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Seeding Mistakes to Avoid

Sometimes the pride in ‘growing your own’ can take a backseat to the frustration of seeing your seedlings flop, grow too fast….or not grow at all. Whether you’ve seeded before or are trying it for the first time, success is simple with just a few helpful hints.

Here are some of the top issues seeders can face and how to avoid them:

Stretched Seedlings

Light is often overlooked by first-time seeders. When seeds first germinate, they need the maximum amount of light possible until they develop more leaves. Though your living room may be extremely bright, the truth is the light is quite insufficient for developing seedlings. Fluorescent lights or grow lights need to be placed 4-6" away from the top of the plants. Remember to keep adjusting the light source to keep it this same distance from the plants as they grow taller.

Our Sunblaster Light Stands can be placed anywhere (even the basement) and provide all of the light your seedlings need. The light fixture is adjustable, so you can set the light at the appropriate height above the plants. Two sizes available 2’ – fits up to 4 flats ($79.99) and 4’ – fits up to 6 flats ($99.99).

No Germination/Poor Germination

Though most seeds you’ll find on the racks at your local garden centre require very little ‘special care’ prior to planting, there may be a few that could use a little extra work. Some seeds require scarification (scratching the seed coat with sandpaper) or stratification (a period of cold treatment). Some seeds actually need to be sown on the soil surface so they are exposed to light; Petunia are the most common seed requiring this, and the largest reason people fail at starting Petunia indoors is seeding them too deep. For a list of these seeds click here. Other reasons for seeds not germinating can include soil being too dry, too wet, not warm enough.

Overgrown Seedlings

This can result from select seeds being started much too soon before being able to be placed outdoors. Since warm spring weather is never a guarantee in our area, ensure that you always read the start date on every package of seed, and add no more than 1-2 weeks on top of that date. Many plants started indoors will require a temperature above 6C before they can be placed outdoors in a sheltered area for the day, so if started too soon, seedlings begin to stretch, even when supplied with adequate light, and will soon outgrow smaller seed cells.

Keep in mind that larger plants such as tomatoes/cucumbers/peppers can be started in larger pots (such as 3.5”) so their roots have adequate room to grow (eliminating the need for a messy transplant session indoors!). The other reason for overgrown seedlings? Choosing the wrong things to grow indoors. Avoid starting any rapid growing crops (beans/vines such as sweet peas) indoors longer than 4 weeks prior to planting out; you’ll find yourself constantly staking and trimming stems.

Damping Off

There’s nothing like seeing your seedlings poke through the soil, only to watch them flop over and wither within days. This is due to Damping Off, caused by various fungi that spring into action when soil becomes cold and damp or too warm and damp. Here’s how to prevent damping off:

  • Start with clean seeding trays/clean equipment – use a solution of 10% bleach to water to clean items.
  • Use clean soil; Schultz Seed Starter is a great blend
  • Do not crowd seedlings – when sowing, ensure just a couple seeds per cell or pot, and thin out as they grow.
  • Use our NEW Hygrometer – this inexpensive device sticks onto the dome over your flats, and monitors both humidity and soil temperature – only $12.99
  • Try a natural preventative; sprinkle the soil surface after seeding with cinnamon, a natural fungicide. Also, steep 3 chamomile tea bags in 1 litre of water (steep overnight so solution is extra strong). Use this solution to water seedlings.
  • To avoid soil from becoming too damp, always ensure the humidity dome is removed as soon as seedlings emerge.
Too Many Plants

Have your seed flats taken over the dining room table? Though many of us swear we won’t do it again, every year there’s just too many great things to grow. Here are some tips that may help you slim down the number of flats in the bathtub:

  • Limit your varieties. Yes, I know it’s great to grow 20 types of tomatoes….but perhaps just try to settle on your absolute favourites you eat the most.
  • Don’t seed the whole package; seeds can be stored for a few years after purchasing, in the right conditions. Either seed only a bit of the package, or give the rest to a friend. Do you really need 72 Tumbler Tomatoes?

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