Seed Starting Tips from Renee Studebaker

Jan 19th, 2018 | By | Category: gardening tips, Grow Something, show tips, the show
Seed Starting Station, Photo by Renee Studebaker

Seed Starting Station, Photo by Renee Studebaker

Few creations in this world are as miraculous as a single seed. Inside each tiny package, some of which are smaller than the head of a pin, an embryonic plant sleeps–dreaming of the day it’s called to serve its intended purpose.

Renee Studebaker is a gardener and cook and educator; she’s helped hundreds of seeds find meaning, and in so doing has reaped the rewards of their fruitfulness.

If you’ve considered growing a food garden from seed, then you ought to find the following tips from Renee particularly helpful.

  1. If you’re a beginner, the most foolproof seed-starting medium is a commercially packaged soilless blend of lightweight, moisture holding materials like perlite, vermiculite and peat. When you’re ready to experiment, try making your own sustainable mix — sifted leaf mold (composted dry leaves) or a mix of sifted compost and leaf mold.
  2. After planting seeds, keep mix moist, but not soggy. Soggy mixes are more prone to disease.
  3. A couple of shop lights with 40 or 60 watt incandescent bulbs will put out enough heat to germinate seeds. An electric heating pad placed under a tray of little pots works too, but be sure to keep pad away from moisture. Ordinary fluorescent lights work almost as well as grow lights and are a lot cheaper. As soon as seeds sprout, move them under the lights.
  4. Seedlings don’t need nutrition until their first leaves are formed. To feed, add a few drops of liquid seaweed and fish emulsion to your water spray bottle. Or use a thin solution of compost tea.
  5. Thin seedlings to one healthy plant. To keep from disrupting delicate roots, thin by snipping plants off at the base with small scissors or clippers.
  6.  Tap water contains chlorine and other trace chemicals that can interfere with seedling growth. If possible water with rain water or filtered water.
  7. If your seedlings are thin and lanky, move them closer to the florescent light and lower the temperature of your growing environment by a few degrees to slow down growth. Short, thick stemmed seedlings make the healthiest transplants.
  8. Read the seed package front, back and inside to find out just about everything you need to know about the germination and growing conditions required for a particular plant.
  9. Start your plants in containers that are about three inches wide, so you don’t have to bother with transferring seedlings to larger pots before transplanting into the garden.
  10. After transplanting seedlings, protect their tender stems from cutworms with a homemade collar pressed into the soil around each plant. Cut empty toilet or paper towel rolls into collars, or make a collar out of aluminum foil strips.
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