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Seed starting experiment...

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Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/24/2011, 11:07 am

As if the hoop house experiment I have going isn't enough to watch, I decided to go completely insane and answer another question of mine...lol.

Yesterday, I couldn't contain myself. I was playing with my transplants and taking them outside to harden them off. Of course, they are a bit "leggy" and flop over easily. I want to get them in the ground asap in hopes the sunshine will repair the damage.

Then, I read that according to my new frost date, accounting for the hoop house protection, I can likely get from STL, MO down to Tulsa, OK, in terms of frosts.....a full zone with similar elevation and topography (sort of). According to that link from the "daveswhatever.whatever" site that shows planting dates, I can plant spinach, peas, and carrots directly outside as of two weeks ago. Well, I'm game! I planted 3 varieties of carrots in the same square, a small row within my designated peas square instead of the whole square, and 3 varieties of spinach in the same square. I want to see if they come up inside the hoops. Of course, it will take time with those soil temps in the mid 40s.
Then, I got to re-reading Mel's book. And, I can't believe how retarded I am! Why don't I just start seeds in a cup of vermiculite, lift the seedlings out, and pop them in the garden? Shoot, even if that doesn't work, I could add a step and take the seedlings and put them in a small jiffy pot until they get their true leaves, then pop them in the garden after hardening them off.

After trying to transfer some babies yesterday, it occured to me that my version of being delicate is still a bit rough. So, I would like to cut out me handling the seedlings as much as possible. I'm like an auto mechanic turned brain surgeon....if you can imagine. I figure, they are only seeds, and I am so close to spring.....I may as well give in and play. I'm just anxious to see which method gets me up and running outside the fastest....I bet on the latter.....Mel's way.

I give myself Three Smacks Up...

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/24/2011, 11:46 am

Leggy Plants: If they are leggy enough to flop over, give them a few extra days of hardening off. Transpiration (water loss through the stems) could kill them if the structure is that weak. Waiting to see who lives and who is a goner is a good idea. Save yourself some time in the long run. If it is early enough (and if you are playing with zones it may well be) you might want to replant seeds using the method you are talking about. Strong seedlings grow faster and produce better. My experience (which counts for nothing) is that the more stressed a seedling is the less the adult plant produces. The plant may survive but not thrive.

Transplants: Carrots and peas have been happier in my garden when I do not transplant them. When I was a new gardener I used to carefully transplant carrots instead of just thinning. (my eyesight was better) I didn't mind that they took a couple of weeks to recover, that gave me my succession planting. They looked fine from the tops but the roots were forked and crooked. Some of them belonged in Ripples "believe it or not"
Peas do not like to be transplanted, though they will recover. The yield never seems as high as direct seeded. My peas are in just because of tradition (western Washington state, zone 7ish). If I was keeping track of last frost dates than I would soak the seed overnight to get it to sprout and plant the sprouted seed (like I do for sweet peas) to give it a head start. The more stress a sprout has to recover from, the lower the yield.

The spinach should be fine, so will Japanese greens if you grow those in your hoop house. Whatever you do, have fun with it.

Debs....who thought that auto mechanics became computer programmers.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/24/2011, 1:45 pm

Funny line to end your post....thanks for helping.

When you say, "plant the sprouted seed" are you referring to Mel's idea? Basically, putting seeds in vermiculite to sprout, then pulling the "ears" asap and sticking directly in the ground? That's the idea I am wanting to try.

Instead of sprouting them indoors and under grow lights and hardening them off, it seems this would be a much better way to go if you are just planting things that can go outside, like spinach or peas, once ground temps warm up. I am thinking of taking advantage of the seed warming mat to sprout cold season veggies. Seems it cuts spinach and lettuce sprouting times in half...or more.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  quiltbea on 2/24/2011, 1:53 pm

BYBirder,
I'd be curious to hear how that experiment works with putting new 'sprouts' right in the ground for earlier harvests.
If you try it, please keep us posted.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/24/2011, 2:35 pm

I'm not sure how Mel does it BYB. What you wrote sounds ok.

I set pea seed on a wet paper towel, roll the towel and wrap it in plastic. 24 hours later (or sometimes 36, I'm easily distracted) I unroll the towel. All swollen seeds and those with a rootlet (looks like a tail curled around a tadpole) I gently plant DO NOT BREAK THE TAIL.

