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Seed Starting For Beginners

Hey it’s your first time sowing seeds? And not sure how to start – don’t feel silly, it’s all good, I’ve got your back. We all started somewhere, and I’m a firm believer that to learn you’ve just got to start.

What equipment do you need? Just a few basic items is all you need to begin with:

Seed raising mix – always buy good quality stuff, (cheap home brand shit will just let you down, it’s made of poor quality ingredients and struggles to hold moisture). If I had to pick a favourite for me it is Yates Black Magic.

Trays - Anything will do, be that punnets, flats or plugs (or a soil blocker, but I won’t go into any details here about soil blocking. If you do want to learn about soil blocking, click here). But I will add I sow 90% of my seeds into soil blocks, and always have tremendous success seed starting.

Vermiculite – Always.

A humidity dome – sounds technical, but this can be anything from those mini greenhouses to a large clear Sistema tub (Those ‘under bed’ storage ones are fantastic).

Got your equipment? Got your seeds, What next...

Firstly - Fill your trays or punnets with your seed raising mix, firm it down, and water lightly – you want to make sure your seed raising mix is nice and damp, but not completely saturated. If you are re-using trays, that’s awesome! But I do recommend giving them a quick wash with soapy water to remove any potential old pathogens or diseases.

Now - Sow your seeds (eek, Exciting!). It’s important you follow the instructions, sounds obvious, but it’s a big pitfall for a lot of people. Click here for my important guide to understanding your seed packet. Ask yourself is the season right too? It’s really tempting to get carried away and sow everything right now, this very moment, but certain flowers grow at certain times, and you don’t want to set yourself up for failure.

Next - USE VERMICULITE. I cannot emphasise this enough. Even for surface sown seeds, sprinkle a nice thick layer on the surface of your seed trays. Vermiculite is a natural mineral that not only lets light through (so tiny surface sown seeds can still germinate), but helps hold moisture around your seeds and on the surface to prevent them drying out. Which naturally leads me to my final step.

Finally - Use a humidity dome. This is also crucial. It keeps the environment your seeds are in nice and moist creating a little microclimate for your seed babies. The biggest reason for germination failure is allowing the surface of the seed raising mix to dry out. Place your seed trays in the mini greenhouses or a giant clear Sistema tub is perfect.

Now you’ve sowed your seeds, what to do next? Here is a few common FAQs

Where do I put my seed trays to germinate?

I start about 90% of my seeds inside. This literally means I keep my trays inside my house until they germinate, and not outside in a greenhouse or cold frame. This is because it’s easier to maintain a steady temperature inside, not too hot, not too cold, which seeds tend to prefer to germinate. Place your trays (or mini greenhouse or tubs) somewhere bright and sunny. Avoid direct sunlight, particularly in the afternoon – as this can potentially dry out your seed trays, or even worse cook them as it gets too hot. Some seeds do require ‘cold stratification to germinate – but we won’t murky the waters discussing that here as that slips into the more advanced seed sowing territory.

How long does it take?

Germination depending on the variety can vary massively, some seeds germinate in a few days, others a week or 2 and some can even take months!

Do I need to water my seed trays?

Yes you do, it’s important to keep the seed trays moist. Bottom watering is best, so place your seed trays in a little tray of water and wait until you can see the surface is moist. Then remove. Or I use a small watering can with a gentle rose on, so it doesn’t wash away any tiny seeds or damage any delicate new seedlings. You see a lot of people ‘misting’ this is not a very effective method, as it just dampens the surface and doesn’t really allow enough moisture to soak down into your seed mix, it can also blow tiny surface sown seeds away.

Hooray your seeds have germinated!

It’s so exciting the first time you seed little green shoots, you feel like the master, you’ve brought life into this world! You’re unstoppable – and I’ve giving you virtual high fives cheering you on! (It’s also a slippery slope from here as it’s so addictive growing things from seed). I recommend moving your seedlings outside at this point, somewhere sheltered (If using a mini greenhouse, be careful it doesn’t get too hot, or if you are using the cheapy zippy greenhouse anchor them down as the whole thing might blow over in windy weather). As unless you are using grow lights indoor, no matter how sunny your windowsill is the seedlings will still stretch towards the light and get what we call ‘leggy’ and we want to avoid this.

Wait until your seeds have about 3 or 4 sets of leaves, you’ll see what I mean – then it’s time to plant outside. It’s also at this point you can consider adding in fertilisers such as seaweed or fish hydrolysate. But before you get carried away, they is 1 more really important step before you can pat yourself on the back. You need to ‘harden off’ your seedlings. A few days prior to planting out your seedlings move the trays of seedlings into their destined planting position for a few hours, and then increase an hour at time for a few days (Moving them back to their sheltered position afterwards). Then finally the day before planting your seedlings out, place the trays of seedlings in their final position for the full day and night. This is to reduce transplant shock when you finally plant out your hard grown flower babies.

When planting, dig a little hole 1st where your seedling is going, add a small sprinkle of compost and mycorrhizal fungi, then gently coax the seedling out the tray, be careful not to damage the roots, a teaspoon or small butter knife is perfect, and finally place the seedling into the hole, gently pat the dirt back around – and finally, ALWAYS WATER.

Pat yourself on the back – Flower lover, You’ve done it.

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