Gardener's Grapevine 2012.02.08

Written by David Green.

Have you ever started your own plants from seeds? If you own your own greenhouse you are not allowed to answer that question. Starting plants from seeds with a greenhouse vs. without one is like cooking on a Viking stove vs. a hot plate. The challenge is not the same.

I have tried starting my own plants without a greenhouse. I stunk at it. However, I should point out that I read the package on the little seed boxes instead of going to a reliable source. I did get germination and little hair-like sprouts which died quickly for two reasons: I didn’t talk to them enough and I had to peek, which required removing the protective cover to see how they were doing. I am like a kid at Christmas when it comes to waiting for just about anything. Even though it says keep covered, what’s a little lift of the cover going to do? Well, it let in all new air and changed the humidity the tender sprouts were used too. The end result? Death.

So I got to thinking and reading about how to successfully start plants from seeds. There are many benefits to doing this, but it depends on why you are doing it. Starting your own can be a lot less expensive than purchasing plants from a greenhouse, but if you start the plants later in the garden from seeds, this will put you ahead of the game and extend your growing time as well as harvest yields.

Lets start with seeds. The quality of the seeds is of utmost importance. Seeds must be fresh and not ever exposed to moisture. Old seeds that are improperly stored or are exposed to moisture or disease causing environmental fall-out, will not germinate correctly. There is usually a date on the packets and it is the date of harvest not packaged date. 

Germination media should be loose, well-drained, fine particles free from disease organisms. Containers can be most anything that is clean and chemical free. I have talked about cutting toilet paper rolls in half and tying them together in groups of three to plant in. This is supposed to be ideal as there are no chemicals in the rolls and basically just raw paper that will disintegrate in the garden.

One part bleach to nine parts water is a great sterilization medium for containers after they are washed in soapy water. This is really important or the plants will rot off from disease or fungus. Fill the containers three-quarters of the way full of the germination media and sow seeds as directed on the package. Top off containers with vermiculite mixture.

There are two ways to water the seeds. Either spritz them with a fine mist from a clean spray bottle or set containers in a pan of water and let them soak up water until they’re damp. Cover the containers with plastic and set them out of direct sunlight and away from cold to allow them to germinate.

The seed packets will assist you by stating how long a period germination is. Uncover the plant upon germination and move it to a sunny area.

For information on when to start a certain plant, I like the University of Missouri extension website.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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