Many Hats of Me: Starting Plants from Seed the Quick and Easy Way

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Starting Plants from Seed the Quick and Easy Way

Where To Find Seeds For Your Garden

Seeds for your vegetable garden can be purchased inexpensively from your local nursery, grocery, and big box store. This year I purchased hybrid corn, sweet peas, garlic chives, nasturtiums, and four-o'clocks. The bag in the top right corner are seeds that I collected from my vegetable garden last year: green peppers, squash, and green beans. Choose the larger seeds from the packets as they tend to be the healthiest.



Small Seeds


Smaller seeds, such as Catnip and Garlic Chives, are more difficult to germinate out of soil since they are so small. I plan to throw these into the garden directly. 

Garlic Chive Seeds


Pepper Plants From Seed


Last year I did germinate tiny pepper plant seeds that I purchased from the store. It took over two weeks to germinate and the plants produced thin walled and tasteless green peppers. This year I purchased potted pepper plants from Home Depot. 

Germinate Seeds Easily On Top of Your Fridge


When shopping for your seeds, you may be tempted to purchase seed germinating kits, warming mats, and grow light bulbs. You don't need any special tools to germinate seeds beyond what you already have at home.

Seeds require two things to germinate: moisture and warmth. 

Step 1: Wet a square of paper towel with a mixture of 10 parts filtered water and one part hydrogen peroxide. You can use bottled water or reverse osmosis water, or water from your Brita. The hydrogen peroxide will help prevent the growth of fungus. Hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration) can be purchased at any pharmacy or big box store.

Step 2: Fold the paper towel in half and place into an unused large Ziplock bag. 

Step 3: Place the seeds onto the wet paper towel, making sure that they do not touch one another.

Step 4: Zip up the bag and place on top of your refrigerator where it is warm. When you touch the bag in a few hours, you will feel the gentle heat from the refrigerator coming through the bag. You do not need any light. 


Seeds Germinating Using Paper Towel and Ziplock Bag 

Check your seeds every 2 days to see if any has sprouted. Most should have sprouted in 7 days. Some can take up to two weeks like pepper seeds.

I noticed that the corn seeds had a hairy fungus growing on them after 2 days. I used plain filtered water for my first batch of seeds and no hydrogen peroxide.

You can discard these seeds or you can rinse with the water and hydrogen peroxide mixture (10:1) and return to the bag with a new piece of wet paper towel.

The pea seeds were plump, but they hadn't germinated yet. I took a paring knife and punctured a small hole near the "eye" of the seed to speed things up a bit.

One of the  4 o'clock seeds germinated too (the black seed at the top).



Corn seeds germinated in 2.5 days

Pea seed afflicted with hairy white fungus. I threw this pea seed away since the fungal infection had gone too far and the seed was growing much slower than its peers.

Day 4: Peas Germinating


Puncturing the hard skin of the peas paid off as you can see. All the peas have little roots growing out of the seeds.

Even the corn that did not germinate earlier sprouted by day 4. I washed the fungus off using tap water (which contains chlorine) and placed them back into the bag. I'm hoping to have leaf shoots before planting them into soil


Peas and corn seeds germinating Day 4

Day 5: Longer Shoots and Leaves Appear


Roots extend from the pea seeds on Day 5. Leaf shoots appear on the corn seeds.


Plant Germinated Seeds in Small Pots 


You can use 2 to 4 inch wide pots to plant your seedlings. I use the inexpensive cardboard type that can be planted directly into the ground. To support the cardboard pots, I used the black nursery plant trays.  You can acquire these black plastic trays FOR FREE from the Home Depot.


  1. Fill each pot with potting soil. I use Miracle Grow potting soil. 
  2. Pour filtered water* into the pot so that it is wet to the touch, but not muddy.
  3. Make a hole in the center of each pot and carefully place a germinated seedling in it. Make sure that you don't cover any leaves that may have already sprouted. You can cover the seedling if you just have roots.
  4. Use your finger to gently close the hole so that the soil gently rests around the seedling. 

*Filtered water is water that has been filtered by a carbon filter which removes chlorine and chemicals. Plants will thrive in clean chlorine-free water.


Planted seedlings in cardboard pots

Place the tray of seedlings in a waterproof container like a shallow plastic bin and place by a window.  Water the seedling every day or every other day. The soil must always be damp. Do not let them dry out.

Disease


Check your seedlings for disease when you water. If you notice patchy discoloration, it could be mildew. Tomato plants and squash plants are susceptible to this disease.


Mildew on tomato leaves from:
 http://www.gardening-for-wildlife.com/images/Powdery-mildew-tomato.jpg

Mold Growing On Planted Seedlings


I planted my Day 5 germinated seeds in pots with Miracle Grow soil and reverse osmosis water. Today, I found mold growing on the corn seeds again and it's now spread to the soil too.

I will try to save them by pouring hydrogen peroxide + water into the pots and wait one more day. I don't give this much hope, so I've started another batch of corn seeds today soaked in the hydrogen peroxide solution.


Mold growing on planted seeds



Disease Prevention

Hydrogen Peroxide To Water Your Plants


To prevent mold from growing on your seedlings, water with the hydrogen peroxide + water solution. It will keep the fungus at bay in addition to adding oxygen to your soil. Continue using H2O2 solution until the plants are moved outside.

An easy measurement is to add 1.5 tsp of hydrogen peroxide (3%) to 1 cup filtered water.



Hydrogen Peroxide 3%


Air Movement For Seedlings


To avoid fungal infections, place a fan near the plants and set to low and oscillate so that there is an intermittent gentle breeze on your plants to keep the leaves dry but not dried out. The air movement prevents mildew from starting.



Seedlings and plants purchased from Home Depot

Squash seedlings in reused plastic nursery pots

Keep Your Seedlings Indoors


Avoid wind and vermin damage by keeping your seedlings indoors until they are ready to be moved to your garden. 

In the Midwest, we wait until Memorial Day before we start planting. Check with your local nursery to see when it is the best time to plant in your area. Happy Gardening!

Garden Shopping





Further Reading



Hydrogen Peroxide and Gardening Mixing Charts

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