Fluid seeding

jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)September 30, 2006

Has anyone ever tried this? Sounds interesting and might be worth a bit of an experiment next spring.

fluid seeding

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digit(ID/WA)

Gotta be one of the strangest ideas I've come across, Jaliranchr. Therefore, it could work! Thank you for sharing this.

Cornstarch gel in a plastic sandwich bag . . . fluid sow pre-germinated seeds in March. MARCH!

The operant idea seems to be that the plant will grow at lower temperatures than the seed will germinate.

Maybe he's onto something. Or, on something.

Steve

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 9:39PM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

Steve, I, too, was thinking it sounded just strange enough to work. Geeze, if you could get some carrots and beets in the ground in March, that would be terrific, wouldn't it? I think I might give it a shot with a little experiment plot of carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, etc. Not technically demanding, not expensive at all ... well, I like those kind of experiments the best of all. :)

Shelley

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 11:30AM
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digit(ID/WA)

In a cursory google look at "fluid seeding gel," this guy at Colorado State seems to be the only person suggesting the use of presprouted seeds. The technique of mixing unsprouted seeds into a gel appears to be getting some mileage in seeding alfalfa and clover fields. These two plants have small seeds and germination is difficult at times, especially if poor soil contact allows the seed to dry out. But, sprouting the seeds would probably be beyond the capabilities of commercial operators. Here's another plus, Shelley - small scale applicability.

Carrots - What has worked well for me in recent years is using pelleted seed. I can't begin to describe the frustration with poor germination using regular seed. Maybe 1 out of 3 years, I'd get a good stand.

That changed when I began using pelleted carrot seed from either Stoke's or Johnny's. Parsnips have similar problems and doesn't come pelleted (too few people have discovered the joys of parsnips ;o) The pelleting idea is much the same as fluid seeding but the seed isn't pre-germinated.

Starting beets has been nearly as frustrating as carrots. David, on this forum, suggested starting in the greenhouse but I've got such limited space in there.

Another crop where this approach may be of help is with spinach. I seem to just barely be able to get a decent little crop before the weather turns too hot and dry. I suspect spinach would be able to handle the cool temps of early Spring but optimum range for germination is supposed to be above 45*F. That's not going to happen in outdoor soil until well into May.

Years ago, I started cabbage and broccoli seed in a small bed outdoors then transplanted into the larger garden. These seeds are supposed to require warmer temps for germination than carrots. Starting outdoors worked well enuf but the plants were behind any I could have started in a greenhouse. The results may have been different using this fluid seeding approach. Further, bok choy and such may be perfect candidates.

I plant bok choy seed in a plastic tunnel after the first of April. I've set out greenhouse-started plants in March but hard frost damaged them thru the plastic. What would happen if germinated seed was planted about the first of March in the tunnel???

Fun!

Steve

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 10:50AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Pelleted seed is also available from Harris. It's not the best thing since sliced bread, it's BETTER than sliced bread! I got mine there because I could get some of the varieties my brother had recommended--'Classic' eggplant, and 'Royal Chantenay' carrots and 'Warrior F1' beets, both of which can get absolutely HUGE and still be sweet and tender. I got pelleted seed for the carrots and a couple different lettuce's. I never have the heart to thin things, so pelleted is working wonderfully for me!

While I'm writing, Harris also has 'Samish F1' spinach which they call an overwintering hybrid. I haven't gotten around to planting any this fall yet--I still have plenty chard in the garden--but will probably germinate some in small pots so they start quickly and then harden them off well before I put them out for the winter to see what happens. From the description I'm not going to have anything to eat over winter (but here in Denver, who knows!), but should get a VERY early crop next spring. Fingers crossed!

I also found another burpless cuke at Harris that I like a lot. It's 'Burpless 26 F1'. It was a great producer with excellent flavor and quality cukes. Found a summer squash that I'll definitely be growing again too. 'Sunburst F1'--it's a small, golden, "flying saucer" type one. Good quality and, to my amazement, no powdery mildew until very late summer (after another variety it was next to got it first).

Skybird

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 1:37PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

The mention of small seeds makes me wonder if this might not work for small patches of grama grass, like heckstrips (I recently read the usage guidlelines for GW, and I don't think I'm supposed to use the word I usually use for them) or if would be too much trouble for something on that scale.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 9:08PM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

Well, I don't have a greenhouse. I have a cold frame I made from instructions from CSU. I think I might make one more. I've toyed with tunnels with rebar mesh, but might try them this year in a small protected bed I have. I need something low because we are on the far eastern tip of the Palmer Divide and get the wind from systems on both sides of the divide = / !

