10 main rules of strong and friendly seedlings
For some, sowing seeds for seedlings is a long-awaited and pleasant chore, for some it is a difficult necessity, and someone is wondering if it is easier to buy ready-made seedlings in the market or from friends? Anyway, even if you refused to grow vegetables, for sure, you still have to sow something. These are flowers, and perennials, and conifers, and much more. Seedlings remain seedlings, regardless of the crop you are about to plant. Therefore, the rules for obtaining high-quality, strong and healthy seedlings, with well-developed above-ground and underground parts, are, by and large, the same.
1. Quality seeds
Good seeds are the key to good seedlings. Therefore, either buy seeds from proven producers that have yielded good results in past years, or use the recommendations of friends and neighbors of gardeners.
Recently, the practice of ordering seeds in China, especially some new exotic plants and varieties, has become quite widespread. My practice suggests that the germination of such seeds is very low or even zero. It seems that many suppliers “from there” use their impunity and send obviously unfit goods (expired), or even the wrong variety and even the type of plant. What is a sin to hide, with similar sellers can be encountered on our online sites.
For those who collect and harvest seeds For seedlings on their own, I will give advice: sow only large, high-quality, ripened seeds, there will be little use for substandard trifles. This, however, does not apply to cases when you miraculously produced one or two seeds of the crop or variety you need. Here we sow what is, you do not have to choose.
Do not forget to check the expiration date of the seeds on the package. In case of doubt, do a test sowing (if their number allows). Sow the seeds in advance in a damp cloth and wait patiently for a couple of weeks. If 50% is nested, then you can safely sow seedlings, but taking into account the fact that only half will sprout.
For details on how to check seeds for germination, read our article How to determine the germination of seeds?
2. Prepared soil mixture
Use high-quality soil mixtures for sowing seedlings. Why is it important?
- In a light and loose soil mixture, small roots will be easier and easier to grow.
- The plant will exhaust its own nutrients from the seed rather quickly, which means that the mixture should be moderately nutritious.
- The absence in the mixture of pathogens, eggs and insect larvae will allow you to grow healthy seedlings without unnecessary trouble and with a high percentage of yield.
For many, the most acceptable option is purchased ready-made mixtures for seedlings. But here, be on the alert - unscrupulous manufacturers are still found. Of course, in the store you are unlikely to be allowed to print the package, but do it at least at home ahead of time. When opening the package, the mixture should be slightly moist to the touch, have a pleasant smell (not putrid), not contain mold and too large inclusions (small ones are acceptable).
For those who plan a large number of seedlings, and therefore the soil mixture will need more, an acceptable option is to make these mixtures on their own. Usually, peat, sand, garden soil are mixed in the right proportions, and well-rotted manure is added. There is no sense in giving recipes, each gardener has their own, and they vary from culture to culture.
But no matter what mix for seedlings you make, if you take the components in the natural environment, you should know that they must be pre-processed in order to get rid of pathogens, larvae and eggs of insect pests and weed seeds.
You can do this in the "old-fashioned" way by holding it for 30-40 minutes in a colander over a pot of boiling water (steam). Another option is to microwave in full power for 20 minutes. You can use the oven, setting the temperature to more than 100 degrees. These methods are good, but for small portions of soil mixtures for seedlings, and not everyone will like the smell released during these operations.
What to do if you need to process several buckets of soil for seedlings? I propose a method that nature itself suggests. The buckets with the mixture are taken out in the cold and allowed to freeze completely, then they are taken into heat and warmed up for 10 days. A lot of what is inside wakes up, comes to life and sprouts, and you go back to frost.
Several such cycles will allow you to almost completely get rid of all the destroyers of your seedlings. Of course, this will take time and it is necessary to start the process of preparing soil mixtures for sowing seeds in advance.
3. The correct capacity for seedlings
For completely inexperienced gardeners, it is worth recalling that in the bottom of the tank for seedlings there must be holes, and not with an awl, but larger ones. These holes are necessary for the drainage of excess water during irrigation, and for air to reach the roots - the roots “breathe”. If the water stagnates and the air does not flow, then the seedlings will rot in the worst case, and at best it will be painful and there will be little use for it.
Usually they sow seeds in a common container, and then seedlings of seedlings are peaked in individual "apartments". Keep in mind that at this stage you need to consider the needs and characteristics of the development of the root system of each culture. It is also important to maintain a balance between the need for roots in volume and the size of your window sill or shelf.
Say, for tomato seedlings, it is better to use glasses with a capacity of 0.5 l, for cabbage and for petunia 0.2 l is enough. For pine seedlings, it is better to take a narrow and long container (its root immediately goes deep), and for seedlings of ground cover perennials, on the contrary, it is wide and shallow.
Just as we struggled with pathogens in the soil mixture, it is worth fighting with them on the surface of containers or cassettes. New and different containers suitable for growing seedlings (tetrapacks, plastic bottles, packaging from fast food), you just need to wash with detergent. Reusable containers and cassettes should be washed and treated with any fungicide (you can light: hydrogen peroxide or potassium permanganate).
4. Preparation of seeds for sowing
Basically, this rule applies to self-harvested seeds. After all, it is quite possible that you collect them from diseased plants (garden), or lift them from the surface of the earth (park, forest).
Traditionally, a pink potassium permanganate solution is used for presowing disinfection (if it is sold at your place), but any available fungicide can be used (though it is worth remembering that many of the modern fungicides cannot be used inside residential premises).
How to prepare a solution of potassium permanganate for seed disinfection, read in our article Potassium permanganate for plant health - reliable and indispensable.
A good option is to treat the seeds with hydrogen peroxide, or even better, use aloe juice. The juice is squeezed out of the leaf, diluted with water for about 1: 1 and the seeds are soaked for a day.
