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Name: Jeanne
Lansing, Iowa (Zone 5a)
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gardenglassgems
Apr 1, 2016 12:07 PM CST
I have a question and need to find out if I am doing this right. My question is how do you get the soil moist in the 72 cell trays? I put in the seed starter soil in each one and fill each cell with water but the water just runs completely out and the soil remains dry. I keep filling with water and the water drains out and the soil remains dry. I even let it sit in the water in the bottom tray to see if it would soak up into the soil but it wasn't as far as I could tell. SO I proceeded to pour water into each individual cell and stir it around with a tooth pick until all the soil was most. Now I want to get my tomato and pepper seeds started. I was thinking I would set them on top and add about 1/4" of the starter soil over them and mist the top of each one. Is this right or wrong? Will this work? Do I really need to dampen the soil over top of the seeds? I was told by the lady in the garden section at Walmart to bottom water instead of top water. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 1, 2016 12:34 PM CST
Hi Jeanne,

I have a big plastic bowl I use for these projects. Put the dry soil in the bowl, add water and moosh with your hands until the moisture is absorbed. Keep adding water and mooshing until all the potting soil is evenly moist, not soaked.

You can gently push the seeds into the surface of the soil. The rule is bury a seed to twice its height. Just barely under the surface to maybe a 1/4 inch down max for tomatoes.

Yes, water from the bottom. I always cut one cell out for watering so 71 cells with soil and seeds. One cell for watering. I also spray the surface of the soil after I plant my seeds but I use fungicide instead of water.

Give your seeds some bottom heat. If you don't have a heat mat, put you seed tray on top of the refrigerator. Don't let the seeds dry out but don't drown them either.

Good Luck!

Daisy
Name: Art
Florissant, MO (Zone 6b)
Hummingbirder Annuals Bee Lover Butterflies Garden Photography Seed Starter
Garden Ideas: Level 1
ArtD
Apr 1, 2016 12:35 PM CST
Hi Jeanne,

You need to moisten the seed starting mix before putting it in the 72 cell tray. Just put the mix in some kind of large clean container and add water slowly while stirring. It should end up moist and not wet.

I don’t grow tomatoes or peppers from seed so I won’t attempt to advise on that.

Art
Name: Jeanne
Lansing, Iowa (Zone 5a)
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gardenglassgems
Apr 1, 2016 2:10 PM CST
Thanks Daisy and Art. I have two 72-cell containers planted. I will set them on my refrigerator until I get my greenhouse in my garage ready for them. I will let you know how I come out with them germinating. I have another one and a half trays to fill that I will use your advice and mix the soil with water before putting it in the cells.

Daisy, what is the fungicide that you use to spray them with? I have never used a fungicide. This is my first real attempt at sowing indoors. I potted up a bunch of Iris and Dwarf Iris that I had growing in my raised bed. They are doing great under lights in my garage. It is still too cold here to put things outside. These Iris were outside until I dug them up and transplanted them. I still have more to do.

Thank You! AGAIN!
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 1, 2016 2:23 PM CST
It will help prevent Damping-off, a fungal disease. The seedlings fall over at the soil line and when you look closely, it appears the stems have been pinched. I get ahead of the game by treating my newly planted seed trays before I see a problem. If I see any signs of mildew or fungus, I spray again. Once the secondary leaves start to grow, fungal problems no longer affect them.

Damping-off is caused by high temperature, poor light, or excess moisture so it's sometimes hard to avoid.

Daisy
Name: Art
Florissant, MO (Zone 6b)
Hummingbirder Annuals Bee Lover Butterflies Garden Photography Seed Starter
Garden Ideas: Level 1
ArtD
Apr 1, 2016 2:54 PM CST
Hi again Jeanne,

Although supplying bottom heat speeds up germination times, your seeds should germinate with or without it. BTW, most refrigerators today do not get warm on the top :-)

Your problem is going to be adequate light after germination. Sun from windows is not usually good enough. I hope your greenhouse has lighting or that you can get them hardened off and outside shortly after germination. If your seedling do not get enough light, they will become leggy and weak.

After germination, and until they go outside, cool temperature are best (65 degrees is ideal). Warm temperatures will cause them to grow faster and you won’t be able to supply enough light to keep up with the rapid growth.