I've never tried the pelletized seeds, but I usually order from Johnny's and Territorial - might give them a try this year. Sorry, Steve, parsnips are an acquired taste my dear grandmother tried to instill in me and I still cringe at the thought. My beets don't get enormous, but they've done well. The earlier planting might help them, though. My broc and cauli are always arduously slow, but worth the wait.

Skybird, I've never grown patty pan, but I was intrigued by the starship ones in the catalogs. That's a definite addition for next year, glad to hear they are yummy and PM resistant, too.

I don't have a clue if it would work for grama, bp. Don't have a clue if it'll work for veggies, but I'm gonna give it a shot on a small scale. I'd say it would work as a good binder for the grama, but spreading the seed might be difficult if not impossible. As Steve said, they seem to be using this fluid seeding for clovers and legumes on a large scale, so maybe a little googling would produce a way to do it on a strip like you are talking about.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 11:38AM
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digit(ID/WA)

My tunnel is 20 by 10, Jaliranchr. The supports are 1/2-inch PVC pipe held by rebar driven into the ground. The height is a little lower than 5 feet. I'm over 6 . . .

No, I'm not in a permanent stoop in there. I've excavated, with a little help, 16 inches of soil in the center path. Entering the tunnel is by way of a couple of steps into a little "well" (would one call it? vestibule?). There's a simple door framed at that end and a window for ventilation at the other end of the tunnel.

It is only up for a few months in the Spring and then the plastic film is removed and it turns into a small outdoor vegetable garden. The low profile was planned so that temperatures would be more consistent - the more soil that can be exposed - the closer the temperature will remain at soil temperature (55*F in these parts). That means the tunnel is easier to cool on sunny days and it stays warm enuf during Spring nights.

Semi-subterranean might be a solution for your windy site.

Steve

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 1:48PM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

Crossing my fingers, I've got my carrot sprouts in the gel in the refrigerator. I'll spread them in the plot Monday or Tuesday to see if this really works.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 10:58AM
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digit(ID/WA)

Thanks for reminding me, Shelley!

I mixed up the jell and put some lettuce seed between paper towels on top the fridge.

I can never leave well enuf alone, however. A cup of jell is a lot so I divided it between 2 bags and sprinkled some seed in one of the bags. So, I've got seed sprouting on top and seed soaking in jell in the fridge. I mean, if you can put sprouted seed in the jell and then leave it for a couple of days . . .

Not broken?? Let me take a shot at it!!

Steve

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 7:30PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

They mentioned on the site that the ground should be covered for at least 4 weeks to keep it warm for planting. It will be close to Mother's Days in 4 weeks and I don't have a green house. Or is this if you want to plant in March/early only? And wouldn't you still have to cover them after planting?

How do you plant them with the seeds down/sprouts up in the dirt with this jell? Or do the sprouts figure out which way is up? Probably the stupid questions of the day.

Now I have this image of winding vines throughout your houses as the seeds keep growing...

Steve, you have mentioned the seeds before and am going to take your advice. I love parsnips and turnips, but raw turnips in salads only.

Skybird, Patty Pans have always been in my garden. I love them just with butter.

Also, for fun, I picked up some red corn seed. Yes, it is a sweet table variety. Have to try something interesting.

This is my first year for a veg. garden in 5 years. Had decided that I could just buy from the farmers market, but nothing tasted the same as my own garden. Have always had one before and it dawned on me this winter that I really miss it. All your tricks of the trade have me ready to dig in again.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 8:58PM
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digit(ID/WA)

Emagineer, one can combine the fluid seeding tactic with other gardening techniques that can be used to push the early season envelope. Covering the ground with plastic is one of those techniques but it isn't essential for the liquid seeding scheme.

Sprouted seed would only have the smallest of sprouts so the plant hasn't made much of a "commitment" as to which direction it's growing. Orienting to up and down shouldn't be a problem.

I think the approach is good (if it works) to not only get the jump on the season but to protect seed from drying out. Pelleted seed is expensive - might this be a substitute?

I see that I completely forgot the idea of sowing bok choi and such in the hoop house early in March. The plastic has gone on that early to warm the soil (same principle as a plastic mulch) but the weather wasn't good and . . . I forgot.

My notion back in October that the soil temperature wouldnÂt be above 45°F in April has been proven incorrect. Turns out that it is just above 45°F right now in the sunniest part of my yard. A warmer than normal March made a difference even if I hardly noticed it being warmer what with sub-hurricane force winds. And, we are losing our warm weather right now and headed for "Colorado cold." Snow is in the 7 day forecast here. Shucks

Anyway, I'll be pleased to know if there's a benefit in how quickly the seedlings emerge and I may continue this into Summer to see if it works as well with carrots as pellets. If'n' I don't forget what I'm about again.

