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Starting seeds in vermiculite?

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Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  sgeades on 4/10/2010, 2:41 am

In Mel's newest book he suggests that we start seeds in vermiculite. I have a friend who says she always starts hers directly in the mels mix in the 4 packs and puts the dome on top. The local nursery says it's best not to start seeds in compost, so now I'm confused what really is the best as well as easiest.

I've started many seeds in vermiculite and followed the directions but I've had mixed results. Only some of them are sprouting but others of the same kind have sat there for a month and done nothing.

How do you all start your seeds and why does Mel suggest we start them there?

Thanks!
Shelly in Utah

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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/10/2010, 8:43 am

My favourite nursery starts some seeds in vermiculite only and some in a peat/ vermiculite mix. I'm not sure the difference and which seeds he starts in each. I started by using a commercial seed starting mix and had good germination results except it dried out so easily and was difficult to re-hydrate. I then switched to Mel's mix with an extra handful of vermiculite mixed in and had great results and the pots didn't dry out so fast.

Have no idea why not to use compost except possibly the danger of introducing some kind a pathogen if the compost isn't completely finished working.

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Re: Starting seeds in Vermiculite?

Post  Momma Pajama on 4/10/2010, 9:10 am

Honestly, I felt a little unsure about starting seeds in vermiculite only, so I tried a compromise. I started a bunch of mixed salad lettuce seeds by filling a plastic grocery pie box with one inch of vermiculite, then covered it with one inch of Mel's Mix. I grew about 30 starts, after I thinned out a few for spacing.

When the starts were ready to transplant, it was super easy to scoop out the individual plants because, under the surface soil, the roots came out easily from the vermiculite underneath, and I was able to transplant long, healthy roots without breakage.

Good luck, Shelly!
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  pattipan on 4/10/2010, 10:12 am

I've started all my seed this year in vermiculite using Mel's method. Germination rate was almost 100%. I used small 1/2 lb. margarine containers, cut a small hole in the bottom, filled with vermiculite and set it in a shallow bowl. Then I added water to the bowl and let the vermiculite soak it up until I could see that no more water was being taken up. Sprinkled on the seeds, covered with a thin layer of vermiculite and then spritzed it with water. Covered it with plastic wrap and set it on top my freezer (which is in my kitchen).

As soon as I saw that some seeds had sprouted I took the plastic off. When they had their first leaves I used a chopstick (instead of the pencil) and transferred them to flats filled with Mel's Mix. I even trimmed some roots as suggested in the book. It was amazing how fast it went!

I've started a flat (48 plants) of WV Centennial heirloom tomatoes (for me and for family), 12 Opalka paste tomatoes, three different kinds of peppers, eggplant, Swiss chard, Italian parsley and a half dozen Early tomatoes (bonus seed from tomatogrowers.com). They are all doing well! Tomatoes almost have their third set of leaves now. The only one I'm not sure about is the Italian parsley -- the plants look puny. I may end up buying that at the greenhouse.

There's no rule on how you start your seed, you can experiment with several different methods and see what works for you. For me though, Mel's method worked fine!

Patti
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  smriti on 3/26/2013, 5:38 pm

This is the first time I'm starting from seeds and I decided to follow Mel's instructions to do it using Vermiculite. It's been 5 days and only the bush beans have started sprouting. I have - tomatoes, spinach, squash, marigold, beans, oregano and basil. Should I be worried?

I've lightly covered the containers with plastic wrap, didn't close them completely so that air could flow. Also I've them on my kitchen counter top which is probably the same temperature as the rest of my house except when I'm cooking. Do I need to keep them in a warm place?
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  mapspringer on 3/26/2013, 6:29 pm

Back in the day, I used to germinate seeds of a variety that I hoped mom 'n dad never found Razz, and did so simply in a soaking wet, rolled-up paper towel left in a little paper cup. Well, it worked every time. They never got transplanted... it was only for fun. This year all my seeds were started in soil blocks from last year's Mel's Mix. I know you probably shouldn't take it from outside because of insects, etc., but my starts are growing beautifully (after being up-potted with even more Mel's mix from the outside box.)
So, I really don't think the medium for germination matters, but depends more on moisture level and warmth.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  donnainzone5 on 3/26/2013, 6:39 pm

Moisture level + warmth + light, I'd say.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  quiltbea on 3/26/2013, 8:32 pm

I use a seed starting mix particularly for soil blocks and it has some fertilizer and compost in it, but not much fertilizer. Others use MM for their blocks. In both cases there's lots of perlite or vermiculite and peat in it to keep the soil light weight.
New seeds don't need much food since they get most of their starting energy from their seed pod.
If you read the bag of commercial seed starting mix, you'll see there's very little to feed the plant.
If started in an inert medium like pure vermiculite, once it germinates I would think you'd have to add some diluted fish emulsion or some compost or MM to whatever soil its transplanted into to give it some energy to begin growing.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  jjc on 3/26/2013, 8:54 pm

@Retired Member 1 wrote:My favourite nursery starts some seeds in vermiculite only and some in a peat/ vermiculite mix. I'm not sure the difference and which seeds he starts in each. I started by using a commercial seed starting mix and had good germination results except it dried out so easily and was difficult to re-hydrate. I then switched to Mel's mix with an extra handful of vermiculite mixed in and had great results and the pots didn't dry out so fast.

