Seed Starting

…Locally Grown…Sustainable…Freshly Picked… Chemical-Free…

Growing plants from seeds is a cost effective and rewarding way to start a garden.  Our goal, at the farm, is to have every seed that we sow germinate.  Young plants are the most fragile and require delicate care during their first month. In order to ensure successful seed production, proper cleaning and sanitizing of all pots, containers and trays is critical because seeds and young seedlings are highly vulnerable to fungus, especially damping off.

Traditionally, the first week of February we begin our seed starting in preparation activities in earnest. We wash, rinse and sanitize the seed starting equipment; set up the plant germination chamber, heat mat benches and LED light plant racks; organize seed packets and plant labels; and, purchase a new farm journal.

Our seed-starting success follows this simple tried and true process:

  1. We record all of the plant data in our Farm Journal so that we have it for future reference and problem solving. For each plant that is sown we record the following data: seed type; sow date; germination date; germination temperature; potting-up date; fertilizer type, amount and date; transplant date; and, harvest date(s).
  2. To avoid disease and fungal problems, all seed starting equipment is washed and sanitized prior to use.
  3. Add boiling water to a sterile soil mix to pre-moisten and create a warm environment for the seeds to start out in. After sowing the seeds, pack firmly and cover with vermiculite.
  4. Generally speaking, small seeds are sprinkled on the soil surface and large seeds are buried to a depth the size of the seed. Refer to the seed packet to see how deep you should plant the seeds.
  5. Pre-soaking seeds speeds up germination.  Beet and chard seeds germinate faster if soaked in water 6 to 24 hours prior to sowing.  We chemically scarify parsnip in a solution of 1 ounce of 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 pint of water to increase germinate rates.
  6. Seedlings need a lot of light.  Set the lights on a timer for 15 hours a day.  Rotate potted plants under the lights once a day.
  7.  Before the seeds germinate, water with a gentle spray mister. Switch to bottom watering to reduce damping off issues, and decrease mold and algae problems once the seedling are established. Wicking water from the bottom also encourages plants to root deeply.
  8. Seed propagation heat mats increase germination rates.
  9. Ventilation is critical.  An oscillating fan is a critical to plant health.
  10. Be sure to harden off the plants prior to transplanting them outside. Go slow and do not sunburn the plants.