I do this with sweet peas because they have such low germination. I like to let all other peas decide when they are ready to sprout without my intervention (not that I have not wanted to push a season before) because the Creator seems to have designed them to know when the time is right and they are stronger for coming in their own time.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  camprn on 2/24/2011, 2:50 pm

@Lavender Debs wrote:I'm not sure how Mel does it BYB. What you wrote sounds ok.

I set pea seed on a wet paper towel, roll the towel and wrap it in plastic. 24 hours later (or sometimes 36, I'm easily distracted) I unroll the towel. All swollen seeds and those with a rootlet (looks like a tail curled around a tadpole) I gently plant DO NOT BREAK THE TAIL.

I do this with sweet peas because they have such low germination. I like to let all other peas decide when they are ready to sprout without my intervention (not that I have not wanted to push a season before) because the Creator seems to have designed them to know when the time is right and they are stronger for coming in their own time.
+1

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/24/2011, 3:17 pm

Mel actually mentions both methods in addition to presoaking seeds before you plant outdoors or into pots.

Indoor Presprouting on a paper towel just until you see the little roots (no green stem or leaves)and moving to the garden and its final growing square.

Indoor planting the seed in vermiculite and gently moving the new plant by its seed leaves into a new pot. Then when the weather is ok, hardening off the transplant and finally planting in the SFG.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/24/2011, 4:01 pm

My only concern is using 75-80 degree soil temps to sprout the seed in vermiculite and suddenly dropping them in 45-50 degree soil. If I were the seed, I'd be cursing the farmer for doing this to me.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/24/2011, 4:19 pm

BBG wrote: Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:01 pmMy only concern is using 75-80 degree soil temps to sprout the seed in vermiculite and suddenly dropping them in 45-50 degree soil. If I were the seed, I'd be cursing the farmer for doing this to me."

"Indoor planting the seed in vermiculite and gently moving the new plant by its seed leaves into a new pot. Then when the weather is ok, hardening off the transplant and finally planting in the SFG."


Are you warming the soil in the bed they are going to? Use either your hoop house or just cover the bed with plastic so the soil can warm up before you transplant those little babies.

I guess I would be hardening them off before I transplanted into the garden, so then the shock would not be so bad.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Squat_Johnson on 2/24/2011, 4:30 pm

I have been looking into this issue, and it seems that plants like a cool night... I have some very "leggy" seedlings I have started under lights in a warm upstairs room.

I was reading about it here:
http://www.hillgardens.com/seeds-whats-wrong.htm

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Megan on 2/24/2011, 4:31 pm

My seeds started indoors last year almost all failed. I think maybe the light was too far from them? But I also started them in-ground outdoors, and they all did well.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/24/2011, 7:49 pm

Here's myour issues with properly starting seeds inside. There are several factors that apparently lead to legginess.

- Temps.
- Light intensity
- Light duration
- Flucuation in temps, apparently.

I don't know if my lights are intense enough. I don't know if my temps are too hot or too cold. I don't know if I am giving the plants enough "daylight" and "nightfall." And, now I don't know if I should unplug the seed mat at night to allow a simulated nighttime cooling effect. Plenty of things to play with here.

Megan, I am using a hoophouse already. I think I finally have it set up correctly to retain enough heat for my needs. However, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, peas, etc, can all handle soil temps in the 30's, much less the 40s and 50s, right? So, I don't think this is of concern this time of year for my "protected" area. But, my concern was the sudden change in temps from the mid to upper 70s all the way down to the mid to upper 40s almost instantly. I can't imagine that would be a good thing, but I've never tried it, either. And, I haven't yet read anything discussing skipping the hardening off of little seedlings that are missing "true" leaves because they are so young. I don't know if they will be so tender they get shocked, or if they will be so new they won't notice.....that's what I want to know. It may save everyone a step in the process.

I am going to read that link soon, Squat. Thanks for giving it to us. This part, in particular, makes PERFECT sense..."Allowing that level of continued heat after dark, however, stimulates continued growth. . .but, because there's no light, plants "stretch" long and tall, looking for any source of illumination."

