Planting Tiny Seeds: For those micro seeds, like parsley, begonias, carrots, mix the seeds with a little sand and sow them in your flat or in the garden by sprinkling the seed and sand mixture with a tablespoon. Be sure to firm the soil when you are done as these tiny seeds don't really need to be buried but good contact with the soil is essential.
Damping off disease
Always use a sterile growing medium like mixes with vermiculite and perlite for your seed starting as these should not contain the fungi that cause damping-off. Water your seedlings with warm water that has been left to sit for an hour or more to dissipate most of the chemicals that are present in tap water. Using cold water stresses the seedlings leaving them vulnerable to harmful organisms. Use only sterilized soil, Coco Peat, sphagnum moss, vermiculite or perlite to help prevent damping off. (This disease is caused by fungus parasites that enter new seedlings where the stem comes from the soil. Symptoms are droopy leaves, stem turns black at the base, plant withers and dies quickly.)
Treatments for Damping off disease:
Chamomile tea is an excellent preventative for damping-off. Use on seed starting soil, seedlings and in any humid planting area. Chamomile is a concentrated source of calcium, potash and sulfur. The sulfur is a fungus fighter. This can also be used as a seed soak prior to planting.
To make: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 1/4 cup chamomile blossoms. Let steep until cool and strain into a spray bottle. Use as needed. This keeps for about a week before going rancid. Spray to prevent damping off and anytime you see any fuzzy white growth on the soil. Chamomile blossoms can be purchased at health food stores and usually grocery stores.
- A fine layer of milled sphagnum moss on top of the sterile planting medium will also prevent damping off.
- Sprinkling a fine layer of cinnamon powder on your starting medium also helps.
- Horsetail Tea (Equisetum arvense)
The common horsetail plant, which is very invasive, is rich in silicon and helps plants to resist fungal diseases via increasing their light absorbing capabilities. Horsetail is one of the ingredients in Golden Harvest Fertilizer. You can use horsetail tea on seedlings and plants in closed environments too!
To make: In a glass or stainless steel pot, mix 1/8 cup of dried leaves in 1 gallon of unchlorinated water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for at least 1/2 hr. Cool and strain.
Store extra concentrate in a glass container. Will keep for a month.
Dilute this mix, adding 5- parts of unchlorinated water to one part concentrate.
Spray plants once every 1-2 weeks Also spray directly on your staring medium.
For starting seed indoors, the number one goal of the potting mixture is to create the best growing environment for seedlings. The ultimate potting mix must have:
- good drainage
- ample porosity or air spaces
- a high moisture-holding capacity
- a moderate amount of mineral nutrients
Avoid using plain garden soil since it will as it will harden making it almost impossible for the seedlings to come up. Garden soil also is full of the organisms that can cause damping off disease in seedlings. Instead use one of the many commercial potting mixes, or you can create your own mix. One such mixture would contain some vermiculite vermiculite (we recommend rinsing off the vermiculite in it's bag as the dust from it is hazardous), peat, mature compost and fertile healthy garden soil. These ingredients will provide balanced, sustained-release plant nutrition.
Our Coco Peat is the perfect seed starting medium!
Most seeds need dark conditions, heat and water to germinate. The water enables the embryo to grow. Seeds naturally have enough food stored inside, so they only need water - no fertilizers at this stage. The vast majority of seeds germinate best at a constant temperature between 60 degrees to 75 degrees F. Keeping the soil warm can be done by heating cables, propagation mats or try these methods:
- Set your containers on top of the fridge, works for us or use an old water bed heater to warm the soil.
- Some folks set their seed containers on the waterbed to speed up germination.
- Keep the soil evenly moist for best results: too much moisture will rot the seeds. Misting is the best technique for this, or set your tray on a water filled bed of pebbles for even soil moisture.
Germinating Tough Seeds
Some tips to germinate those hard coated seed are:
- Soak overnight in a mix of 1 quart of water and 1 teaspoon of meat tenderizer. The tenderizer has enzymes which will break down the seed coat without harming the embryo!