Emagineer, "Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination." ~ Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897

Steve

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 11:04PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

Steve,

So, my questions weren't that dumb? And you are telling me I still have some "exercise of the imagination"? I love trying anything off the grid. About the time something appears to be out of the norm, it becomes the action which works. Can't miss any of the posts now, there always seems to be a valuable suggestion/idea in the least expected threads.

The weather stream looks like a circle right now, flowing around Utah, northern NM, CO and up. Still have 2" of snow on bushes and cruddy ice mixed stuff on everything else. Hopefully the 50 degrees will get rid of this today and we can deal with just "snow" predicted for a couple more days this week. At least your plants are in a warm place and you must love going into the greenhouse seeing all the possibilities of our soon to be growing season. Tis just around the corner.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 9:12AM
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digit(ID/WA)

The greenhouse IS very pleasant, Emagineer. Now, if I could just fit a chair in there (let alone a computer ;o). The hoop house has a tad more room but I'd need to sit on top the beds of greens. I think I'd better stay in this south window in the house.

I'm pumping a lot of heat into the g-house today. There are a few sun breaks but winds above 30 mph aren't helping matters. I'll plant another flat of lettuce for transplants today. But, this jell-enclosed seed should go out into the garden for there to be a reasonable trial. Hate to venture outdoors . . . .

Steve
"If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need." - Ciscero

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 1:56PM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

I am not sure, but I think I read something simular in OG a few years back, only they were using unflavored gelatin for the gel. There was also something in there about homemade seed tapes on newspaper. My cold frames that I am hoping to have done this weekend, if it doesn't snow again, are out of one of their old issues too. The seed tape was just a drop of flour paste on the paper and then a seed placed into each drop at the appropriate spacing. I did try it one year and it seemed to work ok. It took a lot of patience at first until I got a "groove" going then it went pretty quick. I forgot all about that until I saw this thread.
The gelatin I will have to look up when I have time. I have sooo many old OG's and sooo little time right now, but I would be happy to make a copy of any of it I find for people that are interested. The cold frame plan uses an old slider door which I have 4 that were scavanged from different places.
Keep it growing
B

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 2:23PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

Steve...am a fan of "quotes" and enjoying yours. You must be reading while at the warm window. Hope the weather breaks for you to get back to the green house.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 7:53AM
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digit(ID/WA)

I thought this could come back to the front page again with a preliminary report on using the cornstarch gel. Simpson Elite lettuce seed was used and planting was in the garden on April 11th. As, of yesterday afternoon:

Naked seed - no emergence
seed in gel - GOOD emergence
sprouted seed in gel - no emergence

Obviously, the naked seed is likely to germinate but I've got some suspicion with regards to the sprouted seed.

Shelley, how's this going for you?

DigitS

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 11:14AM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

I had sprouted carrot seed and unsprouted seed in the gel and they showed their little foliage the other day. I'm optimistic at this point. I didn't plant any naked seed. Have to give it some more time, but interesting results thus far.

Steve, I think you are right that this might be the poor man's way to have pelleted seeds without the cost of it.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 11:55AM
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greenbean08_gw(PNW)

Hope you don't mind, I'm resurrecting this thread...
I just wondered if those who tried it continue to use the process. Did it work well enough for you to keep it up?
I think it's an intriguing idea.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:39PM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

I had tried it with carrots and they were doing great, but the puppy found them and... well... lets just say they were severly rearranged to the point of no recovery. I hope to try again in the spring.

Billie

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 12:54AM
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greenbean08_gw(PNW)

Billie,
I know how that goes. When my Veronica was a puppy (we'd only had her a few days I think), she dug and ate all the carrots I had growing in my little garden then. I was just about to pull them too.

Carrots are one of the seeds I really think I'm going to try this with since I had pretty uneven (read poor) germination results last year.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 1:48AM
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digit(ID/WA)

I'm going to give you a little reading to do, Bean - if'n ya want to. Then I'm going to come back here when I have a little more time and figger out what was said over these last couple of years.

Here . . .
And, here . . .

digitS'

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 12:03PM
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digit(ID/WA)

I continued using the gel to seed carrots in 2008.

My technique degenerated to the lowest level - squeeze the jell into the soil and sprinkle the carrot seed on top.

Works like a charm!

No need for me to buy pelleted seed in 'o8. There are some drawbacks to the pellets - cost, limited choice, & they don't maintain viability as well as non-pelleted.

