Growing your own seedlings is a lot of fun and easy to do. When the shoots start to poke through, you’ll feel immense pride and satisfaction in your achievement. You will have created a taste of summer. What joy!
Handy to know: as long as you sterilize them properly, you can use any container you like for your seedlings. There are, however, containers specifically designed for this project. Trays with separate units are ideal for very fine seeds, whereas individual pots are perfect for larger seed grains. If you want to develop cucurbits such as cucumbers, pumpkins or squash, peat pellets and cups are very useful. You can transplant a seedling with the peat container without the risk of root damage.
To start your seedlings, you will need:
- Seed tray with dividers and peat pots, depending on the plant species
- Plastic dome lid
- Artificial soil mix
- Identification labels
- Fluorescent tubes
Step 1: Fill
- Moisten the artificial soil before filling your containers.
- Fill the containers with the soil. Lightly tamp down to even out the soil surface.
Step 2: Seed
- Soak large seeds in water for several hours until they are swollen. Soaking is not necessary for very small or very fine seeds.
- Distribute the seeds in the tray. You don't need to cover very fine seeds. The other seeds must be covered with a thick layer of soil or vermiculite approximately to twice their size.
- Lightly tamp down then water, but be sure not to soak.
- Label your seedlings by writing the seed packet number and the date you seeded.
Step 3: Promote germination
- Cover the tray with a transparent plastic dome.
- Place your seedlings in a warm spot or under artificial lighting. Heat stimulates germination.
- When the plants appear, remove the dome and place the tray in a well-lit and well-ventilated area.
- Your seedlings must not dry out. Spray them regularly with water.
Step 4: Prick out
- When young plants present two real leaves, it's time to replant them in trays with larger inserts. Hold the shoots by the leaves, since the roots are so fine they'll break easily.
- Lightly tamp the soil around the bottom of the plant. Water.
- Put the new transplants out of direct sunlight for a few days.
Step 5: Ensure plant development
- Plants grow better when the ambient temperature is 22ºC during the day and 18ºC at night.
- Water regularly to strengthen the plants. Let the surface of the soil dry between watering. An excess of humidity is often the cause of disease.
- Fertilize with 20-20-20 fertilizer.
Step 6: Transplant
- Certain plants must be transplanted into larger pots before being exposed to the air outside. This is true for geraniums.
- You need to 'harden off'your seedlings before transplanting them outside, which means exposing them gradually to cooler air over a period of days.
- Keep newly transplanted seedlings out of direct sunlight to begin with, and then gradually increase their exposure to sunlight every day.
- The optimal ideal weather for transplanting: a cool, clear day.
Don't forget to label your seedlings
Are you convinced you'll recognize individual plant varieties by looking at the shoots? Impossible! This is why proper labelling is extremely important. You will then be able to keep track of your seedlings and monitor their growth and development. Write all pertinent information on the labels:
- Seed variety, brand name, and packet number if applicable
- Date you seeded
- Time of germination
Growing your own seedlings is hugely gratifying. Dream of the warm summer days to come as you stop winter in its tracks! The better prepared you are, the faster spring will come. Even if your plans are relatively simple, the experts at your local Botanix centre can guide you and recommend products, materials and seed varieties. Everything to start the new gardening season off on the right foot!