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seed starting Mel's way Toplef10seed starting Mel's way 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

seed starting Mel's way I22gcj10seed starting Mel's way 14dhcg10

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seed starting Mel's way

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Post  danieggert 1/21/2023, 3:31 pm

Hi,  Using my 3ed edition of SFG, I plan to start my seeds as written in the book, using vermiculite and follow up instructions.

I would like to hear from someone who has done it this way and their experience.

I still plan on doing 'by the book' but would like to hear other experiences.

Thanks   Dani
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Post  sanderson 1/22/2023, 3:37 am

I use Mel's Mix made with medium vermiculite or else screen extra MM with the gold miner's 1/4" screen pan so it's finer. I did experiment with medium vermiculite one year but I never potted them. I just wanted to see if it works. Use a potting mix for potting the sprouts.

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Post  OhioGardener 1/22/2023, 8:01 am

The problem I would see with starting the seeds in just Vermiculite is that when it comes to potting up or transplanting the seedling it will not be a block around the roots as it is with soil or compost.  I use my screened homemade compost, and have always had good success with it.

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Post  sanderson 1/22/2023, 4:34 pm

I took a photo this morning of the extra MM that I sifted using a gold miner's 1/4" sifting pan.  I am pleased with it.  The spoon is for reference of particle size.
seed starting Mel's way Seedli51

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Post  Scorpio Rising 1/22/2023, 8:39 pm

Welcome, danniergert!  I start my seed in purchased seed starting medium.  Very excited to see what you get into this year.


Last edited by Scorpio Rising on 1/22/2023, 8:40 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Saw where you live)
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Post  OhioGardener 1/23/2023, 10:46 am

sanderson wrote:I took a photo this morning of the extra MM that I sifted using a gold miner's 1/4" sifting pan.  I am pleased with it.  The spoon is for reference of particle size.

Another great tool for sifting the compost is an inexpensive plastic food strainer (Colander?) from the Dollar Store. The strainer will hold a gallon or so of the compost which can then be pushed around in the strainer to allow the finer parts to flow through to the container below, while trapping the larger parts.  If fine or medium Vermiculite is needed to mix with the compost (or use on top of the seeds as I do), this strainer call also be used with coarse Vermiculite to sift out the finer parts.

The old strainer I have is too beat up and dirty to take a picture of, but is is similar to this one. Just make sure that the bottom of the strainer has the holes and is not solid plastic.
seed starting Mel's way Food_s11



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Post  plantoid 1/27/2023, 7:09 am

OhioGardener wrote:The problem I would see with starting the seeds in just Vermiculite is that when it comes to potting up or tr3 inbches / 75 mm1 & 1/2 unches lin=ong fill it with fine ( coarse sugar granules size ) vermiculite and so the seed no more then five tine it heigh dep in a premade hole , sprinkle vermiculite ovre the sown individual see and water it , due to teh way vermiculite holds the grown medium moisture at a stable level the seen soon  starts to germinate 7 grown 
  Try using MM and a 3/4oir 1/2 " inch deep poked in hole inside a 3 inch length of 1& 1/4 internal diameter of waste sink water pipe .
 Fill the tube with lightly compacted MM . Poke a hole just over 1/2 " deep in the middle with a pencil or the back end of a sharpie type (thin -ish ) pen. 
Put a single seed ( called station sowing ) in the poked hole with very fine vermiculite over the seed , don't press this vermiculite down to compact it . 
it needs to be light and airy 
Water it well but very gently ........  A soda water bottle with several melted through holes in the top of the cap made with a red hot darning needle makes a good water in device ) 

 Check for growth daily , once you see the second leaf break out the seedling stem , take the tube to where you want to plant it. ( so long as your past the last frost of the year date ). 
 
 Us a rod ( mine's a six inch length  of wooden broom stick ) of the same internal diameter to make the planting hole , give it a wiggle round to make the hole a tad bigger in diameter and to the same depth as the tube . 