- Soak beets, peas, and bean seeds for 24 hours in room temperature water. Let them dry a bit and plant. You will find your germination will be far better than just planting them straight in the dirt..
- Soak in a solution of kelp and water for 48 hours. Let tiny seeds dry after soaking so you can handle them. Great for corn, nasturtiums and sweet peas!
- Carefully nick the seed coat with a file, especially useful for seeds of morning glory and four o'clocks.
- Parsley and small seeds: notoriously hard to germinate! Put seeds between two sheets of sandpaper and gently rub back and forth. Dump them onto a white sheet of paper, then plant.
Fertilizing your seedlings:
Seedlings do need fertilizer and nutrients on a regular basis to grow strong, healthy and, most importantly to grow good root systems. Use a diluted natural fertilizer and feed every 5-7 days for optimum growth. Fish emulsion is often used by professional growers. Golden Harvest Fertilizer provides everything that seedlings require and can also be used as a seed soak prior to planting. Of interest: see natural element sources chart.
Seedlings can need up to 16 hours of light a day. If your growing area receives limited sunlight you will need to provide an artificial light source. You can use regular fluorescent lights versus the more pricey grow lights. We have used both and seen no difference in growth habits. Keep the seedlings as close to the light as possible, within two inches, adjusting the distance as they grow. Even if they touch the fluorescent bulb it won't burn them, but again a two inch distance is best.
Another lighting trick is to surround your seedlings with "walls" of styrofoam, white poster board, any light reflecting material. This will evenly distribute or bounce the light for balanced, faster and sturdier growth. We certainly want the best for our seedlings and our efforts.
Containers and transplanting:
- Use those plastic containers with the dome tops that come with salads, baked goods, vegetables etc. They make great germinating receptacles.
- Cardboard egg cartons with the tops removed make good biodegradable planters, no transplant shock.
- Germinate your tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds in half an eggshell. Gives them calcium and you can transplant with the eggshell intact. It will decompose rapidly.
Wait until after the seedlings have 2 pairs of leaves and then transplant to larger containers. Golden Harvest minimizes transplant shock like you wouldn't believe!
- Using Endomycorrhizae Root Inoculant when transplanting will help when transplanting and for the life of your plants. We simply can't say enough about this beneficial fungi- it's fantastic!
- Give your seedlings adequate spacing for better air circulation, room to develop and less disease.
- Sturdy Seedlings: To develop those short, sturdy seedlings for transplant: gently brush your hands across the little plants several times a day to stimulate them. What this does is causes the plant is causes the plant to release ethylene gas, which is a growth inhibitor resulting in slower growth and stronger plants.
- Onions: To raise onions for winter storage grow them from seeds. For summer eating grow them from sets.
SEED STORAGE LIFE
Note: Seeds all contain a little embryo that will germinate into seedlings, we want to keep this embryo alive and undamaged. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. You want to keep moisture away from them to keep the seeds viable. Putting in a packet of silica gel will give you more insurance to keep your seeds alive.
Following is a general guide for the life of stored seeds- with proper conditions they often last much longer!
Veggies: parsley, parsnips, salsify
Flowers: aster, delphinium, geranium, larkspur, pansy, salvia, verbena, violas
Veggies: leek, okra, onion, pepper, sweet corn
Flowers: aquilegia (columbine), California poppy, calliopsis, candytuft, centaurea, clarkia, coleus, dahlia, gypsophila (baby's breath), hollyhock, impatiens, marigold, morning glory, petunia, scabiosa
Veggies: asparagus, beans, carrot, celery, celeriac, chicory, corn, peas, spinach
Flowers: cosmos, lobelia, nicotiana, poppy, portulaca
Veggies: beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, melons, okra, pumpkin, radish, rutabaga, squash, tomato, turnips, watermelon
Flowers: ageratum, carnation, celosia, dianthus, gaillardia, snapdragon, sweet alyssum, sweet pea, zinnia
Veggies: beet, endive, chard, lettuce, cucumber, muskmelon