Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Critical First Week

Our seeds are now dictating the speed of adding new posts!  We are up to at least six members reporting germination and questions of what to do next.

The Garden Club of America (GCA) Basic Propagation  Guide calls this "The Critical First Week"

Here are some excerpts from their guide:
"Plants need water, light, moderate temperature and Carbon Dioxide for photosynthesis to take place (which is how they grow).  There is plenty of Carbon Dioxide in the air.  As the grower, your job is to provide the right amounts of water, light and warmth.

WHAT NEXT
Germination!
What am I going to see?

I belong to Blondie Sprout!
Poppy seeds in 5 of the planting areas;
a hyacinth bean in the 6th - already growing tall.
 
 
The poppy seeds were tiny - so lots of seedlings.  We will let them grow for a little while -  until the next set of leaves - the first true set of leaves appear.  Most members reported seeing white specks at the bottom of the poppy seeds and were concerned this was mold.  Close inspection revealed tiny hairs which were inside the seed and appeared upon germination.  They will disappear quickly. 

We planted some hyacinth beans in the corners of the 6 packs.  They may take longer to germinate as they are larger seeds and planted deeper.  In our case, most of the hyacinth beans germinated quickly and at the same rate as the poppy seeds.  You may want to check individual 'sprouts' journal pages to see their stories.  But...if you have a seed that takes longer to germinate than another seed, the method we used of planting in 6 packs allows you to easily cut out the packs where seeds have germinated, pull out of the plastic and proceed with the next step while leaving the ungerminated seeds inside the plastic tent.  For germination times, again refer to your individual seed to see the approximate time for germination (ehow.com is a pretty good resource).

We will discuss transplanting soon!  More important things first.  There is no need to rush into the transplanting!  Your little seedlings will be fine for a while.

I belong to Spring Sprout. 
More poppy seeds as you can see by the tags and one hyacinth bean in the corner.
  Actually there are two or three in the corner.  More about thinning and transplanting soon.

 

WATER
Your seeds have germinated.

Remove your seed trays from their tent. 

You now need to allow your soilless seed mixture to dry out a little between watering.  Not too wet - not too dry!  I always love phrases like that - how do you know???

The tiny root hairs absorb water and send it by osmosis into the roots, the stem, the leaves and ultimately flowers.  If your soil mixture is too wet the root hairs will rot.  Once they are damaged it is too late to save your plant. 

You need droplets to soak into the top layer of soil - but not a rain storm.  In order to germinate your seeds required 90% humidity, after germination 50-70% is preferred.  Too high humidity = fungus and disease pathogens.

As your roots become longer and go deeper into your soil then you may start with bottom watering.  You want your roots to head towards the bottom - so that means the mix in the top inch should not always be moist or your roots won't reach for the bottom.  Allow your mix to dry out between waterings.

Here are mamsprout's instructions that she uses, taken from her Master Gardener handbook and from years of being an experienced gardener:  After removing the plastic bag your mix should stay moist for a short while.  Watch for surface drying as it is harmful to the seedling.  Water always from below using the same technique described in the workshop post and repeated below.  Remember to always drain your seed container well after watering.  Do not let the 6 pack sit in water for an extended period.  Water as needed form below to maintain constant , slight moistness.

As your seedlings grow, expect that they will require more frequent watering. 

Bottom watering technique:  Place your container with your newly germinated seedlings in a pan or tray with about 1" of warm water.  The water level should be above the holes at the bottom of your seed sprouting container.  Avoid splashing, which might displace any small seeds or seedlings.  When the planting mix is saturated set the container aside to drain.  The soil should be moist but not wet. 

LIGHT
Windowsill light and temperature are still too variable for tiny seedlings.  You may need to provide additional light at this point to grow sturdy seedlings - i.e. not too leggy and weak.

Fluorescent lights work well if you have them.  The lights should be 4-6' above the top leaves.  If you need to, elevate your seed trays or pots to lift the plants closer to the lights.  If you can manage, 16 hours of daylight, 8 hours of dark is great.  We have just switched to daylight savings time and we are close to 12 hours of daylight which will increase quickly.   It is not necessary to have the lights labeled specifically as grow lights. 

Be careful if you use incandescent lights - they provide a lot of heat and can burn your tender seedlings.  If you have a table lamp you want to use, try switching out the incandescent bulb for a compact fluorescent (CFL) with the equivalent of a 100 watt incandescent.

I have a Ott light and there are other brands of natural/daylight/full spectrum lights.  Mine is a compact one that folds into a small rectangle about 4 1/2" wide and 12" tall and sits beside my reading/sewing chair.  It opens at an angle and provides great light.  This type of light may be found most anywhere but good places to look are needlepoint shops, sewing centers and craft centers.
My Ott light folded up on the table beside my
reading chair.  See how compact it is!  Even though I
am beside a window that lets in lots of light it does help with
reading and sewing.  This is a west facing window, so I
will more my light over to the kitchen island during the
period I am going to be providing supplemental light to my seedlings.


My light opened up - see how it provides a nice light.  The top part
of the light opens evenly, yet is stiff enough that I can position
it at various angles.  I will play with the adjustment in order to cover
my seed trays.  If necessary, I can provide additional light with a small table
light using a CFL bulb.

Filtered window light is usually not quite enough as the plants will try to grow and reach toward the window. 

Posted are a couple of links to blogs that address lighting concerns.

TEMPERATURE
Your seedlings will grow best with a soil temperature between 68-75 degrees.  Again, a windowsill may provide too much of a temperature swing.  Since our pots are small we have the ability to move the pots to various locations within the house - part of the reason we chose using  packs instead of larger trays!

Remember, one of the reasons for this blog is to show how you as a home gardener without having the advantage of greenhouses or even layered plant trays & lighting systems can do this successfully.

So, take a deep breath, relax and let your little ones grow until we are ready to discuss transplanting.

If you are not a Contributing Member to this blog and have a question, please submit the form at the bottom of the page.  We will try to respond in a reasonable amount of time!

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