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Lessons Learned from a First Timer

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Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  BrotherNorm on 3/9/2012, 9:24 am

I think I'm at the point where I can post my first set of lessons learned since I've started my SFG adventure. First, not only am I new to SFG but I'm brand new to gardening as well; and so far everything has been a good learning experience. This site and the SFG book have been a huge help but there's no substitute for experience.

So without further ado.....

Seed Germination and up potting:

I read a number of different threads about the subject and the different methods. The method I settled on was germinating in vermiculite on a heat mat then after the seed ears came out up potting in the appropriate medium and placing under lights.

Beefsteak Tomatoes: I think I waited too long to up pot. By the time the seed ears showed themselves the plants were pretty leggy and after the up pot they promptly fell over. Not all of them but enough to make me think I should start more seeds germinating so I have enough plants for my garden plan. I read the package and it said to up pot as soon as they sprout. I'll try this advice for my next batch.

I also got to thinking of a thread I read here where one person fills the cow pots with planting medium then tops it off with vermiculite (wet) puts the seed(s) on and covers with dry vermiculite. This method combines two different methods and forgoes having to move the seedling. I think I might try this and see how it works out.

Brandywine Tomatoes: Not much to say on these yet. My first sprout just popped up this morning so the others should be following soon. I was starting to get worried since its been a week since I started everything and these were the only ones not showing themselves. I did a little research last night and learned that these take at least 7-14 days to germinate so in actuality they're right on time.

Swiss Chard:
Soak the seeds.....these seeds are like little armor platted BBs. I didn't soak them first and if I did they probably would have germinated quicker. That being said I have up potted about nine seedlings and they all seem to be doing well. Sturdy little buggers. I put in about 15 seeds altogether so I'm hoping a few more will germinate.

Chadwick Cherry Tomatoes: These sprouts are pretty delicate so one has to handle with care. I up potted three seedlings last night and I have one more still germinating. Out of the three I up potted one looks iffy. I'll see what happens through the weekend and if need me I'll start a few more germinating.

I think that about covers it for now.....

Cheers,


BrotherNorm

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  BrotherNorm on 3/9/2012, 9:04 pm

UPDATE:

Well, I don't know what happened but just about everything that I up potted has died within the last day. Even the Swiss chard which just this morning were all standing nice and tall. Nothing else has germinated even though I know there are more seeds in the vermiculite.

I'm not convinced that germinating seeds in V then up potting is the way to go for me. I'll look for a different method.

Tomorrow, I'll restart everything from scratch and see what happens.

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  arla on 3/9/2012, 10:38 pm

Sounds like you're having as much luck as I am in seed germination, planted a ton a month back and the only thing that sprouted was the radishes!

I was using some little circle things I got with some seed trays, I'm really hoping my Spaghetti Squash germinates (planted that a week back in MM) because my wife and I love those things.



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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  dsfin on 3/9/2012, 11:02 pm

Brother Norm,

I think you're Up Potting too soon.

You want to wait until after the first "true leaves" have formed before Up Potting. Note: the first "true leaves" are NOT the "first" leaves. There is another set of leaves that appear first, they are called the Cotyledon leaves. I think these are what you are calling "seed ears". The cotyledon leaves provide the first food for the sprout that has just emerged. The first "true leaves" appear later!!!

Once all the sprouting is done, move them OFF the heat mat within a few days but keep them under lights (lights need to be up close to the tops of the seedlings). Some also use a fan to provide extra air movement across the seedling. Doing these things will help your new seedlings be sturdier and stay shorter (not tall and spindly).

After the "true leaves" develop, you'll want to give them some nutrients. Use an organic liquid feed at HALF strength. Full strength is too strong and can burn them. If you are still seeing your seedlings are stretching, try getting them to cooler. temperature.

Example (Tomato): germinate at 70*F to 75*F. After sprouting they should be at no more than 70*F. After they form first "true leaves" you can lower temps to 65*F. No lower than that though, maters don't like it too cold and it can stunt them if extreme cold temps are applied.

Then I wouldn't up pot for at least another week or so. On your next batch of seeding, when your seedlings are close to being ready to up pot, try up potting some earlier and others a little latter (spread it out). Trying that will help give you a better feel for when it's the right time to up pot.

After you up pot keep the lights on them if you still can, and temps reasonable. Continue with HALF strength feed until the plants have established their roots in the new larger pot (a week or two). Then go FULL strength on the feed after that. You can stop feeding with liquid feed when they're transplanted into Mel's Mix (let the compost do its work).

Hope that helps!!

---Dave

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  Lindacol on 3/9/2012, 11:18 pm

BrotherNorm, sorry about your seedlings. It sounds like damping off. Do a search & you will find several threads on it.

I started my seeds in vermiculite for the 1st time this year and so far they are doing fine. Mostly I up potted with they have the first seed leaves. Mine are in yogurt cups with holes in the sides for air pruning and one or two on the bottom. My mixture for up potting is vermiculite and peat moss with maybe 10-20% worm castings. Seems to be working well. I started hardening off the largest 5, a cucumber and I think the rest were tomaotes yesterday and left them outside last night. One of the toms was wilted over this morning - thought it was a goner but I gave it a drink and put it on the heaing pad & under the lights. An hour later it had sprung back to normal. The other 4 are spending the night out again and I hope they can go in the garden this week.
After I up pot, I only water from the bottom, setting the pots in a tray with an inch or so of water for an hour or so about every other day seems right.
My only spindly seedlings are my chard and kale but that is most likely because I haven't up potted them like I have all the others.

