Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Starting From Seeds

I've had a lot of trouble with my seed starts.  But today I read a forum discussion that made some very good points which I will begin to follow.  The following is a list of do's and dont's.

Starting from seed requires moist, but not wet conditions.  Starting your seeds in the Deep Water Culture (DWC) may keep your small seedling too wet.  It would be better to water as needed; maybe two or three times per day depending on the heat and humidity.  Green House humidity may keep the seedlings too moist.  Using a fan to move air over the seedlings can be helpful, but you may also need to open the enclosure and let dry air in to bring the humidity down.

My seeds do well when started outside in open air, but I'd like to be able to start seeds in the cold Winter months too.  I'm thinking I will get a small heating pad and start my seeds in the garage.  The humidity will be lower so Pythium will be less likely to affect the small seedlings.  Once they harden off I will be able to move them into the garden room.

Starting seeds directly in the net pot, or media that the plant will live it's life in saves a lot of time.  Let me directly quote  Vlad Jovanovic 
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"All the stuff you see in my rafts were germinated directly in net pots filled with hydroton. I just don't put them in the DWC trough until about 10-15 days after they germinate, but they all seeds start off directly in hydroton. This has a number of advantages.
1). There is no transplant shock for the seedlings Since the seed is started in the same place it will live out it's life, so no waiting days and days for them to get over transplant shock and start growing again. So better for them.
2) It's a HUGE time and energy saver. Transplanting seedlings sucks IMO and is a totally un-necessary waste of your time/labor in most AP scenarios. So better for you.
3) It's also cheaper that way, since there is no coco-coir, vermiculite, perlite etc...to buy.
4) No soil born pests or pathogens (even in bagged and bought products I've often come across various larva and who knows what else that you can't see...fungal/bacterial).
Starting seeds off in soil, or any other medium, seems pointlessly time consuming, counterproductive, more expensive, and doesn't give germination results that are any better than starting them off in a LECA media, and can be the source of many a pathogenic headache."
Old seeds don't germinate. 
Get your seeds fresh from a reputable source.  Your local hardware store or grocer may not turn over enough stock to ensure that  the seeds are new.

Begin with a sterile media.   Here is a tip from Jon Parr

 Link to Comment
 I would personally mist the plants and surrounding area lightly with hydrogen peroxide to kill spores while handling, and to help prevent any spores from going airborne. No big deal, but H2O2 is a relatively safe disinfectant, and leaves nothing behind but water and oxygen.
I have tried this and ran into problems when my H2O2 solution was too strong.   A 3% solution is a common topical strength found at drug stores and would not need to be diluted.

After many of my seedling failed due to Damping Off and more specifically Pythium – a genus of parasitic oomycete I have taken to is boiling the media I plant in.  Starting with a sterile media, and avoiding contaminates from sources such your dirt garden will help to ward off these parasites. Nursery transplants are generally pretty sterile, but since you don't really know it does not hurt to be cautious.  

Jon also offered this tip!
Link to Conversation
Indeed, be careful about using H2O2 or any dissinfectant in AP, of course. But in order to harm your bio filter, it must reach your biofilter as active H2O2. If you dump a whole bottle of hardware store 3% in your grow bed, the H2O2 will kill single celled organisms indiscriminately as it disperses through the system, leaving in it's wake a sterile pathway. Big deal. If it doesn't wipe out the whole system, the system will recover, probably without hiccup. That can't be said of any other disinfectant. The truth is that H2O2 is very short lived in an abundance of bacteria, as the bacteria it kills robs the extra O, and leaves behind H2O. Of course you can do damage, but it is a very mild risk for the benefit it carries. If your media is dry for 2" like it's supposed to be, then you can fog the plants and surface liberally (use your noggin), and the H2O2 won't make it to the fish or the biofilter. I do it all the time.
The fact is that spore carry the problem to other areas, and stick around to cause problems again, and H2O2 kills spore. It doesn't kill the fungus, it doesn't kill the plants, it doesn't kill insects, but it does kill spore and bacteria. If you really want to impress your friends, use a cap-full of H2O2 for the first watering after you plant seeds. It will kill any spore and bacteria immediately surrounding the seed, and rapidly quicken the softening of the hull, cut germination times in half, and increase germination rate. It may even fix your infected seeds, IDK. 
Yes Bob, 1 1/2 to 3% can be put straight in a spray bottle, and is a good disinfectant to use for your garden tools, cleaning pumps and hoses, test equipment, fish nets, etc.
Don't let any go straight to the fish tank, as there are far fewer bacteria to sacrifice before it hits the fish's gills, which could be lethal.

In Summary:
 Keep it dry
  Water only as needed
 Keep it sterile 
  Spray with Hydrogen Peroxide
  Boil the media
 Use fresh seeds

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