Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seed Starting Revelations

I've had a bit of an epiphany relative to starting seeds. At this point, seed starting is such a natural process and part of the normal garden routine that it's rarely given much thought until something unusual happens. And a couple of days ago, I started some Goose lettuce seeds from a very old packet. While I expect the germination on an old packet of seeds to be low, what I don't expect is for those that do germinate to emerge within a week or two. I've had them take as long as a month and in this case I was in no rush. Much to my utter shock, these seeds popped up within a couple of days of planting- which simply made no sense to me.  As a matter of fact, I started some packets of new seeds that were just purchased that hadn't sprung up yet. So what was the difference, I thought?

Here's what I realized - which was an amazing revelation:

1.  Heat &  Sun:  The Goose lettuce seed were positioned on a shelf to the west of my normal seed starting area. This provided them with more intense sunlight and more heat.

2.  Rain Water:  Having stored rain water in a couple of buckets from the January rain (a rarity worth capturing), I've used that water to fill up my water bottles that I water the seeds with.  I'm convinced rain water is an absolute elixir.  I've been able to resurrect feeble, dying and weak plants with repeated doses of rain water. It's simply fantastic!

3.  The Mix:  Over the past year or so, I've been experimenting with different types of matter to mix with perlite, rather than peat, to start my seeds.  This is my effort to be conscientious over the sustainability of using peat. 

My seed starting results have been mixed, however, and not nearly as satisfying as my stand-by mixture of 50% peat and 50% perlite.  When I started the lettuce seeds, I had a leftover bucket of peat from years prior and that's what I used to start the seedlings and as usual, the seeds seemed to respond extremely well.  Even other seeds that were placed on the east facing shelf emerged at a 'normal' pace. However, there are some brand new packets that were started a couple of weeks ago, in a compost/peat mixture that are struggling.  They're emerging inconsistently and not at all at a pace consistent with a new packet of seeds.  In this case, I think the soil is just a tad too heavy - even with the perlite (and this was at a rate of what would probably be 40% compost/60% perlite).

Being in a tropical climate definitely helps my seed starting efforts as I'm able to start seeds throughout the entire year - literally.  I usually reserve a small area of my westerly facing shelf for transplants rather than seed starting simply because I have more space for the large pots.  But, I'm rethinking this strategy...

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