Have no idea why not to use compost except possibly the danger of introducing some kind a pathogen if the compost isn't completely finished working.
Are you saying that you only used the modified MM to start the seeds, then transplanted them in 4 packs with straight MM or put the modified stuff right in the 4 packs and let them grow? jjc
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  pattipan on 3/26/2013, 10:37 pm

@smriti wrote:This is the first time I'm starting from seeds and I decided to follow Mel's instructions to do it using Vermiculite. It's been 5 days and only the bush beans have started sprouting. I have - tomatoes, spinach, squash, marigold, beans, oregano and basil. Should I be worried?

I've lightly covered the containers with plastic wrap, didn't close them completely so that air could flow. Also I've them on my kitchen counter top which is probably the same temperature as the rest of my house except when I'm cooking. Do I need to keep them in a warm place?

I don't think I'd be worried yet, but I might try to find a warmer place for them to sprout. I've only started tomatoes and peppers so far and I set them on top my upright freezer. Most of the tomatoes started sprouting after only three days, but the peppers took 5 to 6 days.

I am just now getting ready to put the tomatoes in flats of 6-packs. I made a mixture of half vermiculite and half Mel's Mix. They'll grow in these flats until they get at least two sets of leaves and then I transplant them into larger deeper pots/containers. My last frost date in around May 15, so there will be plenty of time to harden them off before they go into the SFG.

Your seed packets should give you an idea of of germination times. I've never started squash or beans indoors, but they are warm weather crops, so I'm sure they would love a little more heat. I always direct sow these when the all danger of frost is over and the night temps are warmer. Beans & squash don't usually like to be transplanted, so handle with care if you do. Try to disturb the roots as little as possible. Perhaps someone who is closer or in your growing zone can give you some tips too.

Let us know how it "grows" for you. Smile
pattipan
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  smriti on 3/27/2013, 11:46 am

Thanks for all the tips everybody! I'll try to find a warm place for them.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  smriti on 3/27/2013, 11:47 am

donnainzone10 wrote:Moisture level + warmth + light, I'd say.

Do you mean they should get light or they shouldn't? I thought I read that they should be in a dark place till they germinate and then they need light.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  quiltbea on 3/27/2013, 11:56 am

When starting seed nothing needs light except lettuce seeds (and some flowers). The rest germinate just fine in the dark.
Once they pop up, they should go under the lights.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  plantoid on 3/28/2013, 7:34 am

Pssst ! Laughing Wink
Celery and almost all other very fine dust type seeds such as some flowers don't need covering with earth /vermiculite or sand etc either.
Not all of them will do very well in moist fine vermiculite either

Some like celery do benefit from a shaded translucent light cover over them for 21 days or so till germination has taken place & seem to propagate better in lightly pressed down moist seed raising peat .
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  jjc on 3/29/2013, 8:50 pm

I'm a little concerned about the amount of moisture left in the vermiculite as the container I used has a lot of openings in the bottom for air circulation and probably drainage. I used a clear strawberry container filled it up some with vermiculite, sprinkled tomato and pepper seeds on top, put a thin layer of ver. on top, put water in the tray the container was sitting in and let it soak up, then covered it with the clear cover. I did mist the top after and then replaced the cover. It has been sitting under a grow light at 14 hours on and 10 off in the basement where the wood stove is running so it is warm. I did put some more water in the tray a couple of days ago to let some more soak in and then I empty the tray so there is no excess. My wife is concerned that it is just not holding the moisture because of the many air circulation holes in the bottom of the strawberry container but the ver. is covering those holes. The cover is also not very snug and being near the wood stove may be an issue because of the apparent lack of moisture.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  quiltbea on 3/30/2013, 9:42 am

jjc....I don't do mine like you do, but I think the tops of your trays may need to be misted a few times a day, especially with dry heat so close by. Its the seeds that need the moisture so the tops should be kept moist. The bottoms being moist doesn't help at all since there's nothing down there (no roots) to take advantage of it.
Moisten the tops IMHO.
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  smriti on 4/1/2013, 5:11 pm

jjc - what if you keep the containers in a water bath so that vermiculite can pull water as and when it needs? I had some seeds in yogurt cups (with holes in the bottom) and I kept them in a bigger clear container that had some water. Seemed to have worked for me. I never needed to mist my tops.

Most of my seeds seemed to have germinated. Waiting on basil and oregano, hopefully they'll also germinate soon. Thanks for the tips everybody!
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  plantoid on 4/1/2013, 8:58 pm

If you soak the feet of the vermiculite filled tubs in water all the time the capillary action brings up too much water and it frequently drowns the seeds , most of those that survive to germinate soon get damped off and die as well


Mother nature knows best ... pretend you are she ..... soak it let it, dry off a bit and then repeat the exercise for best results.. Wink
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Re: Starting seeds in vermiculite?

Post  jimmy cee on 4/1/2013, 9:45 pm

I started some seeds in yogurt cups (pictured here in series)
I've been keeping the tray where water is visible on the bottom allowing vermiculite, then re potting same cups to be watered.
As smriti mentioned that worked for him as it is for me.
Only difference is I cut the bottom out completely, placed teflon scrubbing pad on the top where a lip will keep it in place.

Doing it this way will allow the plant to slide out of the bottom for replanting.



Bottom plants have been removed from vermiculite, repotted with potting soil,
using a small amount of fish fertilizer..
I have yet to transplant these, however they will need to be removed before they become to large..
Anyone know what to do with the left over vermiculite ??
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