Herbology Class: Testing Methods for Starting Seeds
This gardening season, I really wanted to make sure that I started at the right time and on the right foot. I still ended up starting 4 weeks LATER than I actually wanted to! It ended up working out well, though, because California is still experiencing a bit of the El Nino storm and we ended up getting a heavy downpour that the budding plants wouldn’t have survived.
I’m currently in the process of testing out about 3 different methods of starting out seeds, and I thought I’d share my findings with you if you were contemplating starting your own garden. Keep in mind that I only recently got my green thumb. If you remember my tomato growing experience from last year, you’ll know that I only managed to get one plant to successfully grow anything I could eat. My strawberries melted into the side of the pot, my pepper didn’t grow until the end of the season but had gotten sprayed on by wasp-killing spray and became inedible.
My main reasoning for testing out these first two methods were based off a pin that I found, where they suggested started the seeds in ziplock bags in bulk to see which ones were still good and which ones were duds. Unfortunately, I can’t find it right now, but will edit the post once/if I do. The biggest mistake that I did with this is forgetting to blow air into the bag. I didn’t realize I messed up until I found this pin that found, haha! This could have played a large factor in some of the issues I came across. Another note I would like to make is that we didn’t get much sun or heat during the time I was testing these. In fact, the one day that I did put them outside for sun, it rained 4 hours later and I forgot their were outside until late that night. So, the seeds went back onto the kitchen counter (where there was no sun and little warmth) until they were transferred into the greenhouse. The greenhouse also stayed on the counter away from sun. The fact that they could do this and have a 75% or so survival rate is pretty amazing.
Seeds in a damp coffee filter in a ziplock bag was the first method I tried. I’ll be real with you guys: the coffee of coffee filters is drastically less than the cost of paper towels in my home, so this decision was based purely off cost. It worked, but the tinier seeds (herbs) seemed to have a harder time sprouting than the bigger ones (vegetables).
Seeds in a damp paper towel in a ziplock bag was the second method I attempted. This was a slight disaster because I have multilayer towels at home and they separated in the bag. I had to peel each layer carefully apart before I could get to the seeds. I recommend using the single ply if you’re going to do it this way. Usually the cheaper stuff isn’t as fiberous as the more expensive stuff, so go that route. I was using the super Bounty and the seeds were getting a bit caught in all the little loose fibers. It worked, but it would have worked far better and would have felt less gross had I used a single ply.
Seeds in starter pods is the last method I’m currently in progress to test. The seeds sprouted right at the beginning off our latest rainy week and I needed a way to buy myself time before I transferred them into a larger pot situation. I found this Jiffy mini greenhouse for starter seeds on Amazon. It holds 25 little pods that pop upward when get water into them. I had to fluff up a few with my hands, but it worked out well overall. The lid traps all the moisture in and it becomes it’s own little environment! I managed to transfer over 5 seeds of 5 different plants in. I wish I had gotten a second because a couple of other plants had to stay in the ziplock bag and wait their turn. It worked, but not for all the plants. Not sure what happened in the transfer. I’m going to leave those be for another few days to see if they just need more time to do their thing.
If you’re unsure which method to do I suggest trying all of them, as well. All of my seeds are old. Over a year old level of old. I didn’t want to waste them, though, so I’m glad I’m trying everything available. If I had to go with one, I’d go the coffee filter route. These ones I get from the Dollar Tree in a pack of about 300. I don’t feel as bad wasting a filter for this reason. I also think there’s less opportunity for the root to get caught like it would for the paper towels, and it’s not a waste of a pod if you accidentally plant a dud. Just remember to blow air into the bag to fluff them up.
I think the next round of starter seedings will be herbs only and will start from the pods solely. We have quite a bit of sunny days ahead of us, so I can leave the greenhouse outside during the day and bring it in once I get home. I think the greenhouse method will work best for the little guys since they seem to need a bit more coddling. I will need to buy a different type of potting system for them, so this will buy me time to get those.
Will you be tending to a garden of some kind this year? What will you be growing and how are you starting out? Let me know in the comments below! I know I’ll be getting my tomato, mint and strawberry plants pre-started at the store. No way do I have the patience or space to start them myself!