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Seeds & Seedlings

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Planting Seeds by Dennis  ©

There are several different methods for planting seeds and they all work, I have been planting seeds for several years now and have tried different methods and now I have started using a new one. Because I plant thousands of seeds at a time I needed a method that was quick & easy, also I needed to be able fit more seeds per tray, doing it this way I have doubled the amount I can fit in each tray which is a big boon. It has also shown to have an excellent germination rate, the only seeds that do not grow so far have proven to be non viable ones, in other words, all the viable seeds grew. This method has really shown me where the most reliable seeds have come from, I do not mark each set of seeds but plant all the same sellers seeds in the one tray and just list the names on one tag, this way I can see what has not germinated, thus getting a very good idea of the success rate.

I use a few different additives in this process, if you do not have them you can either substitute them or leave them out, here is the list: Root Tonic, Fulvic Acid, Seasol, Growth Formula(or superthrive), all at the recommended rates, I also add in  H2O2(3% Hydrogen peroxide) at 4oz per litre of water. My planting mix is coco fibre & seed raising mix 50/50, holds just the right amount of moisture.

I peel the seeds so that the wings are removed and try to get a strip off each side so as the husk will not stop the root from growing, this is the biggest problem with seeds, if the husk & membrane is too hard for the root to break through the seed can rot inside the membrane. Always hold the seed between your fingers so you do not actually break any of it & do not worry if you expose any of the white seed, this will speed up the process. If you can get it to tear right to the tip it is better.

Lay the seeds down flat on your bed of mix side by side until the tray is full then cover them using a fine layer of coco fibre 5mm thick at most, then water in well with the mix listed above or your own version or preferably soak the tray in it then let it drain, put in your tag with the seed list and put it somewhere where it will be out of the sun and protected from the elements, a seedling hot house is perfect for this but is not necessary as long as the night time temperatures do not drop below 15 c. Do not let the top layer dry out; keep it moist but not wet. This is for bulk planting, for much less you can spread them out more or plant upright.

The seedlings should start to emerge within a week to 10 days & should be all up inside 3 weeks in good weather, I actually help any seeds that do not throw their own husks and membranes by using tweezers and a skewer or similar. You can handle them to do this, just be very careful not to use to much force and use the skewer to make a hole for the root when you re plant it, then you just firm the mix around the stem. You can transplant the seedlings once they have a few sets of real leaves; I just use a table fork to lift them so I do not damage the roots.

If you only have a small amount of seeds to plant it can be easier if  you plant then standing up, to do this just put your mix in the tray then make a hole for each seed at least 40 mm apart then insert your seed and pinch the mix against it so that the wings are showing and the husk is below the mix, then you water them in and keep them moist as above, seeds can take up to 4 weeks to appear so dont give up too soon and remember to keep them moist but not wet.










Growing seeds under lights



If you want to grow your seeds during the cooler months then you can do so, while living in Geelong, Victoria I was getting excellent results with seed germination with a home made propagation box. I used a broccoli box with a lid and a 2' aquarium light that had a growlight tube and a daylight tube in it, these are the normal globes for these lights.

I placed the light on top of the lid and traced a line along the outer edge of it then cut along the lines so that the light would fit flush to the top of the box and have the rest of the top against either side of it  to stop any heat escaping. Next I cut down the front corners at a 45 degree angle(as pictured) and stopped 6" from the bottom then I cut across the front of the box at a 45 degree angle that was angled back into the box itself so that the piece would lock in when put back together. This made it easier to place trays etc inside the box and the lid also help to lock the front section in when put on top, I would leave the light on constantly and it kept the temperature in the box at 33 celsius which is a great germination temperature. I would have seeds germinating anywhere from 3 days onwards in this set up and the seedlings grew strongly under the combination of light tubes, once they had 3 or 4 sets of true leaves I would remove the trays and re plant them in pots. I usually tried to time it so that it would be spring when the seedlings came out of the box, this way they did not stop growing and really took off once potted up.

Box closed up     Ready to transfer/re-pot




                                                © Dennis



Seed raising with the  paper towel method


I used to use this method to check viability of seeds from my pods( a couple from each pod), it is simple and easy to control/check on how they are going. With the humid weather in Thailand I started doing larger amounts and now do up to 100 seeds at a time in a plastic container around 15cm square. I do 4 layers with 25 seeds or a few more in each layer, I also rotate them every coup[le of days, top and bottom to the middle and the middle ones to the top and bottom. You can check on them when ever you want and just spray a bit of water on them if they are drying out, just make sure to squeeze any excess water out gently.


I cut a piece of paper towel in half then fold in in half again to crease it then open it back up, I then spray it lightly with water then start laying the seeds on  it 2 cm from the margins(crease, sides and bottom). I fit 7 or 8 seeds(peeled edges/wing) in a row and 3 or 4 rows on each sheet(pic 1, peeled scraps beside paper towel), then you fold it over in half again, fold in the sides so that the folds are just about level with the seeds(over lapping them slightly with the folded piece) then do the same with the top and bottom, this should make the paper towel around 10 cm square or so(pic 2). I then spray it with a mix of water and seasol, lift it up and press it gently between my hands to remove the excess water. Then it is placed in the container. I repeat this 4 times, you could probably do more layers but this is usually enough to do at a time. Put the lid on ithe container and put it where it will be out of direct light but in a warm area(I use our ensuite bench top). I usually check them every few days to make sure they remain moist and rotate them every few days as well so they all get time in different positions.


They start to germinate here inside a week(temps av. high 20's) but I leave them till I can see several roots so it is worth opening them up( the ones in the pics are just over a week old, pic 3). Open them gently and remove the ones with roots(pic 4) then fold the paper back up(pic 5), put it back in the container and close it up  again(pic 6) until they have all germinated.


 All you have to do now is replant the ones you removed into your potting mix(pic 7), I use a mix of sand and seed raising mix, I make a trench in it and then just back fill it around the seeds, water them in with your seasol solution and keep them out of direct sun. If you are lucky you might even get twins(pic 8). Pic 9 is the seedlings from pic 7, two weeks later



I also remove some of the husk so that they can push it off easily as they grow to during this stage, usually within a month you have healthy seedling with a few sets of leaves, once they have 3 or 4 sets of true leaves you can move them into individual pots if you want or leave them to over winter in the one big tray. I start them out in 4" pots before moving them either into the ground or bigger pots, the choice is yours. 

With this method I regularly get a 100% success rate but I use my own seeds when they are fresh but still get good results with other growers seeds, you can also germinate seeds at any time of year if you can keep the temperature of the room reasonably warm(at least 20 C)

these are the same ones several weeks later outside

© Dennis