Seed starting isn't all that difficult. However, anxiety runs high when you talk to a lot of growers about it. Timing is one reason for this. You want to get your plants into the ground with enough time left to maximize the growing season before your weigh-off. Another reason is the potential loss of a precious seed. If care is not taken while starting your seeds they may not germinate. It is also possible that even with the utmost care, a seed will not germinate anyway.
Once you have selected the seeds you are going to germinate you will want to assemble all of the materials necessary. There are a few methods to germinate your seeds. This article will illustrate starting a seed in a peat pot.
- 4” or larger peat pot
- Elastic band
- Craft stick or paint stirring stick
- Some type of file
- Sterile potting soil
- A heat source
- A sheet of plastic wrap
- Drip tray
A Word About Temperature
Seeds should be able to maintain a temperature of 80 – 90 degrees F. If the room temperature in your area is below this, as is the case in New England, you will need to heat your seeds. You can use the top of a computer monitor, TV, or refrigerator as a source of this heat. Another common option is a propagation mat. This convenient electric heating mat will provide bottom heat to your pots. Care should be taken not to exceed 90 degrees; if you do… bad things will happen.
To provide all of the moisture possible, the peat pot should be filled with sterile potting mix and soaked with water. Excess water should be allowed to drain. Then place the pot in a drip pan and onto your heating source. This will allow the soil to come up to temperature.
To give your seeds a head start, their edges can be filed with a file. This will weaken the edges of the seed casing and allow the water to be absorbed more readily. The seedling will be better able to shed the casing if it is filed as well. A lot of people ask how much should you file. This is difficult to explain. The best thing you could do is practice with some extra seeds. Images 3 and 4 below should give you an idea of what to look for. It is important to leave the point of the seed intact. Do not file the point, this is where the root will emerge, and you don’t want to take a chance in damaging it. All other edges should be filed. Care should be taken when filing around the point, if you slip the results can be seen in image 5.
Once the seeds are filed, they should be soaked in luke warm water for 2 - 6 hours. They can then be placed into their peat pots.
Your freshly filed and soaked seeds should be placed one to a peat pot into the soil. They should be pushed an inch below the surface and covered over. Do not pack the soil - try to keep it loose. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the peat pot and secure in place with a rubber band. This will keep as much moisture in the peat pot as possible. Label a craft stick with the seed you are growing and secure to the outside of the pot with the rubber band. Return the pot to the heat source.
Now the waiting begins. After a couple of days, you will notice the soil begin to crack. This is from the seed beginning to poke through. Once this occurs, you may remove the seed from the heat source and discard the plastic wrap. At this time it may need a drink of water. Plastic spray bottles will deliver the water to the seed without disturbing the soil. If too much water is applied, the soil will give way to the seed and it will pop up, floating to the top of your puddle. Slow and steady is the game plan here.
If you have questions or alternative seed starting approaches please visit the Seed Starting message board.