I came across these set of FAQ's regarding seed starting ....Felt this might be of some help ....
Faq / Help
Q. Why do my seeds germinate and then make no more growth?
A. Seedlings make their initial growth from the energy contained within the seed itself. After that stored energy is used up, the seedling must begin to make its own food. In order for the seedling to function it needs to have access to plant nutrients. Young seedlings can be regularly watered with a soluble fertiliser
Q. Why are my seedlings leggy and too tall?
A. This is usually an indication of too little light. Move seedlings into a position with better light, or outside if they are indoors. Thin out the seedlings if they are crowded.
Q. Why are my Sweet Peas not flowering?
A. Sweet peas need to grow in a full sun position.Addition of too much Nitrogen based fertiliser encourages leaf growth but not flowers. Some sweet peas are 'long-day' varieties that don't flower until later in spring.
Q. Why aren't my seeds germinating?
A. Over-watering is the main cause of seed failure for most types of seeds. Seeds need water and oxygen to germinate, so are best started in a light, loose soil that will not compact, get soggy, or crust over. Free flow of water & air are a must. Cover seed with 2 – 4 times their thickness of soil, unless they require light to germinate. Barely cover small seed, and sprinkle fine seed on the surface and water by misting. Lightly tamp soil to insure good contact with the seed, unless heavy. Keep soil moist, not soggy, and do not allow to dry out. Common causes of failure are soil too heavy, wet or cold, or allowed to dry out, not giving slow seeds long enough to come up, pests eating the seeds or seedlings, and not giving dormant seeds the proper pretreatment. Careful attention to the instructions in the catalog and on the packet will help ensure good results.
Q. Which seeds need darkness to germinate?
A. Calendula, Delphinium, Gazania, Pansy, Phacelia, Phlox, Salpiglossis, Sweet Pea, Vinca, Viola, Coriander, Parsley.
Q. What does it mean when the seed packet has stamped on it "Caution treated with Thiram. Do not use for food, feed or oil"?
A. This means that the seeds in this particular pack should not be eaten because they have been coated with a thin slurry of fungicide. The fungicide breaks down rapidly in the soil and does not have any effect on the resulting plant.
Q. Why are my dwarf beans climbing?
A. Continuous dull cloudy weather or growing in less than full sun can cause this problem. Cut off the long shoots and the plants will stop climbing when the sun comes out again.
Q. Why hasn't my plant flowered? It has lots of beautiful leaves and looks very healthy?
A. The soil may contain too much nitrogen relative to the other nutrients.
Q. When I spread dry fertilizer around my garden the plants ended up all turning brown on the edges. Why?
A. Dry fertilizers contain a high proportion of soluble nitrogen that will take water from the nearest plant if there is insufficient moisture in the soil. Always water dry fertilizer immediately after application.
Q. Why is it best not to fertilize in winter?
A. Most plants grow predominantly during the warmer months of the year. This is when they require both moisture and nutrients for growth. During winter, when there is no or minimal plant growth, plants require little or no nutrients, therefore it is unnecessary and also wasteful to fertilizer in winter.
Q. How should I care for plants in pots?
A. Use a quality potting mix. Soil in pots forms what is termed a 'perched water table' which holds excess moisture within the root system. Potting mix gives guaranteed drainage. Never allow the base of a pot to sit in water. Plants in containers should always be regularly fed with a controlled release fertilizer because potting mix, as it decomposes, uses up nitrogen within the mix
Q. How do I work with potting mix safely?
A. Potting mixes, just like garden soil, may contain micro-organisms that can cause respiratory illnesses. It's important to follow all the safety instructions, which include wearing a dust mask, gloves, and to always wash your hands after handling potting mix or garden soil.
Some points to remember before sowing seeds.
No matter how small or how large your garden, satisfaction and pleasure can be achieved from growing your own plants and raising healthy seedlings from seed. This is not difficult, if a few simple steps are followed. Remember that seeds are living things and need careful handling and storage.
Seed life is adversely affected by excessive humidity and temperature and this is why many seeds, particularly those sold in warmer areas, are sold in airtight foil containers inside the normal color packets.
The three important factors to be considered when germinating seeds are sowing depth, soil moisture and soil temperature.
• Depends on the size of the seed.
• Fine seed should be barely covered.
• Medium-sized seed may be planted to a depth of about 6mm.
• Larger seeds are planted more deeply. Peas and beans, for example, may be planted 25mm deep.
Seeds that need light
• Some tiny seeds need to be contacted by light for germination to occur. Examples are begonias, impatiens, petunias, primulas and coleus.
• Press these into the surface of moist seed raising mix.
• Cover with plastic wrap or glass.
• Keep in bright shade.
• Water by misting with fine spray or immersing the base of the container in a tray of water.
• Varieties: Ageratum, alyssum, antirrhinum, aquilegia, begonia, campanula, coleus, feverfew, impatiens, petunia, primula, salvia, stock, lettuce.
Seeds that need dark
Seeds have differing moisture requirements.
