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Best seed-starting medium?

Posted by nygardener z6 New York (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 4, 06 at 16:28

This year my germination rate for indoor seed starts (basil, parsley, chervil, etc.) was lower than in the past, and I'm not sure why. It may be because I placed the seeds in moist potting soil rather than seed-starting mix. What seed-starting medium do you use, and what else humidity dome, lights, watering/misting, etc. contributes to your indoor seed-starting setup?

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RE: Best seed-starting medium?

The past couple years, I've bought that Scott's Seed-starting mix, moistened it, placed in plastic drinking cups, sprinkled on seeds, sprinkled on a thin layer of dry mix, covered with saran wrap, and placed under my HD 500W worklights. This year I did this using some yogurt cups that had clear lids and started tomatoes and a tomatillo in that setup. I also started scarlet runner beans & hyacinth bean vine in re-used 6-packs covered with saran wrap, and cypress vine in one of those clear plastic salad bar containers. Nearly all of the varieties had sprouts within about 1.5 weeks (from seed that was new - 3 years old). Once the first sprouts were up, I took the cover or wrap off and bottom watered only. Once the veggies hit the 1st set of leaves, I transferred plants to 16 oz solo cups and pure moistened Promix, and eventually transplanted to 1 gallons a couple weeks before planting out. The others remained in their original starting containers and were planted out from that. The lights were on 16 hours/day and I have one of those small fans that I use to gently blow across the area.

The downside to that particular seed starting mix is that it is heavy peat-based, but because I continually bottom watered, I tried to keep it generally damp on the way to dry (but never completely "wet").

One of my sisters gave me one of those clay basil balls and just before Memorial Day, I basically stuck that on top of a 8" pot of Promix, watered it, and put it outside. It sprouted once the temperatures shot up:

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I am going to be starting some more basil (Genovese and Purple) probably this upcoming week but will have the starting containers outside in the sun.

RE: Best seed-starting medium?

I like using the Jiffy-7 peat pots. No other brand works the same either! These are the flat disks that you pour water onto and they expand. I use boiling water and they plump up very quickly. Once cool, I put in the seeds and place the pots into a tray with a dome. You can use the "clamshell" clear packaging that supermarket cookies and pastries come in. (Hey! How did THOSE get into my house?) Then, depending on whether the seeds need light to germinate or not, I put them near a south-facing window or in a darker spot. Once germination takes place, I remove the top and keep an eye on watering needs. Some plants prefer moister medium, others not so much. Once the true leaves appear (not just the seed leaves), I transplant into containers. I have used soiless mix to start seeds, potting soil and off-brand peat pots. I have the best luck with the Jiffy-7. Next best,potting soil. Also, where you get your seeds plays a big factor in germination rates. Some places I like are Horizon Herbs, Nichols Gardens, The Thyme Garden, Fedco Seeds and Richters. There are some places I don't like, but won't mention here.

RE: Best seed-starting medium?

I used a 50/50 mix of peat and vermiculite. I bought them and mixed them together myself. As far as pots reused old seeds pots (washed them out and then put them in the dishwasher). After planting, I pick them in a tray and covered with a plastic humidity dome (turned slightly off so it did not get too humid and damp) and placed them on top of some grow light I have for heat. I had great success this year and was pleased. Only problem was I planted so much that I sort of let time get away from me I never got around to putting them all in larger pots! ALso...go to the winter sowing forum. Tried it this year and had a 60% success rate. I also was using seeds from trade so I cannot determine if they were all viable.

RE: Best seed-starting medium?

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll experiment with those ideas.

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