The 2016 organic seed has arrived at Watters Garden Center. Each packet is stamped with an official non-GMO seal, insuring that these seeds have not been genetically modified. Make sure to verify a seed’s freshness date, organic status and whether it is genetically modified before you buy your seeds for this spring.
If you buy your seed online, there are some precautions that are important to have in mind before hitting the “Buy It Now” button. Make sure to check for seed freshness. Seed should have been tested and packaged within the last nine months for optimal performance. All seed packages should be tested and stamped for germination rates and viability. Know the source from which you are buying seed or you can have failures from old leftover seed. Make sure you know what you are buying before you claim black thumbs this spring.
Here are my pointers on starting seedlings indoors. Start your seed growing process by assembling all the materials you will need in your work area.
You will need containers and trays with drainage. These may be clean plastic pots, trays or peat trays. For the planting medium, I prefer to use a Soil-less Seedling Mix or peat planting mix because of its sterility and handling ease. Either of these options is available at the garden center.
Because many seed varieties require a constant temperature for germination, you should invest in a waterproof soil-heating mat. Although normally factory set to keep soil at 72 degrees, there also are mats that have variable thermostats. A heating mat is money well spent; it increases success with seedlings and can be used for years.
It is important to know if the seeds you plan to sow need any special treatment before sowing. Some may need to be soaked for a few hours, some need days in the freezer, and others will need to be scarified (nicking the seed hull). For this information, consult with you local nursery. Whatever seed you’ve chosen, it is a good idea to do your sowing in stages so that in the event of disaster, you have a second chance at a good crop!
Depending on the size of the seed, you may have to create either a seed “trench” or, using a dibble stick, punch a row of small holes. The rows should be at least an inch apart. The planting depth is critical; usually, one or two times the diameter of the seed. Very fine seeds or seeds that require light for germination should not be covered at all.
With the seeds planted, you should create a miniature greenhouse environment for the pots or flats. This can be done by placing them inside a sealed plastic bag (using small stakes to hold the plastic from actually resting on the soil mix), or by placing a sheet of glass over the tray. An old aquarium works very well, as do ready-made seedling greenhouses. A greenhouse environment almost eliminates the necessity of watering the bed again before the seeds germinate; be sure to keep an eye on them, though.
Place your flat in an area where it will get good light but not direct sun, and can remain as close to the desired temperature as possible. Depending upon the seed, germination can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. Once the seeds have poked through the soil, remove the greenhousing and gradually move the flat into brighter lights or sun.
At this stage, the seedlings have underdeveloped root systems, so it is critical that you check daily for watering! The potting medium must remain moist, but never soggy. Very wet soil starves the roots of oxygen and drowns new plants. Bottom watering is best at this point because spraying can dislodge the plants and water on the leaves can lead to fungus attack. Temperatures should be kept at about 70-75 degrees F.
Until this time, the seedlings have been nourished from the food in the seed itself. Once the second set of leaves develops you can begin to feed your new seedlings. Fertilizing should be done from bottom watering, using a very dilute 1/4-strength mix of soluble ‘Fish Fertilizer’ once a week. When the plants have reached about three inches, you can begin to water and feed the plants from above.
Until next issue, I’ll see you at the garden center. QCBN
By Ken Lain
Ken Lain, the mountain gardener, can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter .