Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tutorial: Planting seeds in a seedling tray

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | | |
Alright, you have a plan for your urban vegetable garden. Now it's time to plant some vegetable or herb seeds! :-)

So, planting seeds... what are the do's and don'ts?
Basil seedlings in a seedling tray
Basil seedlings in a seedling tray

How to plant seeds in a seedling tray

A good start is to read the description on the seed package ;-) What is the recommended time for planting the seeds? Do they require much sunlight?

If you're seed planting early this year and living in a colder climate, you can always start indoors. I actually planted the first seeds one week ago (strawberry, basil, thyme, sage, earth almonds and craspedia).

The article continues below the article.
Seedlings tray - ready for seed planting
Seedlings tray - ready for seed planting

Step 1:
If you have stored the soil outside in the freezing cold, bring it inside for at least one day before seed starting.

Seeds need a minimum temperature to germinate, which varies from plant to plant.1 It is important that plants indoors get enough light, either from natural daylight or from plant grow light. The warmer it gets, the more light it needs.

According to this chart, the practical soil temperature for certain vegetables start at 7 degrees (45 F).

In other words, normal room temperature should be fine for the vegetable and herb seeds. Of course, there are certain vegetables like eggplants and pumpkins that require a higher practical temperature for germination. In our example, the room temperature in our living room is between 20-21 degrees. The thyme, basil and yellow sunballs started to germinate after only three days!

Step 2:
I placed seed starting mix in a seedling tray that I bought at the local garden center. You can do the same, or re-use old milk cartons, newspaper, egg cartons, plastic boxes and even toilet paper rolls. You should make tiny holes for drainage, and then place them on cup plates or alike.

I've already saved a couple of old milk cartons and egg cartons for the next seed starting session in March, when we'll be planting beans, onions, kale and chives.
A herb seed
A herb seed

Step 3:
Before you plant the seeds, water the soil carefully. Do it before and not after the seed planting to avoid washing up the seeds. Too much moist might cause fungi in the soil, and that's why I cannot stress enough the importance of careful watering. Also have in mind that seed starting mix is usually pre-moistened.
Planting vegetable seeds in seedlings tray carefully
Planting herb seeds in seedlings tray carefully

Step 4:
Plant the seeds according to the package, when you're ready.

In my example, the strawberries and herbs have three compartments each, while the earth almonds and yellow sunballs are lucky to have six. You can always plant new seeds when you need more herbs :-)

I sprinkled the seeds in each compartment, except for the earth almonds because the seeds are large. With this one, I used a pencil to make a small hollow in the soil and placed one seed. Other gardeners suggest that you can push the seed carefully into the soil.

You can also place several small seeds in one hole to increase the germination rate. Some seeds will sadly never reach the surface.

There should be a thin layer of soil over the seeds (usually around 1 cm).
How to plant vegetable seeds in seedlings tray
The seeds are planted - I hope I did it right! :-)

Step 5:
Cover the seeds with plastic to prevent dryness. If you have bought a seedling tray, they will normally come with a lid.

Earlier I mentioned the appropriate amount of watering. After a couple of days we noticed that there was a grey patch in the soil resembling fungi. We removed it immediately so it wouldn't spread, and aired the seedlings by removing the lid for one day.

If I were you, I would spray them lightly with water whenever they need it. Yesterday, we noticed that the germination process was slowing down, and gave them a quick spray. Right now it seems like they've woken up and continue to germinate quickly (under the lid).

Step 6:
Place the seeds where they will receive most daylight. If the seedlings don't get enough light, they will become long and flimsy. You want sturdy seedlings that can survive the transplantation process ;-)

When do you know they're ready to be moved to larger pots?
According to forums I've visited, the seedlings should be repotted (also called transplantation) when roots start to fill the compartment. As seedlings they're vulnerable and easier to damage if repotted too early.

I'll be writing a separate post about repotting seedlings in March, when I actually get to repot :-)

After 7 days in a seedling tray:

Thyme seedlings obeying the light
Thyme seedlings stretching for the light

Thyme seedlings grow fast
Thyme seedlings grow fast

Basil seedlings are comfortable in light
Basil seedlings are comfortable in the light

Yellow sunballs:
Yellow sunball seedlings popping up carefully
Craspedia seedlings popping up carefully

Continue to read:
The eco conscious living in the city - where to start?

Urban farming project - planting red beet seeds.


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