sprays into each cell.  This may seem very tedious but you will want to ignore that urge to drench them.  Germination does not require much light so setting them anywhere they can get some natural light is perfect.  Continue to keep the tops moist with the "3 spray" method until the first signs of sprouts.

Sprouting 

Yay- those seeds you have been tediously spraying have finally emerged.  You can hang up that spray bottle and give your hand a rest.  From this point on you will need to do 2 very important things.  
  1. Put your tray under lights AS SOON as you see the first sprouts.  We cover this indepth in Podcast # 61.  This is our favorite grow light but you can also use a greenhouse.
  2. Water from the bottom of the tray by DIPPING the seedlings.  This is covered in Podcast #62 but here is a basic overview.
  • Take an empty bottom tray and fill it a little more than half way with water.
  • Take each seedling tray and place in the watering tray for a count of 5
  • Lift it out and place it back in it's original dry tray.  
  • You will want to repeat this when the bottom of the plants feel dry.  If the bottom feels even slightly moist then do not water.  It is always better to go on the dryer side than to over water.  For this reason we do not suggest that you ever just sit the tray in constant water.  A plant can recover quicker from needing water than from being drenched. 

A couple notes: 

  • Add a small fan to blow on the seedlings after they emerge.  Set it so that it is lightly blowing on the plants.  This will cause the plants to strengthen and avoid "leggy" plants.  They will adapt better to transplant as well since they are prepared to deal with some light wind.
  • Make sure that you continue to spray any cells that have not emerged.  Sometimes you will find that the germination on a tray will vary slightly and while some of the plants have emerged, others are still hiding beneath the soil.  You will want to top spray any cells that have not emerged while treating the entire tray like they have all sprouted.  Another words, there will be some trays under lights being bottom watered that will need a few of the cells to be top sprayed as well.