- 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