Watering newly sown seeds and seedlings

reinbeaux(z8 WA State)September 12, 2004

I thought everyone knew this but found out I was wrong.

Starting seeds inside, it is very easy to water them - pre or post germination - using a water bottle with a sports top. Waters gently newly planted seeds and seedlings without washing the soil away - and you can get the water gently in every part of the flat (can also add water soluable fertilizer, BTi, or whatever to the water too)

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Rosa(4ish CO Rockie)

I've also used a bulb syringe and small turkey baster for doing the same.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2004 at 10:39AM
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Watering newly planted seeds and seedlings is most effectively done from the BOTTOM, believe me, I am a seed growing nerd who has researched the most effective way of doing this. I have a mist system but even the finest spray will still wash away seeding mix, not to mention knocking over very tiny fragile seedlings that sometimes do not stand back up tall and strong again. Watering from the bottom will result in absolutely no damage to the seedlings at all. Also, there is no guarantee with spraying seedlings that the seeding mix is staying moist at the bottom of the containers--it might just "look wet" because the top part is nice and soaked. If you water from the bottom, you will see the water soak its way to the top, and you are 100% sure of even moisture. Why take the risk of spraying??? When it is so easy to just place the seed containers in water?

By the way, before watering newly planted seeds in any manner, you should throughly saturate your seeding mix before putting it into containers. Depending on the seeding mix, it can be impossible to start off with perfectly moist soil, as most mixes are very very dry. If you just plant seeds without soaking the mix first, and then try to bottom water, all of the mix will float away!! And if you try to water by spraying, you will push the seeds down into the mix, and you would have to spray for a week to get it all soaked properly.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 12:56AM
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I've found that sometimes trying to water from the bottom,
it won't soak all the way up to the seeds.
IMHO, the bottom doesn't need water until the root system starts to develope. My experience has found to put water only where needed to minimize chance of water-born problems.
I've had much better luck with overhead watering.
Just a humble thought

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 1:46PM
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I suppose it depends upon what size container is used. I know that most beginners make the mistake of using too deep of a container--like butter bowls and such for sowing seeds, but it is better to use shallow containers, such as pie plates for sowing seeds. In the greenhouses I worked at, we used shallow trays, no deeper than one inch for sowing seeds. For home use, I use pie plates, simply because the trays are expensive, with holes poked in the bottom. If the growing medium was throughly soaked prior to planting the seeds, it will stay moist for about 4 or 5 days without needing more water (while under plastic domes), and it is no problem to bottom water, it only takes about 60 seconds for the water to seep through to the top. You certainly do NOT want to overwater seeds at all , but not enough moisture will dry seedlings up instantly. Again, bottom watering is effective only if the mix was saturated at planting time. Otherwise, the mix, seeds and all, will float to the top and be a huge mess!

I would not rely at all on applying uneven moisture--as in only watering the top without concern for the bottom of the container. The entire container should get watering throughly when it is watered, just as any containerized plant would. Remember, "overwatering" is done by watering too often, not by throughly soaking a plant, or seed that has good drainage.

I have bad luck with overhead watering tiny seedlings. The blast from the water, no matter how gentle the spray, causes the seedlings to flatten. Of course, the do usually bounce right back, but IMHO, why take the risk?? When bottom watering will not harm anything!

Of course, I am different than most--trying to grow like a professional without having a greenhouse, but I strive to germinate and grow every single seed that I have spent my money on. (I grew 15,000 plants from seed in 2004). I know most people arent so particular. And yes, overhead watering will work, we did it in our greenhouses all the time, but the equipment is different than what most of us have at home.

To ensure even moisture, use SHALLOW CONTAINERS! Or rather, recycle those butter bowls and such things, but what is important is to only use about one inch of seeding mix in the container. Think about it: if you use too deep of a mix, and you have itty bitty seedlings growing at the top, those seedlings will dry out way before the mix 3 or 4 inches down at the bottom of the container will. And if you add more water for those seedlings, then even more water is being saturated into the bottom, which never had the chance to dry out, and this WILL create a drainage problem from too much moisture.

Of course, this technique is for those who intend to transplant seedlings later, which is strongly recommended over "sow and growing" in the same pot. And if you have used a taller container, yes, it will take a very long long time to bottom water all the way to the top. I dont bottom water once my seedlings have been transplanted into cell packs/containers.

Just thought I'd give some insight on bottom watering for beginners!! :)


    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 4:03PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

I grow from seed every year in my greenhouse and I am also a firm believer in bottom watering. I use standard flats with inserts and make sure that the soil is totally moist before sowing seeds. I purchased a rectangular plastic container larger than the flat and I fill it with an inch or two of water and just place the entire flat in it. It works beautifully (although a bit time consuming when my greenhouse is full.) When I need to fertilize I will add a bit of fertilizer to the container as well. The other thing that I rely on is wisking mats. That cuts down the frequency of having to "dip" the flats.
Once the plants are well established I will water from the top, due to the time issue mainly, but not before almost ready transplant.
My two cents.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 1:35AM
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Mary, what is a whisking mat? I have never heard of it, and would be very interested in knowing. I will also stop bottom watering when the seedlings are just about ready to transplant, when I know they are sturdy enough. I also fertilize from the bottom--I keep a gallon jug with fertilizer diluted ONCE, and when I need to water, I will mix this water with equal amounts of warm fresh water--the reason why I dont dilute twice in the jug (as advised to do with seedlings)is, the jug water gets cold and seedlings should be watered with warm water. However, if I mix this daily, a lot of this will get wasted as not everything gets watered at the same time, and within an hour, the fertilized water gets cold.