Hope this helps a little,

Art
[Last edited by ArtD - Apr 1, 2016 2:56 PM (+)]
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Name: Jeanne
Lansing, Iowa (Zone 5a)
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gardenglassgems
Apr 1, 2016 3:00 PM CST
Is there a certain fungicide you use or do you do a mix of Hydrogen Peroxide and water or something like that? I germinated some seeds in damp paper towels on paper plates. I potted all seeds that germinated and put under lights in my greenhouse in the garage. I had a few dampen off but also have a lot that are still going strong. There were quite a few 4 O'Clocks and one Sweet Shrub and Texas Red Star Hibiscus. I am really babying them. Thanks Daisy for your knowledge.
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Apr 1, 2016 3:31 PM CST
Any spray on Plant fungicide will do. Powder is too gloppy and cinnamon doesn't seem to work for this application.

The fungicide is a preventative measure. I don't always manage to provide the best growing conditions and I hate to wait 2 or 3 weeks for seeds to germinate just to have them damp off.

Now I have to go feel the top of my refrigerator. Art is right - you don't need bottom heat. My vegetable seeds are toughing it out on their own on the floor of the greenhouse. But I am trying to start some Indigo and Shiso also. They are on a heat mat with a dome. Damp off problems are a given with that combination.

Daisy
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Apr 1, 2016 6:04 PM CST
Ok this probably doesn't apply in your case, but just what kind of potting mix did you use? I only mention it because about 3 years ago I bought some "potting mix" from our local hardware store and there was absolutely no way to get that garbage to retain any moisture. I don't know what that stuff was, but no way would anything grow in it. I left some in a container that got rained on, and the darn stuff floated! Still bone dry! On the other hand, I had some good quality potting mix that sat open since last year and it got dried out. All I had to do with it was fill the cells, set them in a tray full of water, and leave them overnight. Fine, no problem, and there are presently little petunia seedlings poking their heads up in it. (Black Gold, in case you're interested. Smiling )
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Name: Jeanne
Lansing, Iowa (Zone 5a)
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gardenglassgems
Apr 1, 2016 8:11 PM CST
Thanks Daisy and Woofie,

The seed starter mix that I used is Jiffy organic seed starter. I am going to see what happens with the seeds that I just planted in it today. I may try some different seeds tomorrow in a little different potting mix and see which works better. Tomorrow my brother is suppose to bring me a truck load of compost from his city. So maybe I will experiment with a little of that. Thanks for your suggestions.
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Name: Jeanne
Lansing, Iowa (Zone 5a)
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gardenglassgems
Apr 2, 2016 4:42 AM CST
About how often would I have to bottom water so that my seeds don't dry out? Should I keep some water in the tray at all times? I am afraid of giving them too much water and then again too little water.
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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woofie
Apr 2, 2016 9:52 AM CST
I have tomatoes and peppers planted in my greenhouse and I have to water them about every other day; but we've been having a run of sunny days and it gets HOT in there! Oh, and a cool trick one of our other members (Rick Corey) mentioned for bottom watering is to leave one cell empty and use that as a spot to pour water into the tray. Seems obvious, but *I* never thought of it! Smiling And what I generally do when the seeds are first planted and closer to the surface is to use a spray bottle to keep the top part moist. I don't generally bottom water (after the initial soaking) till the seeds sprout. But that's just me.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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Newyorkrita
Apr 2, 2016 10:38 AM CST
I just water from the top. But yes, have to be very careful not to overwater and have them sitting in a container of water.
Name: Art
Florissant, MO (Zone 6b)
Hummingbirder Annuals Bee Lover Butterflies Garden Photography Seed Starter
Garden Ideas: Level 1
ArtD
Apr 2, 2016 11:00 AM CST
Jeanne,
Do not leave water in your trays at all times. Your seed starting mix should be moist not wet! The emphasis should be on aeration and good drainage for good root development.

Personally, I always germinate my seeds under plastic domes (using thermostatically controlled heat mats). It’s pretty easy to know when the seed starting mix is at about the right moister level. There should be just a slight amount of condensation on the inside of the domes. If the domes are dry, the starting mix is probably a little dry as well. If beads of water are running down the sides of the domes, the mix is too wet. In that case, the domes should be removed for awhile.

Hope this is helpful,
Art
Name: Danita
GA (Zone 7b)
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Danita
Apr 2, 2016 2:17 PM CST
Also, when you are first moistening the potting mix/seed starter mix before planting, the warmer the water is then the quicker it will be absorbed by the mix. Obviously, don't use hot water on seedlings but just to prime the mix before sowing. Smiling
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Apr 2, 2016 4:20 PM CST
ArtD said:Hi again Jeanne,

Although supplying bottom heat speeds up germination times, your seeds should germinate with or without it. BTW, most refrigerators today do not get warm on the top :-)

Your problem is going to be adequate light after germination. Sun from windows is not usually good enough. I hope your greenhouse has lighting or that you can get them hardened off and outside shortly after germination. If your seedling do not get enough light, they will become leggy and weak.