Now, I've got good choice, low price, and good results.

digitSteve

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 8:00PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I have to dispute that pelleted seed loses it viability more quickly than non-pelleted, Digit! I got my pelleted carrot seed from Harris in '06 and I've used the same seed for three years now and can't tell any difference at all in the viability. IÂm considering buying some fresh this yearÂmostly because of the viability fear mongering around here! ;-) My Buttercrunch lettuce is Harris Â06 pelleted too, and I canÂt tell any difference in the germination of that eitherÂtho I never really get much to eat since it always bolts immediately. I think I may switch entirely to cos lettuce this year. My neighborsÂwho know very little about gardeningÂgrew some last year that produced almost all summerÂand their garden is in full sun.

With as little as I use, pelleted isnÂt that expensive, and I really like the pelleted seed, since IÂm SO bad at thinning, and I can just put the individual seeds exactly where I want themÂand not have to worry about slaughtering all those innocent little baby plants!

Does anybody else whoÂs used pelleted have an opinion about it?

Skybird

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:17PM
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greenbean08_gw(PNW)

Well, I did my reading : ) Thank you for the links Steve, they were helpful. I think I'm going to try it out!
Amy

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 12:46AM
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jimmygfarm

I'm not sure ,I think some might have missed part of the read ( To plant, snip the corner off the plastic bag and squeeze the gel and seedlings into the planting furrow as you would toothpaste from a tube.) I think this would be better than pellets

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 4:35PM
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digit(ID/WA)

I don't think I can agree, Jimmygfarm.

First of all, the pellets have been rather sure-fire for me.

Secondly, lettuce seed that was sprouted before mixing into the gel germinated very, very poorly.

Thirdly, when I mixed seed into the gel before sowing, it came out of the bag in "globs" or "blobs" and I was faced with fairly serious thinning problems.

Late in the season, I still use the bead of gel in the furrow with carrot seed sprinkled on it. I got lucky in hitting that proper window for sowing carrot seed this spring. Emergence was very good just with "naked" seed.

If I need to sow more seed in the coming weeks, I will again use the cornstarch gel.

Steve

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 9:04PM
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rob_in_westernwa(7b?)

Great discussion. This sounds exactly like the approach I need to keep a mid-summer sowing of carrots moist enough to germinate.

Suppose I suspend some ungerminated seed in the gel, squirt the mix down a row with a ketchup bottle, and then lightly cover with soil. Should I then avoid watering it to avoid washing the gel away? Or should I water as usual (once every few days) to make sure dry soil doesn't wick away all the moisture from the gel (and rehydrate the gel itself)?

Now I'm excited. If this pans out, this could make summer plantings much easier to get going. I'll test it on the worst case...carrots.

BTW, the original article made it sound like this technique was mainly for planting early. In that case, the whole goal of the gel is to just avoid physically hurting pregerminated seeds, right? Or are there other early-season benefits as well (e.g., putting a "coat" on ungerminated seeds to help retain warmth and germinate in ground in colder then usual temps)? I'm in the Pacific Northwest, so we definitely don't have a lack of moisture in late winter and early spring. I'm wondering how this technique would help in that case.

Anyhow, thanks for the useful discussion everybody. This was very informative. Wish me luck.

-Rob

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 12:33AM
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digit(ID/WA)

Rob, I haven't reread the extension article in a year or 2 and haven't quite understood the reasoning behind the early start that's claimed. The only thing I can think of is that the horticulturalists believe that the plants can grow in lower temperatures than they can germinate. In other words, they would make some growth over the course of the few weeks it would otherwise take the seed to sprout.

I'm not sure how much of a head start there would be. When I was reading about alfalfa fluid seeding, the emphasis seemed to be on the soil drying before the tiny alfalfa seed could germinate. That made a good deal of sense to me.

My suspicion is that quite a bit of the starch remains in the soil even after some rain or irrigation water has fallen on it. Cornstarch makes a lot of gel out of a few tablespoons of starch. It is really holding a lot of water! I feel real good about it staying around awhile and being of benefit to any seed that is at risk of drying out before it can send out roots.

Steve

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 10:21AM
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rob_in_westernwa(7b?)

Thanks. I gave it a go and watered as usual. We'll see how it works out.

I get the idea of plants being able to make some progress at lower temperatures than would be needed for germination. That's the whole reason I spend so much time fiddling with indoor starts and presprouts each winter/spring. (Please tell me I'm not wasting my time.:))

What I'm confused about, though, is if the extension article was using fluid seeding just for the physical protection aspect (e.g., to keep me from breaking the tiny sprouts), or if there was another aspect to it.

I was assuming the former until I read some of your posts about having good luck just putting the gel on the ground and plopping fresh seed into it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I wouldn't think your ground would be very dry during early plantings. So, that led me to believe there might be some other benefit besides moisture retention and physical protection of sprouts.

Maybe I'm reading too much into, though. Right now I'm only interested in moisture retention anyhow, which makes perfect sense.

K, thanks for the info.

-Rob

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 5:32PM
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