starting seeds hydroponically?

dcleaver47(zone 10)March 17, 2006


i've been starting seeds in soil for years under fluorescent lights, but i'm thinking of switching to a hydroponic system. how do i start seeds without soil? vermiculite? rockwool?


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Hi Dcleaver47,

If you use coarse sand like I do, you can plant seeds directly into the sand bed. Under some circumstances, with a big spoon and a careful hand, you can shift seedlings from one place to another if sprouted in sand. I use small twigs as markers so they can be found, and so nothing else gets planted on top of them.

If you are transplanting seedlings grown in soil or some sort of potting mix or seed raising mix, into a hydroponic system, it is recommended that you wash all of the debris off the roots before transplanting into a hydroponic system.

Read all about it on my web site from Australia.
If you get stuck or need more information, just email me using the email address on the web site.

If you save each page as its own name on to your computer, all in the one directory, you can freely browse it when you get off-line.


Here is a link that might be useful: Simple Sand Hydroponics

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 5:51AM
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Search "germination" on this site. Search is on the bottom of the page.

Wash your hands first and use the baggie method. Transplant from baggie to rock wool and hence to main hydro system

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 9:46AM
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I wouldn't start seedlings hydroponically if you plan to put them in the soil as you will probably cause some root damage. Also hydroponic roots are different from soil roots.


I have been transplanting from hydro to soil for years and my success rate is 100%. What is different about hydro roots than soil roots?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 9:50AM
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I transplant seedlings/plants from bubbler hydro systems & flood & drain systems all the time. I do not use rockwool cubes. Rarely they have a little shock, but they transplant out fine.
Sometimes I dig up large plants, put them in hydro for a couple of months for their roots to develop, & then put them back in pots. It is a good method for tall plants. I saved an 8 ft passiflora & a 12 foot confederate rose that way. The tall varieties I transferred from soil to soil died.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 9:06AM
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I germinate a chile seed, put it in a rock-wool cube and grow it until it has secondary leaves and then put it in a basket with grow rocks in hydro/aero.

When the chile flowers (has plenty of roots by then), I take the plant, still in rockwool, out of the basket and plant it in the dirt.

I find that this method has no transplant setback at all.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 9:58AM
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Hi Willard 3, and Baci
I have a question for the 2 of you.
Can I start my seed in a rockwool cube(the un-wrapped ones) and plant the cube directly into my hydro-system. I use 3/8's Pea Stone?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 12:53PM
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I've started a number of plants hydroponically and transfered to soil quite successfully. I did this with a few of them because every seed I planted in soil damped off but they ones in hydro were fine and once relatively large they transfered into soil fine even though I was pretty rough on them in the transfer. The usuall comments I hear are going from soil to hydro is riskier than the other way around (probably mainly because the soil plant might bring disease into your system and washing the soil off could be hard on the roots.)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 2:18PM
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I too, am planning on starting seeds hydroponically. I am totally a novice to hydroponics, but I think that the question about whether plants are stressed during transfer from hydroponics to soil may be species dependent, not true for all plants. And even then, things like rock wool can lessen the stress, even for those species that are more prone to be stressed.

At the moment however, I am more interested in understanding the variety of nutrient products available out there. I know that Gibberellic Acid - 3 helps seeds germinate and I know that there are some products which taut a fair mix of nutrients plus Gibberellin. There is even product, Dr. Hornby's Voodoo Juice, which incorporates live fungus and microbes which produce Gibberellin naturally. Note that Gibberellin and its effects were first isolated in Japan from a fungus that attacks rice - correct? So if there are fungus and microbes which produce Gibberellin and they are not pathological to the plants, it sounds wonderful.

Which of the myriad of available products would be best for the purpose of seed germination or starting?

There are a lot of products, Flora Grow, BC, Dr. Hornby's, Earth Juice, Budswell, Biobiz, FoxFarm, TechnaFlora, Grotek, Ralph's, Rainworks, et al. Of these, I have only found that Ralph's and Dr. Hornby's VooDoo Juice even mention Gibberellic Acid.

What's the best for the cost?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 3:56PM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

Mine seem to germinate fine with plain water in the system. I'm kind of dubious about giving plants additional hormones - if the hormones occur naturally, why do they need more? It certainly doesn't do *us* any good to have excess hormones. It seems like the plant would produce Gibberellin if it needed it. It would be interesting to know what happens when you add extra, though.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 11:28PM
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Have you ever seen fungus rings in your lawn, circles where the grass is greener and lusher? These rings have sometimes been mistaken to be marks from landing pods of alien space-craft, they stand out so strikingly. And in fact, these types of ground fungus are some of the largest living organisms in the world; they can be enormous, a single thriving mass that covers acres. But the secret of the rings is that the grass is thriving in an area where the fungus is at work in the soil. And the secret to the effect that the fungus has on the grass? It's not like an earth worm's effect of matabolising soil to make the nutrients available to the plant. No. Instead, I think you'll find from the literature that the fungus provides stimulus to the plants in the form of the release of hormones which the plant takes up and is influenced by. In the early part of the 20th century, before WWII, Japanese scientists trying to cure certain plant deseases discovered Gibberellin in Fungus. Here's that story ...

The same web site has links to articles about abscisic acid which is a plant stress hormone that causes leaves to change color and fall in autumn and fruit to ripen. Abscisic acid may also play a role in limiting germination until a set of specific seasonal, climatic and temperature conditions are met. Growth hormones, cytokinins and auxins are also mentioned here. These promote root growth, leaf and stem growth, etc. It's a good web site to start reading up about this stuff.

Hormones are often used to treat human ailments; Progesterone for example is used to treat aniphilactic shock from bee stings and other maladies. It is like an adrenalin substitute. Insulin for diabetics is another and the list goes on and on.

It is true that hormones can produce some shocking changes in physiology of both plants and animals. I think we've all seen the pictures of malformed chickens treated with hormones. But that does not mean that certain hormones can not be used beneficially and without harmful effects. Progesterone should not be used continuously because it can produce unwanted effects after large or continued doses. It is used if and when necessary for a specific instance of a problem that likely will not recur and need continuing treatment.

The following article on hydroponic nutrients seems to pop up again and again on the web and seems to be in use by distributors of nutrient products for promotional value ...

Here's a brief blurb on how gibberellic acid influences seed germination ...

I hope that info assists you in your hydoponic nutrient decisions.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2007 at 12:05PM
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No sense me wasting the digging I did to find out where to get Giberellic Acid. This is the stuff that a certain fungi produces and can improve growth and stimulate seed germination.
What I've found is that there seems to be only one commonly available product that is your basic pure GB Acid.

It's called MegaGro and you can get it as a concentrate in 8 oz. bottles for about $13.95 US or diluted in a larger spray bottle for foliage spray application.

I'm also kind of interested in Dr. Hornby's Voodoo Juice, which produces Giberellin from its live microbe content, but at lower levels. The Dr. Hornby stuff is a bit premium priced - be aware. The cheapest qty is 500ml for about $32.95 US. There's a companion product called Piranha that has certain fungi and microrobes that naturally kill molds and other plant pathogens. Cheapest Qty is about $21.95 US for 50g.

Cytokins can also help germination and what seems to be the best source of these is kelp or sea weed. Take a look at Nitrozime if you want to tinker with cytokins. Again, an 8 oz. bottle for about $14.95 US.

I've made up my mind to arm myself with all four of these and see if I can get my more difficult seeds to germ and survive. To date I've invested in a number of seeds that just have not done anything, partially due to excessively high dry temps., but perhaps, due also to just plain stubbornness.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 4:58PM
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