Carefully push the vermiculite & seedling up from the bottom of the tube so it lays along you hand , then simply & gently lower it down the premade planting hole , water it in well and ensuring top of the vermiculite is about 1/8 of an inch below the mean surface of the soil , sprinkle fine sieved MM, to stop too much drying out occurring ( aka the wicking effect ) .  Making the planting hole a tad bigger as described than the tube actually allows the tube of compost and plant to sink below the mean ground level sufficiently  when you water ( aka Puddle ) it in well . 

 I have over 300 such  sowing tubes in trays of 33 , I've also  cut plug off an old home exercise mat to make the bottoms for the tube pots , it helps when pushing up the seedling out the tube and is rescued there & then 

 Doing it with the tube method means there is little or no damage to the microfine root hairs of the seedlings and so no check in the seedling growth on to a sound plant .  There is also the advantage of bein g able to precisely sown in a grid / pattern which makes for crop amounts planning very easy .
 
The couple of hours or so spent sowing whole years seeds in the tubes is well repaid both in saved time later on , less humping stuff around and using far reduced amounts of compost and vermiculite .

 I've been doing this bottomless seed tube sowing since a few weeks after I joined ANSFG in 2005 ( under another name till I got hacked ) , I've rarely ever had any problems .

Laughing Save for the time when hundreds of baby black slugs got in the UV growing cabinet via unsterilized MM that had been stored in a bottomless composting  bin on the bare ground for two years ...they ate every sodding seedling overnight as they emerged out the vermiculite  . bounce
 IIRC I successfully re grew them all within about nine days then put them in the glasshouse to harden them off and get them up to a transplanting size.

 Now I put the seedling MM in a steel bucket and pour in two 4 pint kettles of boiling water in . giving it a good stir round then covering the bucket with its lid , to kill off any creepie crawlies etc in the seedlings MM , let it cool and dry on a barrel lid for a day or so before using it ...no more pest problems in my seedlings MM .
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seed starting Mel's way Empty Two different instructions on starting seeds In SFG 3rd edition

Post  danieggert 3/8/2023, 4:46 pm

Hi,

Rereading the chapter on seed starting indoors and I found a problem, not sure which is right.  3rd edition of book

page 154
 #5 Cover the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite.  Keep vermiculite moist until the seeds have sprouted and produced their first set of TRUE LEAVES


NEXT PAGE
#155   Top of the second column "MOVE THE SEEDLINGS INTO FOUR-PACKS.  These first two paragraphs tell me to NOT WAIT for the TRUE LEAVES but transplant as soon as I see the first two leaves called cotyledons.

So which is it?  Transplant from the vermiculite as soon as I see the cotyledons or wait for the first two true leaves.

Thanks in advance

Dani in Burr Ridge
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Post  OhioGardener 3/8/2023, 5:41 pm

I have never started seeds this way, but I'll give 2 cents worth of humble opinion.  Starting seeds in vermiculite is virtually no different than starting them between layers of damp paper towel - it is providing a damp location for the seeds to germinate.  As soon as they have germinated, they are ready to be moved into soil so that they can quickly send out their root hairs to establish the plant.

My old non-SFG organic gardening pamphlet offers this advice:

Sprinkle the seeds on top of the moist vermiculite, cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, and then spray it with water. Cover the container and set it on top of a heating vent, heat mat, or any place warm.

As soon as you see that the seeds have sprouted, take the plastic off and transfer them to a bright location. When they have their first leaves use a chopstick or a pencil and transfer them to containers filled with good potting soil or directly into your garden if the weather is already right.

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Post  sanderson 3/9/2023, 4:10 am

Dani, There are several ways to start seeds indoors.  The vermiculite method shown in the book is one way.  I experimented one year just to see if they would sprout but didn't like having to transfer them to the seed pots.  That's just me.

A heating pad with a thermostat and probe helps speed up germination.  Lights aren't needed for most seeds until they germinate.  (exceptions include lettuce, some herbs and flowers).

