Anne K Moore

Removing extra seedling

Thinning seedlings

Once you successfully raise a plant from seed to garden, you are hooked. There isn’t much in the world more rewarding than watching life sprout from a tiny dry seed and grow into a luscious vegetable or beautiful flower.

Sure, you can purchase plants ready for the garden but you are limited to what the market soothsayers’ project will sell the most. If you want to grow an heirloom Russian tomato, for instance, you will probably have to raise the plants yourself. The newest to the market vegetables and fruits can be very hard to find, too, until they become mainstream offerings.

Seedlings raised in the house usually need to be stepped up into larger pots before they are set outside in the garden. Exceptions to the rule are the seedlings that emerge with thick stems and are stout enough to stand on their own, like squash vines or beans.

I have been using the little tablets that swell into a small peat containers for seeds. These biodegradable seed-starters fit into trays made especially for them. The little plugs are then easy to set into 4-inch pots with a minimum disturbance to the root systems.

Coffee filters in small pots for plants

Coffee filters hold soil-less mix in pots.

To keep the potting soil from leaking out the bottom of the pots, I line them with coffee filters. I use new filters purchased for the job, but if you are into extreme recycling, you could rinse out and reuse your morning filters.

When potting up my seedlings, I still like to use purchased seedling mix, even though I plan to put the plants into garden soil eventually. This mix is sterile and will cut down on damping off disease, a fungal disease that kills overnight. Seedlings just collapse.

This malady can hit seedlings at any time. I always plant more than I can use so that when some collapse, I might still have a few left for the garden. One thing that seems to help me is a little topping of sand around the base of the seedlings right after they are potted up. It helps to keep the stem and top of the mix dry. Even though the top should stay somewhat dry, the roots should have moisture. They are delicate and should not dry out completely.

I also put at least 2 seeds in every cell since germination is seldom 100%. I do end up with a bunch of double plants. Although it is tempting to leave them both, don’t do it. If they are duking it out with their neighbor, they use energy they could be putting into crops or flowers. Plants that try to grow too close together end up with fewer crops, not more. Wait a couple of days after you have transplanted your seedlings to be sure they all survive. Then, just pinch off the smaller or less vigorous twin in the pot.

Growing can be challenging. Succeeding  brings huge rewards.

Posted on April 3, 2012, in HOW TO GROW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. A potting shed not only keeps all your sepulips close at hand and keeps the mess out of the house, it lets you get a jump on the growing season. Timing is everything. Order your seeds in the depths of winter and know your climate. If you start too early (and your shed isn’t heated) it’s worse than starting late. Some folks use fluorescent lights to coax their seedlings up to the date after the last frost. Tip on tomatoes: if the soil temperature is under 50 degrees F, your plants (unless a special variety) won’t take off and you don’t really get a jump on the growing season. But lots of other vegetables and ornamentals benefit from early planting and protection in a potting shed.

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