For those who sow seedlings not only vegetables, it is worth knowing that the seeds of some plants will require preliminary treatment with cold and humidity (stratification) or a partial violation of the integrity of the outer shell (scarification).
Read more about scarification in the article Scarification of seeds - a way to accelerate germination, about stratification, read in the material 6 rules for stratification of seeds at home.
Moreover, in each culture, these procedures can be very different. For example, lavender requires stratification within 30 days, magnolia - 90 days, hawthorn, and even more, can emerge only after a year and a half.
There are many ways of seed pretreatment. Examine in advance which ones your seeds need to get the desired result.
For those who buy seeds in the store, I will also give advice. Carefully study the packaging, many manufacturers make various useful procedures with seeds. Do not try to do this job again. This is typical of our people, “for sure”. Not worth it. Either you completely destroy the seeds, or you will lose time in vain, or you will nullify all the advantages of factory processing. Do everything according to the instructions!
5. Compliance with the timing of sowing
Of course, I know this - already in the middle of winter, gardeners “itch” their hands and want to sow. But it is very important to sow seedlings at the right time (there are also such crops that are sown in January). Sow too soon, until the plant grows into the ground the plant will outgrow - this is bad. Sow late - waste time.
What flowers to sow in February, read in the article 5 bright summers that need to be sown in early February.
The easiest way to determine the sowing time of a particular crop is to know the usual date of the last possible frost in your area, because it is after them that most plant seedlings in open ground.
For example, eggplant from the moment of emergence of shoots to the moment of landing in soil should grow 50-55 days. You know that the last frost on your site is possible until May 1. From this date, we count 55 days ago and get March 5 - this is the date when shoots should appear. Add 10 more days for seed germination, and it turns out that you have to sow eggplant for seedlings on the 20th of February.
But keep in mind that each culture has its own deadlines, so study them. There are, however, amateurs to determine the sowing time by the state of other plants. I will not argue, each has its own method.
6. Optimum sowing depth
Each seed has its own optimal sowing depth. If the seeds are embedded too deeply, then it will take a lot of time and effort to germinate, or they may not even make their way to the surface. Usually, “instillation” to a depth of 2-3 seed diameters is considered normal.
But here it is not so simple. It turns out there are seeds that need light to germinate. They are simply laid out on the surface of the soil mixture or germinated in water. Therefore, once again I urge - study what you sow, and how to do it right. In the case of purchased seeds, bona fide producers indicate all these details on the packaging.
7. Keeping distance between seeds
This rule applies to sowing seeds in a common capacity. With too dense crops, seedlings sprout close to each other and between them competition for food and light begins. As a result, the seedlings stretch and become weak. Yes, and disease (black leg) affects such seedlings with lightning speed and all.
Therefore, sow evenly with a certain interval for the development of seedlings. If the seeds are small and it’s difficult to maintain the interval, just ruthlessly thin out the seedlings. Better less seedlings, but strong than a lot frail!
8. Seedling care regimen
Seedlings mobilize and discipline gardeners and gardeners. It is necessary to learn how to maintain the optimum level of moisture in the soil mixture - not to dry it out (drought kills stubborn and sprouted seeds) and not to overfill (diseases develop quickly). It is better to use soft water, even if it is just standing up, and it is better to use thawed water. Its temperature during watering is + 22 ... + 24 ° С, this is optimal.
For normal growth and development, small shoots need light, a lot of light. And where to get it in late winter – early spring? Have to mount an artificial lighting system. Fortunately, modern energy-saving lamps do not allow you to spend much on electricity, but here you need a measure.
It is believed that plants and seedlings need 12-14 hours of daylight. I believe that the best option is to use the southern windowsill, where the seedlings will receive artificial light in the morning and evening, and natural in the afternoon.
There is a special conversation about the design of lamps, reflective screens and phytolamps. The main thing that you should pay attention to is the distance from the light source to the plant, and it will change as it grows, which means that the height of the lamp should also change.
In my opinion, it is very important to strictly observe the schedule for turning on and off the additional backlight - turn it on and off at the same time. The best option is a time relay.
And about the temperature regime. If the temperature is too low, the seeds will either not sprout or give weak and unfriendly seedlings. If the plants are too tall, they begin to grow quickly, which means they need more light and nutrition. With their shortage, the seedlings are drawn out and everything is gone.
The optimum temperature will be + 22 ... + 24 ° С for seed germination, and + 20 ° С when seedlings appear. Moreover, lowering the temperature is smooth, so that little seedlings do not experience stress. In general, you should understand that these parameters - moisture, light, nutrition and temperature, are interconnected. The highest skill in growing seedlings is to combine them correctly and use them to control the growth rate and quality of seedlings.
9. Cautious pick
If you have sown seedlings in a common container, then most likely you will have to separate them into separate containers. You need to do this on time, usually with the appearance of a pair of real leaves. It is at this moment that the plant experiences this procedure painlessly. Although not all plants are comfortable, and many gardeners have refused to pick.
About how to properly pickle seedlings, read in the article Pickling seedlings: nuances, tips, features of the process.
10. Gradual hardening
Your seedlings spent in the house for about 2 months. In fact, in greenhouse conditions: there is no wind, no temperature fluctuations, the lighting is soft and uniform. Try putting it outside, even if it's already warm there. Most likely, the result will be disastrous - or die, or “fall ill” for a long time. Therefore, gradually accustom your small plants to adverse street conditions. Take out first in the shade for half an hour, gradually increasing both the time and the intensity of sunlight.
I hope these 10 rules of good seedlings will help you get a friendly and strong seedlings of vegetables and ornamental plants, and over time - an excellent harvest. What I wish you!