Friday, March 6, 2009

Secrets of Growing From Seed

Starting plants from seed can be a learning experience. I have a large garden and a small garden budget that doesn't always allow me to buy all the perennials and annuals that my heart desires. I started growing from seed because it was cheaper and a way to increase my plant population in the garden. When I first started growing from seed, I was sometimes disappointed to have some of my seedlings die for reasons unknown. Several years ago, I started doing volunteer work in a greenhouse and learned some secrets for success. Now I find that growing from seed can be very rewarding. Here are a few "secrets" for starting plants from seed inside your home.
  • It all begins with the growing medium. Spend the money and buy sterile seed starting mix. The mix is light weight and airy for your seedling to grow in. Some seed starting mixes come with fertilizer and wetting agents in the mix.
  • If you are using recycled pots or cell packs make sure they are clean and sanitized. First wash the pot in hot soapy water. Then rinse each pot in a bucket of water and bleach. Finally rinse in clean water and air dry.
  • I use a seedling heat mat for bottom heating. Your seeds will germinate faster and have stronger healthier roots. Use the correct temperature for that particular seed. Germination temperatures can be found on your seed packet.
  • Purchase fresh seed. You can test old seed (medium and large size) by adding some to a glass of water. If the seed sinks to the bottom it is good seed. If it floats, it will not germinate. Dry the viable seed and sow.
  • Provide good lighting either from a window or plant lights. I use a combination of both. Low light will give you tall weak plants.
  • Don't over water and provide good drainage. I do not use saucers.
  • Provide good air circulation around your plants.
  • Some seeds may require refrigeration, soaking or scarifying before planting. Read the planting instructions on your seed packet.




Shasta Daisy "Crazy Daisy" and "Brandywine" Tomatoes



I start my seeds in pots filled with seed starter mix. When the seedling produce their first true leaves (see picture), I then transplant each seedling to it's own separate pot or cell pack. I use a chop stick or a sharpened pencil to make the hole to transplant each seedling. After they are transplanted, I start the process of watering with fertilizer. Use 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. You can also transplant to a mix containing fertilizer. If you are growing tomatoes that have grown tall and thin, transplant them by placing that long stem deeper into the pot. Tomatoes will produce roots along their stems.


This tomato is now in the pot it will grow in till I place it into the garden.

Each of these plant have been transplanted to pots or cell packs and will continue to grow in these till they are moved to the garden. You can grade your seedling by size when using cell packs. That way the smaller seedling will get their fair share of light to grow by not being shaded by largers seedling. Once your plants are ready to go to the garden, make sure that you harden the plants off. Hardening off means to acclimate your plants to the outdoor tempertures. Your plants need to "Toughen Up". This process can take a week or more depending on where you live. Protect your seedlings from sudden outdoor temperature changes or you may have to start all over again. If you want to try your hand at plant propagation, I would suggest that you purchase the American Horticultural Society "Plant Propagation" book by Alan Toogood. This is the most used and worn out book in my gardening library.
Good luck on growing your seeds and happy gardening!

The Creative Gardener


6 comments:

Cathy said...

That was informational, thanks for sharing!

perennialgardener said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

I'm trying tomato from seed this year, and Brandywine is the one I have. I'm using the heat mat and I see that it has just sprouted. Thanks for some good advice. Is there a specific type of fertilizer that is the best for seedlings?

Jane E. said...

Hi.. terrific advice, thanks.
If you are in search of a "better mousetrap" for staking your tomato plants, I highly recommend The Tomato Stake -- www.thetomatostake.com

A friend of mine works for the company, an I am proud to say I am happy customer myself!

The Tomato stakes are much easier to use than metal cages, and much stronger than bamboo. Also, they are made of plastic and dont rot like wooden stakes. Take a peek.. I highly recommend.

jhausler@optonline.net said...

Really helpful tips. I'm starting seeds inside this year for the first time and am already on my second round, having made just about every mistake possible with the first. One of my big mistakes was misjudging the amount of light needed. Also not enough air circulation caused fungus I realize now. Wish I saw this post a few months ago! Thanks a bunch.

Roses at Wedgwood House and Gardens said...

Oh Boy, I just lost a long comment to you and I do not know what I did, but sometimes, my left hand slips, cos it has happened before, and then I lose everything!!! So, I will forget it and try and start again.

First, Creative Gardener, I would like to thank you soo much for including me on your fave list. I only found out about you because of this, and of course, I am delighed to encounter your site and read about you.

It is great! There is something in there that makes me want to feed off, thank you! Maybe it is your experience and professionalism. Whatever, I love what I see, and I have not seen a lot of your site yet!
Your post on Garden design element, I really can relate to and only wish I had more of these elements. But we are working on it. We have a few little things here and there, but last year we purchased from a great concrete supplier on the island where we live a beautiful old looking wide urn, handcrafted and imported from England for $400.00 - thought it was a lot of money, but boy, is the statement of this focal point, way worth it. We have it in the centre of a circular bed that use to house a wonderful pink dogwod tree that really did very poorly in that location and finally died.

Thank you so very much again. I will be back to read and look at your great pictures.
Pauine