After germination, and until they go outside, cool temperature are best (65 degrees is ideal). Warm temperatures will cause them to grow faster and you won’t be able to supply enough light to keep up with the rapid growth.

Hope this helps a little,

Art


Have to throw in my 2 cents' worth here...

First, I totally agree with the above, and with Art's other posts.

Second, I've been growing plants from seeds for a lot of years, and the worst luck I ever had with it was once when I decided to buy actual "seed starting mix" instead of using potting soil. Blinking I have no idea why, but I had terrible germination that year!

Normally I use Miracle Grow potting soil... and yes, I know lots of people hate that stuff, but it's readily available here and I've always had good luck starting my seeds in it. I purposely buy the big bags that are "light" (and therefore, very dried out), because they're easier to haul around. Here's what I do:

Fill my flat of cell packs with the dry potting mix. Add seeds. Cover with more potting mix (except for extremely tiny seeds, which will just get pushed down into the mix a bit). Give the top of the flat a quick spray with the sprayer attachment on my kitchen sink on the lowest possible flow. Take one of the cell packs out and add water to the bottom of the tray to a depth of maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Cover the flat with a plastic "humidity dome" (although in years past I simply covered with plastic wrap, which also works fine as long as you remove it as soon as the seeds start sprouting.) Put the flats in a warm place, say 70 to 75 degrees. Once the seeds start sprouting, put the flats under fluorescent lights -- I use plain old shop lights, so they need to be about an inch above the plants. When the potting mix looks (and feels) dry, I again take out a cell pack to pour water into the flat to a depth of about 1/2 inch.

That's pretty much it, until the seedlings are big enough to need to be potted up.

I think the moral of all of this is that we all find what works for us through trial and error! A big factor is whether you tend to over water or under water. I am in the latter group... very few plants have fallen victim to over watering under my watch (but more than a few have expired from extended periods of drought conditions Hilarious! ).

I hope you have great success with starting your plants, Jeanne! Smiling
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Name: Jeanne
Lansing, Iowa (Zone 5a)
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gardenglassgems
Apr 3, 2016 6:51 AM CST
@artd
@newyorkrita
@Woofie
@Daisyl
Thank You! all so very much for all your advice and comments. I really appreciate all of it. I do have my seed trays in my greenhouse under grow lights. I have an area where I also have a shop light set up for when they outgrow the greenhouse. I will post pictures of my new seedlings when they show themselves.
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Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Apr 4, 2016 10:28 PM CST
What ever brand seed starting media, never buy it again. Jiffy? Yeah - I hate that stuff. It had way too much pulverized sphagnum peat moss - that is why it would not absorb water. Been there - done that. Or it might also have had too much vermiculite.

I use a plastic container where I soak my media. I soak with warm water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide. Use enough water so it is just moist - not soaking. Then I fill the trays with media.

After inserting seeds, spray with the H2O2 solution. I use covers about 1/2 the time and when I do use them, I leave them on for 2 days and then off for 2 days. I usually have to spray every other day at least.

After about a week, I start watering from bottom as well. Especially if I am using a heat mat. Never use so much that the water is standing in the bottom of the tray after a minute or so. In that case, drain it off.

Failure to germinate properly is caused by over watering more often than under watering.

Good luck.
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Apr 4, 2016 10:41 PM CST
Hi David,

I use Miracle Grow seed starting mix. I have never added anything and have never had problems with starting seedlings.

Daisy
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Apr 5, 2016 7:48 AM CST
I only tried using an actual "seed starting mix" (or whatever it was actually called) one time, and can't remember now what brand it was, but I had the worst germination ever that year. I just use regular Miracle Grow potting soil for almost everything; I'm sure it's not the best thing but it seems to work well for me. And I've started using vermiculite for very tiny or notoriously difficult seeds, which has also worked well for me -- I got great germination with rosemary seeds this year with the vermiculite; in the past I've had a hard time getting them to grow at all.

Although I do get the potting mix pretty wet when first starting the seeds, I tend more to underwater than overwater after that... but I agree that overwatering is by and large a more common problem for seedlings.
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