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  BrotherNorm on 3/10/2012, 7:43 am

Thanks for the tips everyone. Today I'm going to give it another go. I do have a light set up and fan. I'll post some pic's later of the rig I made up. It's actually pretty cool if I say so myself...

Anyways, with regards to the beefsteak seedling I guess what threw me is the fact that the sprouts grew to about two inches tall so I figured it was time to up pot them, that and the fact that the package said to do so as soon as they sprout.

I'm actually going to try two different methods to see which I have the best luck with then post the results.

Later....

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  quiltbea on 3/10/2012, 12:48 pm

I move my little sprouts under the lights when they germinate, but don't up-pot them til they get their first 'true leaves' or get too big for their roots system, at which time I think they need the space. I do mine in soil blocks but cover with fine vermiculite when I first put the seed in the soil block. Always start more than you think you'll need due to losses or some not germinating at all.



On the left, up-potted into 2" soil blocks, are cabbage and Arugula. On the right the tiny 3/4" mini-blocks of cabbage, broccoli. cauliflower, arugula and Tokyo bekana with the germinated seeds still without 'true' leaves so not ready to up-pot quite yet. If the little plant seems too large for its little soil block and looks healthy, I'll up-pot them also but by then I know they are strong and will live. I water from the bottom when they are under the lights to help prevent 'damping off."

You'll get the idea when you've tried it a few times. If early batches don't make it, just start new ones. You'll find what works best for you eventually. Good luck.

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Updated with Pictures

Post  BrotherNorm on 3/13/2012, 9:55 am

Time for another seed starting update. On the Saturday morning after the mass extinction of my seedlings I start a new round like I said I would. And I also am trying two different methods to determine which works best for me.

As an interesting aside, I was rereading the New SFG book and Mel takes a differing opinion as to when you should move the sprouted seedlings from the V into a pot with a given medium. I don't have the book in front of me but it's in the 'starting seeds indoors' section somewhere around page 122 if I remember correctly. Anyways he advocates moving the seedlings from the V as soon as they sprout.

This is not to say that the advice I was given here is wrong but it does speak to the varying methods folks employ and what works for them.

As for the two different methods I'm using. The first is a tray of V that many here are so familiar with. The second is cow pots filled most of the way with BM8, then I pre-wet the MB8 in the cow pot, add about an inch of moist to wet V, add the seed(s) then top it off with a layer of dry V. I put both trays on the heat mat.

The seeds in the tray of V started to sprout first, on Monday actually. The seeds in the cow pots have not started to sprout yet (as of this morning). I attribute this to the fact that it will take longer for those to warm up compared to and inch or two of V. I'm confident that they will sprout. As soon as they do my plan is to move them under the light.

Now for some pic's:




This is my seed starting area. The heat mat is on the bottom. The light is on top as you can see and the shelf is adjustable. The side were made like ladders and the shelf hooks in on the ends holding everything in place. Overall it works like a herd of turtles.



A close up......




Method number 2. Cups and trays with BM8, wet V, seeds and finally dry V ready for the heat mat.

That about wraps it up. I'll update when it's time to move the seedlings from the V. Actually I may post a few pic's to get an opinion of their readiness....

Cheers:

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Keep Trying

Post  CharlesB on 3/13/2012, 11:53 am

You'll find what works for you setup.

Everyone has differences in their setup. Different humidity, temps, air flow, etc. You'll see what they like after trying some variations.

Good luck.

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  WolfHeart on 3/21/2012, 6:01 pm

@quiltbea wrote:I move my little sprouts under the lights when they germinate, but don't up-pot them til they get their first 'true leaves' or get too big for their roots system, at which time I think they need the space. I do mine in soil blocks but cover with fine vermiculite when I first put the seed in the soil block. Always start more than you think you'll need due to losses or some not germinating at all.



On the left, up-potted into 2" soil blocks, are cabbage and Arugula. On the right the tiny 3/4" mini-blocks of cabbage, broccoli. cauliflower, arugula and Tokyo bekana with the germinated seeds still without 'true' leaves so not ready to up-pot quite yet. If the little plant seems too large for its little soil block and looks healthy, I'll up-pot them also but by then I know they are strong and will live. I water from the bottom when they are under the lights to help prevent 'damping off."

You'll get the idea when you've tried it a few times. If early batches don't make it, just start new ones. You'll find what works best for you eventually. Good luck.

How exactly do you up pot a 3/4" block into a 2" block? and then after the 2" block do you then put them in their solo cups?

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

Post  quiltbea on 3/21/2012, 6:21 pm

Wolfheart: (love the name by the way) The 2" midi soil blocks have a square right in the middle that's a perfect fit for the mini 3/4" blocks to drop down into. No shoving.

I either up-pot the 2" ones into 16-oz solo air-pruning cups or into 2-litre air-pruning soda bottles, depending on how big I expect them to get before they go outdoors.

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Re: Lessons Learned from a First Timer

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