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Starting Mixes, Seed Cells and Seed Starting Set Up

Friday, December 6, 2013

How to Have A More Successful Vegetable Garden - Seed Starting Mix Preparation for Germination

How to Have A More Successful Vegetable Garden

Seed Starting Mix Preparation for Germination:
Pre-Moisten, Pack Cells and Bottom Watering

Gardening is not about perfection. It is about enjoying, learning and changing methods. The best thing you can do is to just get gardening, have fun and see how it goes. I will be doing an ongoing series for 2014 called: How to Have A More Successful Vegetable Garden. The key word is more... each year we improve a bit. The series will follow my general path in the garden which typically starts with getting ready to grow plants indoors in my grow-closet come January.

Seed Starting Mix: Seed starting mixes or mediums should be sterile. You don't want to use soil from your garden for seeds, seedlings and early transplants. You don't want to bring in soil diseases or a fungus. 'Damping off ' diseases are a cotton like fungi that will cover the stems of seedlings and kill them.

The typical ingredients for seed starting mixes are vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. They are typically heat dried and sterile. You can buy them in various mixes. I often make my own to save money and my process can be found in this video. It is 5 or 6 parts peat moss and 1 or 1 1/2 bowls of perlite. Nothing has to be exact.

Preparing Seed Starting Mix: Never start planting seeds with a dry seed starting mix. Most starting mixes come 100% dry. I prefer them. Some are wet with a wetting agent. Why they don't say water, I don't know. I prefer the dry mixes because I feel they are most sterile.

Because they are dry.... you absolutely need to pre-moisten the starting mix before using it. Just add warm water and mix the water in evenly. You want the starting mix to be moistened through but not the point you can squeeze water out of it. You will add more water later. A dry starting mix actually resists absorbing water. It will float on water as seen in the video below.

Thumb Packing Seed Cells

Fill the Seed Starting Cells: The first mistake I made was how I first filled the cells. The moist starting mix fills them up easily. It is really a fluffy mix. The first round of filling them really makes starting cells that are too loosely packed with starting mix or medium. Seeds can fall down deeper into the cell because of the 'fluffy' medium and this can effect germination.

You want a tightly packed cell that has well packed medium. It will help with germination and it is better for root growth. Fill the cell once (first round) and pack the medium down with your thumb into the cell. Fill it again (second round) and you have a great base for starting seeds. The starting mix really can't be overly packed. The video shows you the process for preparing the cells for seeds.

Bottom Watering: Bottom watering is very important for germinating seedlings and small transplants. If you water from the top (like in the video) you will splash out seeds, small transplants and run the risk of spreading diseases. And it is just more difficult and time consuming to water from the top. Watering from the bottom just means filling the tray or flat the seed cells sit in. They will draw water up from the bottom. With time you get pretty good and knowing how much water to use. Whatever is not absorb in 20 or 30 minutes... just poor out into a bucket. You don't want them sitting in water.

I really enjoy gardening. If you enjoyed this entry and videos and would like the series to continue please give it a G +1 or a thumbs up. That is how I monitor interest and it helps me focus on my next project.

Gary (The Rusted Garden)

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