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.

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