• Some seeds need to be totally protected from light. Examples are violas, pansies and nasturtiums.
• Cover with a sheet of newspaper or cardboard. Remove after germination.
• Varieties: Calendula, cornflower, delphinium, forget-me-not, gazania, pansy, schizanthus, sweet pea, verbena, viola, coriander.
Seeds have differing moisture requirements.
• Some very fine seeds, (eg. some petunias) have been 'pelletised', coated with a layer of inert material to make them easier to handle. These should be watered more frequently than uncoated seeds.
• Sow large seeds, such as sweet peas, sweet corn, peas, beans and broad beans, into damp soil. Avoid watering while the soil remains moist or until the seedlings emerge. Do not pre-soak these seeds.
• Keep soil or seed raising mix moist for slower germinating seeds (such as pansies which may take 21-28 days).
• After seedlings have emerged, water thoroughly but less frequently to encourage the development of good, strong roots.
• Soil temperature is critically important for successful germination.
• Some seeds need a cool-cold soil to germinate.
• Others need a soil temperature of at least 25°C for best results.
• Soil should be consistently warm before sowing warm season varieties direct in the garden.
• Cool soils cause many failures with seeds of summer plants (such as tomatoes) that are sown in early spring.
• Seeds can be sown in pots in a warm, sheltered spot and transplanted out into the garden when conditions are more favourable.
• A hint for raising temperature-sensitive seeds, such as petunias, in early spring is to sow into a 15cm diameter pot, water well and enclose the pot in a plastic bag that is sealed around the rim. Place the pot on a gentle source of heat – such as a hot water tank or a refrigerator. As soon as seedlings appear, remove the plastic bag and harden off seedlings outdoors.
• As soon as seedlings have emerged begin fertilising every week with half strength Soluble Plant Food.
• Don't apply to dry soil or mix.
• Once plants are established they can be fed fortnightly at regular strength.
Sowing direct into the garden
• Larger seeds are usually the most suitable for direct sowing.
• Vegetable seed examples are beans, peas, sweetcorn, pumpkins and cucumbers
• Flower seed examples are nasturtiums, marigolds, sweet peas and zinnias.
• Prepare the soil by mixing in some well-aged compost or manure.
• Dig well so that the soil ends up with a fine, crumbly structure.
• If soil is heavy and holds water, put a layer of Seed Raising Mix where the seeds are to be sown.
• Mark out shallow rows to the appropriate depth with the edge of a flat board.
• Scatter seed thinly along the rows and cover with seed raising mix.
• Water well with a fine, gentle spray.
Sowing into containers
• Use seed raising mix rather than garden soil.
• Most potting mixes are unsuitable, but may be used under a 3cm layer of seed raising mix.
• Pre-moisten seed raising mix by putting it into a plastic bag, adding sufficient water and shaking
• Or tumbling vigorously.
• Check moisture level of the mix regularly – don't let it dry out.
• Keep pots in a protected spot (a well-lit, shaded position is best).
• Seeds can be started indoors but seedlings may become thin and leggy if they're left too long indoors.
• As seedlings emerge, harden them off by gradually increasing their exposure to sun and heat.
SOME TIPS REGARDING GERMINATION OF SEEDS BY OUR EXPERT DR.K.C MATHUR
Seeds of most annuals are sown in a nursery to raise seedlings for transplanting later. A few seeds difficult to transplant such as Eschscholzia, may be sown directly at the permanent site, where they are to flower. These can be spaced adequately by thinning out after germination.
Seeds are sown in raised nursery beds, Seed pots and seed trays.
STERLISATION OF THE SOIL
This is necessary to prevent 'damping off' which often kills young Seedlings For this easiest method is to fill a large pan with water and bring to boil. Place a container with soil in the hot water taking care that no water enters the soil.
The soil should be sterlized for about 45 minutes. After this time the soil should be spread on a piece of clean paper for drying before using it in seed pans
SOIL MIXTURE FOR SOWING
The best mixture is
2 parts of loam
1 part of leaf mould
1 part coarse sand
The mixture should be made fine before filling if in seed pans.
SOWING OF SEEDS
Never sow in cold wet soil. The smaller the seed the finer the sandy soil. For minute seeds a mere sprinkling of sand is sufficient. A good rule is to cover the seeds with a layer of earth twice their own thickness watering the seeds. As soon as the seeds have been covered give them a good watering from a can with a very fine rose. Keep the soil uniformly moist but not wet.
The seedlings are transplanted about a month of sowing when they have developed about 3 to 4 leaves. After transplanting of seedling the beds may be weeded, hoed and watered regularly. Staking is necessary in some annuals-Sweet peas, Carnation. After a few weeks of growth, the seedlings may be pinched to make them bushy it is not practiced in the case of Antirrhinum, Larkspur, Lupin, Stock, Hollyhock etc
A careful check may be made of disease and insect pests and prompt control measures adopter to control then.
The faded blooms should be regularly removed as it helps in prolong flowering.
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