This year I added a back-up method to my usual method.  Last year I had an abysmal failure with pepper seeds.  A single piece of very damp paper towel in a snack size baggie with the seed side down.  Labeled each baggie with a Sharpie.  That way the radicle (root) will not grow into the paper towel and make it difficult to transfer to a seed cup or 6-pack, etc. without breaking off the root.  I set them on top of the dry cleaner bag that covered the seed cups on the heating pad and had good success with the pepper seeds for a change.seed starting Mel's way Seedin12


Some folks use seed cups and purchased seedling soil mix.

Some use Jiffy pots.

Others make soil blocks.

Me, I use 2 1/4" x 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" cups that I wash and store each year.  I use Mel's Mix.  I do steam bake it to sterilize it.  I used to have trouble with fungus gnats but not since I started steam baking.  I screen the MM with a gold miner's 1/4" screening pan to remove "large" chunkies.  I put 2 seeds in each pot for insurance.  At some point I carefully snip off the weaker one.

The seedlings in the left of the front tray are peppers!!  bounce  The lights are at different heights depending on the height of the seedlings.
seed starting Mel's way Seedli54

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seed starting Mel's way Empty Which leaves do I use

Post  danieggert 3/9/2023, 7:03 am

Lots of good information received from my post

One question remains unanswered
about seed starting indoors

The 3rd edition of the book tells me to transplant my seed plant when this happens

2 opposite ways

1.  Move to pots when  the 1st 2 leaves show,, the cotyledons

2.   Move to pots when the 1st 2 "true leaves" show

 Which way is correct?

 Thanks

Dani from Burr Ridge
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Post  OhioGardener 3/9/2023, 7:41 am

danieggert wrote:One question remains unanswered about seed starting indoors

The 3rd edition of the book tells me to transplant my seed plant when this happens

2 opposite ways

1.  Move to pots when  the 1st 2 leaves show,, the cotyledons

2.   Move to pots when the 1st 2 "true leaves" show

 Which way is correct?

Either one, which ever you are comfortable with. Seeds contain enough nutrient to feed the plant until they receive their true leaves, so they only must be transplanted after they develop their true leaves. But, if you want to transplant them earlier that is fine, too.  Maybe experiment a little -- transplant half as soon as they germinate, and transplant the other half after they develop the true leaves -- and see which works better and let us know the results.

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Post  Jjean59 3/17/2023, 5:02 pm

So what I'm hearing is - there are a lot of different ways to achieve the same results, it just boils down to personal preference
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Post  OhioGardener 3/17/2023, 6:25 pm

Jjean59 wrote:So what I'm hearing is - there are a lot of different ways to achieve the same results, it just boils down to personal preference

Yes, if one uses the upper left-hand search option for "Seed Starting", one will find a lot of posts on the subject.  Very Happy

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Post  bigtoad 3/17/2023, 9:26 pm

danieggert wrote:Lots of good information received from my post

One question remains unanswered
about seed starting indoors

The 3rd edition of the book tells me to transplant my seed plant when this happens

2 opposite ways

1.  Move to pots when  the 1st 2 leaves show,, the cotyledons

2.   Move to pots when the 1st 2 "true leaves" show

 Which way is correct?

 Thanks

Dani from Burr Ridge

Hello!  I only have the 2nd edition of the SFG book that doesn't include the seed starting info, but this sounds exactly like the way I've been starting all my pepper and eggplant seeds for many years.
I start them in pure vermiculite and once the cotyledons open (occasionally with help if the seed gets stuck) I pull them and stick them into potting mix.  I've always had close to 100% success starting them this way.  I've even managed to accidentally tear leaves and still got the plant going.  As long as you avoid damaging the stem you should be good.
I used to start my tomatoes this way as well, but I started selling starts last year and found Craig LeHoullier's (nctomatoman on YouTube) dense planting method works great too.
Hope this helps!
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