Helpful Tips for Starting Seeds at Home

Oftentimes, after finding a fruit, vegetable or flowering plant that produces pleasing results, we might wish to keep some of the seeds and try to reproduce the same results next year. But after keeping the seeds through the winter, dreaming of wonderful fruits and veggies to come, and setting our prize seeds in the spring, they sometimes get frosted, eaten by birds, washed away or just don't come up. One way to try to remove at least some of the variables is to start the seeds early in your home.

Some seeds require special 'treatments' such as soaking or scarring. Some need either light or darkness while awaiting germination.

Some seeds which frequently require soaking or scarring include the following. 
   Okra                          Asparagus                       Freesia
   Morning glory          Moonflower                     Sweet Pea
   Garden Pea             Parsley                            Hibiscus

Place seeds in 109 degree water to soak overnight using roughly 5 to 6 times as much water as seed volume.  Alternatively, scoring the seed coating with a knife, file or sandpaper will often produce the same result.

The medium you use can be any one of a number of different substances but the characteristics they must all exhibit are that they must be lightweight, porous and water-retentive. It is often recommended that your medium be sterile, but that does not mean lacking in nutrition. It does mean that the soil should be free from disease. Mediums can purchased in rolls at some home improvement and garden stores or can be created at home and should typically be of equal parts of two or three of the following:

   Peat moss                              Perlite                                            Vermiculite
   Builder's sand                        Soil                                                Potting soil
   Crumbled or sieved compost                                                    Milled sphagnum moss 
Whatever you choose for a medium, moisten it evenly before adding seeds, and be careful not to soak it. Sprinkle seeds on top of the medium and water lightly to adhere them to the medium. Try to not place them too close together to avoid tangling of the roots once they have sprouted. If you are starting a lot of different types of plants, be sure to label the containers to keep them straight.
Some seeds require light to germinate, while others prefer darkness. This is not an exhaustive list, but some popular starts from each list include the following.

Seeds that need light: 
   Yarrow                           Snapdragon                        Columbine
   Begonia                         Bellflower                            Coleus
   Foxglove                        Fuchsia                               Strawflower
   Gerbera Daisy             Shasta Daisy                      Oriental poppy
   Petunia                          Moss Rose                         Primrose
   Pomegranate               Dusty Miller                         Dill

Seedlings that are not getting enough light will be pale and weak with leaves growing far apart. Place the medium surface about 4-6 inches below light source. Leave lights on for 12-16 hours per day.
Seeds that need darkness:
   Bachelor's Button                       Larkspur                            Coriander
   Cilantro                                         Fennel                               Cyclamen   
   Forget-Me-Not                             Delphinium                       Purple Coneflower
   Sweet Pea                                   Evening Primrose            Phlox
   Iceland Poppy                             Butterfly Flower                 Nasturtium
   Verbena                                       Pansy                                 Violet

For seeds that require darkness, the most-often used cover is some form of dark plastic. Uncover for about an hour each day to allow for air flow and to check for moisture. After your seeds sprout, uncover them and give them as much light as possible.

Watering should take place from the bottom up whenever possible. Misting is oftentimes sufficient also.

Heat can be efficacious for most starts, but not too much. Grow lights heating the medium up to 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit are sufficient. Air flow is also important. A fan in the room where the seedlings are growing can be useful. The air flow across the starts can help them grow stronger provided that the breeze is not too strong. A gentle breeze will do. Soil should be damp, but never soggy. Allow the surface to dry out between mistings/watering. Water should be at room temperature or lukewarm. Extreme temperatures can shock your starts.

Once your plants have successfully started and are ready for fertilization, build up brix in your plants by misting them or treating the soil medium with a high-energy product. Our energy-building product is called MaxGrow. For nutrient density and immune system strengthening, foliar feed them with a solution that provides minerals. Garden Vigor's high-nutrition product is called Emerald Mist. Begin taking plants outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine as soon as temperatures will allow. Set them in a protected area for a couple of hours in the afternoon for 7-10 days before planting them outdoors.

When you are ready to transplant, block your plants by cutting through the soil with a knife. The goal is to have one plant per square. Dig the holes before moving any starts. Place a lining of gypsum in the hole to give the roots something to reach for and lessen transplant shock. Garden Vigor carries a product called Sulf-O-Cal which is a fine-ground and bio-available gypsum. And lastly, a fine misting of Garden Vigor's VermActant in the start hole will also help your plant to boost root growth and add beneficial fungus to the rhizosphere for better immune functioning as well. Use a spoon or similar utensil to lift plants from the containers, and pick up plants by the leaves rather than the stem. Leaf damage can more easily be overcome than a broken stem.

All of these products are available in the Garden Vigor Complete Garden Care Kit and are designed to be used throughout the growing season as your nutrient solution to keep your plants healthy and happy. Let us be your source for plant nutrition.