You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Two steps to successful seed starting


Every gardener has watched their seedlings fail on the windowsill. Starting seed indoors isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. In many areas, the last frost is too late for long-term crops like tomatoes that ripen over the summer. We want to start them earlier so seedlings are ready to move into the gardens as soon as the weather and soil temperatures allow. Those not willing to start their own seed will spend a great deal more buying seedlings at the garden center.

There are a dozen ways to fail. Seeds rot in wet material, they melt down from fungi, some never germinate at all. What drives a lot of this is keeping sown seed evenly moist in a standard pot without drying out. When you sow, only surface moisture is needed for germination so only later on is deeper moisture valuable. Failure is caused by deeper moisture in very cool dry winter conditions that fosters seed killing rot and fungus. Fungal hyphae can travel upward to attack seed, roots or seedling. Seedlings shrivel as a result, so you naturally think they’re dehydrated and water again.

There is an easy way to get around all of this trouble: Use a two step process. Collect the ultimate seed starters: lidded fruit or salad boxes that are clear plastic and have lots of holes for air and drainage. Each one of these becomes a mini greenhouse that maintains even moisture and reduces evaporation. These take all the guess work out of seed germination because they are ideally designed and free.

Use seed-starting media or quality potting soil to place an inch deep layer or more on the bottom of the box. Firm it gently in place. Sow your seeds and lightly spray it with a squirt bottle to thoroughly moisten. Secure the lid and let the box sit in a warm place until seeds sprout. Once they’re up place in a sunny window, preferably south-facing for a week or two until they develop new leaves. Once too tall for the germination box, it’s time to move each seedling into its own pot.

Recycled plastic six-packs from previous plant purchases are the best for starting seedlings. Any other recycled pots are ideal because they don’t get soggy and may be reused year after year. When you’re ready to transplant, first fill and firm all your containers with fine potting soil. Then use the tip of a butter knife to prick-out each of the tiny seedlings from the lidded box to plant in its own pot in the open air. This is where it will grow a larger root system before going outside. These plants require plenty of south sun and good drainage.

To water small pots like this easily, place them in a plastic box or metal brownie pan. Fill the pan with an inch of warm water and let it wick through the drain holes to saturate the soil from the bottom up. This places the most moisture at the bottom of the pot to draw roots as deeply as you can for more drought resistant and vigorous plants. This method also eliminates the need to top water, which can result in mildew, stem rot or dislodging the seedling. Let the pots sit in the water until moisture shows on the drier surface (20 minutes) to tell you it’s well saturated. Then remove from the water, allow to drain thoroughly, and return to the growing area.

The reason so many seed starting efforts fail is because it’s promoted as a once step process from seed to six packs like they do under growers’ controlled conditions. For great germination success of your own use this two step process. Find your salad boxes and get started today, then gather up all your old plastic seedling pots and wash well to destroy disease. Water from the bottom up after transplantation, then bring them out when the time is right to flourish, flower and fruit as early as possible.

———

Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Actress, heiress Dina Merrill has died; grew up at Mar a Lago, sold to Trump
Actress, heiress Dina Merrill has died; grew up at Mar a Lago, sold to Trump

Actress and rebellious heiress, Dina Merill, who defied her super-rich parents to become a movie star, often portraying stylish wives or “the other woman,” has died at age 93. Merrill, raised in part at the Mar a Lago estate in Florida now owned by President Donald Trump, died Monday, according to a family spokeswoman. Merrill had Lewy...
Ceasar Mitchell signs petition for gay or trans flag crosswalks
Ceasar Mitchell signs petition for gay or trans flag crosswalks

Mayoral hopeful and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell on Tuesday signed a petition asking the city to permanently install at least one crosswalk in the gay flag colors in Midtown. The Care2 Petition was started by LGBTQ advocate and performer Sarah Rose. So far, more than 20,600 people have signed the petition. Rose, who is transgender...
No canoes, no problem: 11 unusual Atlanta summer camps your kids will love
No canoes, no problem: 11 unusual Atlanta summer camps your kids will love

Your memories of summer camp may be filled with canoes and campfires, but today's camps cater to more varied interests.   You can still find the more traditional camps if that's what your child would prefer, but there's now one to suit just about any kid's interests. Here are 11 unusual camps your quirky kid will love this summer: Location: Brenau...
‘Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta’ preview: ‘Being a celebrity’s kid has its perks’
‘Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta’ preview: ‘Being a celebrity’s kid has its perks’

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 16: Zonnique Pullins, Shad Moss, Reginae Carter, Shaniah Mauldin, Ayana Fite and Brandon Barnes attend the WE tv’s Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta premiere screening event on May 16, 2017 in New York City.
Formerly obese twin sisters lost more than 100 lbs. each: ‘Now we get to live’
Formerly obese twin sisters lost more than 100 lbs. each: ‘Now we get to live’

Fraternal twins Christine and Keisha Ballard, 41, both started gaining weight in junior high school. “In our family, food was an expression of love,” says Christine. “If you didn’t eat what your mom or grandma gave you, if you didn’t eat all of the food on the plate — even if you were full — it was like, &lsquo...
More Stories