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/27/2011, 11:10 am

Since reading that article, and the "warm days; cool nights" part in particular, my seedlings inside have really looked better. I had a 2nd batch of lettuce coming just in time to start unplugging the seed mat at night. My temps swing from 75-79 with the mat on down to 57 with the mat off. And, being so close to the standard flourescent lighting (which I think the article said was too weak), they have really responded and stopped stretching near as I can tell. (Yesterday, I accidentally splashed some with the water. The water really rocked the seedlings and they just bounced right back up. My others would have done the old lady from the 80s.....I've fallen and I can't get up.)

I think the "warm stimulating growth" part is something a lot of us underestimate if we leave our seed mats on 24/7. And, when the lights go off, the seeds are still reaching for the skies, but with greater intensity....trying to find any light they can at 3am.

I have a few pictures prepared, but will post them when I get the time to update things a little more thoroughly.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/2/2011, 2:13 pm

Not a seed sprouted yet in the HH; however, spinach, cauli, and broccoli just popped up today in the vermiculite cups inside. Time to stick them in an adjacent square and see what happens. I will wait for them to have fully formed "ears" and get them in the next day.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/4/2011, 12:18 pm

Seeds in the vermiculite cups sprouted 2 days ago. That was during a time I could not tend to the garden, so I let their "ears" get stronger.

Today, I put them in the garden. You would be amazed at a spinach plant's taproot in a cup of vermiculite. They seem healthy, and have sprouted much faster than if I had planted outdoors in 48-50 degree soil. Now, we hope they "take."

Along with the spinach went broccoli and cauliflower. I may try this with lettuce and carrots. I may also do this inside with tomatoes and peppers. But, after the toms and pepps startup, I would uppot them into 4 inch pots with a potting mix and tend to them inside for a few weeks before hardening off.

FYI, my first broccoli and cauliflower starts (started in peat pellets and kept there for 4 weeks) are looking great after being in the garden just a week.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/8/2011, 1:44 pm

Here is a little update on the experiment...

I have now put broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and carrots into the garden from the vermiculite cups. Everything was easy to transplant. And, so far, everything is doing fine after several days. No hardening off....just right into the MM.

I have a tray of lettuce started now, too. Very simple. Instead of cups, though, I am now using small baking pans. I punch holes in the bottom, lay a paper towel in the bottom (because the holes were a little larger than I wanted), and spread about an inch of vermiculite in the pan. Water thoroughly and sprinkle in the seeds. Cover with a thin layer of dry vermiculite. Wait. Once the seed ears are showing, give another day or so. Then, pull gently on the ears and possibly use a pencil to loosen the vermiculite, and plant directly in the garden. Done.



I can't wait to get tomatoes and peppers started this way. I will put them directly into 4 inch pots of potting soil, and when ready, they will go into the garden from there. Only one uppot move. Couldn't be simpler so far.

PS....I am also reusing the vermiculite. With no nutritional value to deplete, there is no reason to refresh my tray. A bag of this stuff will likely last forever.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  Furbalsmom on 3/8/2011, 3:28 pm

BYBG, love the baking pan with popcicle stick dividers/tags

For your tomatoes, you might want to use a deeper container with a deeper layer of vermiculite. My tomato seedlings in vermiculite had 2 1/2 in roots by the time the seeds leaves opened to make ears.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/8/2011, 4:00 pm

Thanks for the tip. I noticed that with spinach, but didn't think anything of it.

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/9/2011, 8:33 am

Last year I used the Popsicle sticks, but they just did not work, the writing faded, and the stick got nasty and disintegrated. This year I am using old vinyl mini blinds for markers and grids-LOVE IT. I cut the grids 2" longer than the box, and stick the excess into the ground so I don't have to get u-steaks right away to hold them in place on windy days. I think I got the idea from Middlemamma. I'm also happy with the way the cut blinds for steaks are working out!

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  nancy on 3/9/2011, 10:42 am

I tried the blinds last year and by the end of summer, I couldn't read them at all - the ink had faded. So this year I will try again, but will cover with clear nail polish, or perhaps will paint the names on them. What did you use to write the names of plants?

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Re: Seed starting experiment...

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/9/2011, 11:02 am

For now I am using regular sharpies. I was at the Dollar Store, and the keeper of the checkbook was with me, so regular sharpies was better than nothing. Model-A-Man (here on the forum) said he found some Industrial Sharpies and has had great success with them.

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