March 18, 2008

Try, Try Again (The Growing Challenge)

My planting medium is composed of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss.

Our seeds from Baker Creek arrived in today's mail.  Unfortunately, they were out of bok choy, but I'll try to find those seeds at the local garden center.

The wonderful husband and I started a batch of herb seeds under a fluorescent light a couple of weeks ago.  Sadly, they succumbed to "damping off," which means that a variety of fungi in the planting medium attacked the young stems just below the soil line, and they toppled over.  We had started them early as an experiment, and have more of the same seeds to start again.  This time, I have a plan.

I've done my homework by consulting some of my favorite gardening blogs: Elements in Time, Tiny Farm Blog, and Seeded.  Based on advice gleaned from their posts, comments, and forums, here are some steps that I'll take to ensure seeding success:

  1. Sterilize seed trays using Melinda's method: wash with soap and water, rinse in a solution of three parts hydrogen peroxide to one part water, rinse with water, and dry.
  2. Plant seeds in a soilless medium composed of equal parts by volume of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.  This mixture holds moisture and is light and fluffy, to promote good aeration.  It also creates a sterilized environment for the seeds to germinate.
  3. Moisten the medium with cooled, weak chamomile tea to prevent damping off of the seedlings.  Apparently, chamomile discourages the growth of fungi that cause seedlings to fall over.  Mike recommends a solution of one bag of chamomile tea brewed in one quart of boiling water.
  4. Keep medium moist by bottom watering: place trays in a tub of water for about 15 minutes to allow medium to rehydrate from the bottom.
  5. Place a heating mat under seed trays and hang a fluorescent light several inches above the seed trays.  The light will be kept on at least 12 hours a day after the seeds germinate, and will be raised as the seedlings grow.
  6. Turn on an oscillating fan to "breeze" the seedlings for an hour or so every day.  This promotes stout growth of the seedlings, and prepares them for transplanting outdoors.
  7. Sow appropriate seeds directly into the garden soil.  Beans, squash, beets, and radishes are among Melinda's suggestions for in situ planting.

I should mention that Wonderful Husband Charles thinks that some of the steps above are "hooey."  Implementation of my plan may involve "His" and "Hers" seed trays.  We'll see who eats the first lima beans and tomatoes.  Ha!

We're in no hurry to start our next batch of seeds.  Since our garden is going to be a hobby, and since we don't expect it to be our principal source of nutrition this year, we're content to wait until a little more snow melts.  When we race to the farmer's market in May, it will be as patrons, not as vendors.

The rare seeds that we ordered didn't have any instructions written on their packets.  I liked the seed planting spreadsheet at You Grow Girl.  I found the most specific information on frost dates here.  

If you ran out of toilet paper rolls to make the seed cups in my previous post, check out the instructions on Seeded for making seed cups out of newspaper.  


celticjig said...

Those are some great tips! I will be planting some of mine this weekend. I may try the chamomile tea trick. A warming tray is a good idea! We bought full spectrum florescent lights last fall and have them in the basement keeping the herbs alive, now it is time to move the lights to the dining room/gardening room and help the sun out!
Perhaps we should seed swap next year if our plants survive!

Danielle said...


I'm definitely up for sharing seeds. Good luck with this weekend's planting-- let me know any tips that work for you!