Another major advantage to bottom watering (for those who dont know)is- I believe 100% that the reason I have never had damp off is because I bottom water. If you think about it, if you bottom water, the foliage will stay completely dry, and the seedlings do not flatten down, which will cause them all to mat together for a few hours or longer, staying moist way too long. That and the fact that I keep my seedlings almost touching the grow light tubes they are under. I believe the lights keep everything nice and dry and warm.

For beginners, dont believe everything you read on the products you buy--such as grow lights and kits. Many of the grow lights will say to keep plants 6 or more inches away--this is NOT advisable for growing seeds! You want your seedlings practically touching the lights at all times. If you keep them too far away, they WILL stretch too much. I dont know the technical explanation for this, but it has something to do with using artificial lights over sunlight. Keeping your seedlings that close will keep them from stretching, I promise!! Also, the kits that come with grow mats, cell packs and domes, it will say to keep the dome tightly closed. You dont want to do this either, keep your domes kinda cockeyed over your seedlings, to where you still see condensation in the dome, but some air is allowed to get inside. And I dont understand why they sell cell packs with these kits and instruct to plant seeds in them. If you plant itty bitty seeds in the packs, and use the bottom heat, the heat will not reach that seed at the same temperature as at the bottom of the flat. If you use a shallow container, your seeds will get the heat. And not to mention, those kits dont even explain the transplanting process, which is fine for large seeds, but I couldnt imagine planting tiny seeds this way! I dont know about you all, but with the price of certain seeds, I wouldnt be willing to plant three or four seeds in one cell pack and then destroying all but one of the seedlings. I want ALL of my seeds to become (sellable) plants!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 1:02PM
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For what I don't winter sow in 10 X 20 flats, I use large cells (the kind that are 12 per flat), sow the seeds in moistened seed mix, label, bottom water, drain on layers of newspaper for an hour or so and put the cell into a 1/2 gallon standup, ziplock bag. Then the bags go to a heat mat, under lights, or by a window, depending on the needs of the seeds for germination. After the seeds sprout, they need almost no further watering til transplant size, for they are in their own little humidified greenhouse. (I have some hellebores that have been growing on my windowsill since last July and haven't watered them since I sowed the seed. The water in the mix evaporates, collects on the inside of the ziplock and drains down the sides, to be taken up again by the soil in the cell.) The hellebores haven't put on much growth but that's fine with me since I want to plant them out when the weather moderates.

I currently have cells containing heathers, persicaria 'Firetail', persicaria bistorta and several agastaches germinated in cells and about a dozen others either stratifying or on heat or under lights, depending on seed requirements. I won't need to water them til they are ready to be transplanted. For what it's worth, I found the standup ziplock bags at a Dollar Tree store.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 11:13AM
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gillespiegardens(Z6 cinti ohio)


I sow seeds in the same manner that you describe though i do use various sizes of empty cell packs... whatever i happen to have on hand. I hit on the ziplock baggie method myself after a few years of trial and error as it just made more sense. In a pinch I have also used baggies with twist ties too.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 12:34PM
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I have ordered some capillary matting. It is 21 inches by 108 inches. I will cut it to use in standard trays. Does the capillary action work in both directions? If I cut 10 inches off the 108 inch length, I am not sure the 21 inch length is really long enough, but I suspect that is the way the matting is intented to be used. If I cut 23 or 24 inches off the 108 inch length and then cut the piece into 2 10 1/2 inch width pieces, (10 1/2" by 24")will the capillary action work if the 24" ends are down in the water?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2005 at 8:56PM
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I am a new container gardener living in a hot climate of Saudi Arabia in Al Khobar (these days the highest temprature over here exceed a bit above 100F). Last time (My first time) I started my seeds in May and they started off but in June the temprature got so high that everything just stopped and died in a months time.

I bought a potting mix back then and it was really moist when it came out of the bag and I could grow seedlings without first moistening it (I only used to sprinkle from above after sowing the seeds and was able to see seedlings emerge in a week to 10 days time). I thought perhaps all the soil mixes are that way.

Later, just a few weeks back, I found bit cheaper option and I planted my seeds only to realize a week later that the mix was not at all moist and my sprinkling is not providing it enough water for any sufficient length of time.

Then I thought to bottom water it today. There were 12 small 4" pots - By bottom watering I was only able to get 5 of them reach the surface of the soil in about 2 hours and the remaining still stand in water with no sign of surface becoming any darkish like the remaining.

Will appreciate your advise in this scenario. Should I discard the seeds and start afresh by following the proper procedure? Should I water deeply from top? Should I do something else?

Will really appreciate any experienced advice.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 3:01AM
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