This post is a continuation of Part I. This post focuses on seed germination popularly known as seed starting. Seed germination is the process of sprouting of a seed and beginning of growth. A seed germinates when the environment around is conducive this includes temperature, light levels etc.. When the environment is not favorable for the seed to sprout, it simply waits. This waiting period is called period of Dormancy.
As gardeners, our job is to gently wake up the seed and remind it of its job!. Sounds like a piece of cake? You’ll see!.
You might be reading this because, you may want to sow some seeds and wanted some info or you have already sowed them and can’t wait to see them sprouting. In any case, you will not be disappointed, read on.
Before jumping into seed starting for a kitchen garden,, one need to decide a) What are we going to sow and where? b) Is it the right time of the year for that vegetable c) Will the vegetable grow where you live?. This might involve some googling or watch this blog. First week of every month I will be posting what can be sown that month.
Once you have decided the vegetable you can go ahead and start your seeds.
For seed starting, you need the following.
- Seed starting mix
- Seed starting tray/flat or a pot.
- Seed labels ( optional if you have super memory)
- A polythene wrap and a rubber band.
- A Marker.
Seed starting mix:
This can be soil based or soilless. To make a soilless mix, you can simply use
- plain coco peat, Or plain perlite or plain vermiculite
- Mixture of perlite and coco peat. and vermiculite Or
- Fine topsoil free from fungus or any insects.
- Sand. Or
- Tissue paper ( Surprised?)
- Take the seed starting medium which could be any of the ones listed above in your seed starting tray or pot.
- Ensure, the tray has very good drainage and is free from any insect eggs or fungus.
- Make the seed starting medium moist. It should not be very wet but just enough moisture. When you squeeze the medium in your palm, the clump that forms should stay in tact when you open your hand. If it is little more moist, don’t worry, just make sure the container has good drainage.
- Now, fill your tray with medium till an inch from the top brim. The depth of the tray must be atleast 2 inches. It helps if it is deeper the roots dont get pot bound.
- Gently compact the surface to make sure it is flat.
It should look something like this. This tray you see is 10” X 9” X 4”. I found this in a plastic recycle shop. Works like a charm.
- Now it is time to sow the seeds. Here you need to see one more thing. How it has to be sown? Few seeds need light to germinate and few needs to be covered ( darkness to germinate). Oh My god.. I don’t know if it needs light or not ? now what do i do? No worries. Just point your browser to this beautiful website. In this site, you get all the information necessary for seed starting a vegetable. Happy?
- You have the seed starting tray filled with media ready. You can either make furrows and place the seeds in the furrows and cover them with soil or just place the seeds on the surface and just press them a little deeper with dibber or your little finger.. Make sure the seed doesnt stick with your finger and comes back to you when you lift it. ;). It should look like below. A depth of 0.5 cm is just fine for tomatoes and its relatives like chilly, eggplant, pepper etc.
- Once the sowing is complete, simply cover the surface with a polythene cover and keep it in a bright location but away from direct sunlight. A balcony would be fine. Watering is not necessary till germination happens. The cover will hold the moisture in.
- Keep checking the tray for signs of germination. A small hook will show up first and then the cotyledons. When you see a sprout, remove the cover off the tray and keep the tray in a place where it gets good light. IMPORTANT: Any delay in keep them in a well lit place during this phase of its growth will cause seedlings to become tall, thin and spindly. They won’t make good yielders.
Here is a food parcel container hosting a few pepper seeds.
NOTE:I am posting pics of different veggie seedlings so that you get a general idea.
- Now the seedlings are germinated, you are excited. But hang on, the game is not over yet. In fact it is the beginning
- As said above, keep them in a place that receives good sunlight. Gradually expose them to direct sunlight starting from few minutes the first day and then increasing day by day.
- Do not let the media go dry. Any stress and this point of its growth is irrecoverable. The idea is to keep the media moist all the time. So dont let it dry and dont overwater either.
- Water them with a half strength fertilizer. If organic, use compost tea otherwise use any complete water soluble fertilizer.(Use as per directions on the fertilizer label).
- Keep the environment where the seedlings are kept, dry and airy. If not fungus might develop causing damp-off which can be very frustrating.
Here is how the seedlings look once they germinate.
Here is a pot that contains cabbage seedlings that just germinated.
You can also grow seedlings in cups like this.
The picture you see below is that of Okra( Ladies Finger). The top 4 of them are healthy seedlings and the bottom 2 are affected by Damping-off. You can see the weakened point in the stem that simply gives in. Damping off is caused by a fungus.
Damping off ( Close up):
Damping off can be prevented in many different ways, including germination in dryer conditions with better air circulation, starting seedlings in sterilized soil, and/or using a fungicide for this purpose, either a commercial one or a homemade solution, such as one made garlic.
Trichoderma is a beneficial fungi and is used as a bio fungicide. It is used for seed and soil treatment for suppression of various diseases caused by fungus
Transplanting is when you move the seedling into its more permanent place for it to grow and produce yield. The target place can be a container or on the ground directly. Here we will focus on container only.
- Select a container that is large enough to grow the transplant you are planting. Typically tomatoes, eggplant need 20L containers. Cabbage and chilly can do with 10L approx.
- Take a container that has good drainage.
- Choose a soil mix that has good amount of organic matter and rich in nutrients. Add a handful of bonemeal to the potting mix when you transplant.
- Few plants can be planted more deeper ( burying a part of stem) and some have to be transplanted with their crown ( place where its stem connects with soil) at the soil surface.
- Plant the transplant in the container and slightly compact the soil so that the plant anchors well.
- Always transplant either early in the morning or in the evening.
- Do NOT keep the container in direct full sunlight immediately after the transplant.
- Water them with plain water after you are done with transplanting.
A typical plant ready for transplant will look like below.
seedlings ready for transplant. ( Actually. Late by a week).
If you are growing in cell trays then your transplants might look like the ones below. A Capsicum transplant.
These pictures are to help you identify the stage at which a plant can be transplanted.
While I tried my level best to include much of the information related to seed starting, I might have missed something important that needs to coverage.
As always I welcome comments/suggestions.
Happy seed starting!