Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
February, 2001
Regional Report

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Filing the seed coats of morning glory seeds with a nail file or emery board and then presoaking them in water helps "prime" the seeds so they germinate faster.

Secret Success with Seeds

Growing your own transplants from seed may not be the easiest or fastest way to garden, but I like it just the same. While most seeds, such as broccoli and marigolds, are pretty easy to start indoors, others, such as morning glory and pepper, sometimes need extra attention. Over my years of seed starting I've found some techniques that work well to get seeds up and growing fast. Some of these techniques are well known, and others are somewhat improvised.

Keep Them Warm

While many seeds can germinate in cool soils, I've found that keeping the soil temperature around 70F provides the best germination for most seeds. You can buy heating mats or cables to keep the pot and soil warm while the seedlings begin to grow, but I like to start my seeds above our furnace. This time of year it's still cranking away, eating up oil (and emptying my pockets of cash). The space near the furnace provides a perfect seed-starting area. I place plastic trays of peppers, tomatoes, and other warmth-loving crops on a shelf above the furnace, and the seeds literally germinate in a few days. Of course, be careful not to get the trays too close to the furnace, or they'll melt, and water diligently because the soil dries out quickly.

Pregerminate the Tough Ones

I also like to pregerminate (start them before they go in the soil) some of the larger seeds, such as morning glory and artichoke, that take a little longer to germinate on their own. I file the seeds with a nail file enough to break the seed coat. Then I soak them in warm water overnight. The seeds swell as they absorb water, and I plant them the next morning. With this method, I get not only faster germination, but a higher percentage as well.

Keep Them All Bright

Whatever the seeds, once germinated, I place the seedlings literally inches away from the grow lights in the same furnace room. They grow quickly in the warm room, so I have to move the lights up a few times a week to keep them from touching the lights. Also, I start fertilizing with a seaweed mix after the true leaves emerge. I tried using deodorized fish emulsion once, but while the plants loved it, my family cursed me for days because of the faint, but noticeable fish smell in the house. For spousal harmony, I now use that fertilizer outdoors only.

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