Starting your own bedding plants or perennials is often thought as a cost saver. It only saves money if the finished product is plentiful and useable. Those that are successful at starting plants from seed have: extra time, fresh seed, lighting, temperature along with sterilized soil and containers.
It takes time, commitment and timing to produce healthy beddingplants. Seeds must be planted and tended for at least 6 weeks before they can be placed outside. If plants are started too early they will become overgrown, leggy and produce fewer flowers.
The initial planting of the seeds takes time as does the daily ritual; of watering, fertilizing and making sure all the plants are healthy. If extra time is available, look for fresh viable seed.
Fresh or viable seed is vital to germination. Always purchase seed from a reputable dealer. Given a choice, choose a seed package with clear, detailed instructions on the back.
If it is impossible to follow the planting instructions, do not purchase the seed. The cultural conditions needed to insure the seeds germinate can vary in temperature, amount of light and time required.
If the required conditions can not be met, chances are that the seeds will not germinate.
Without proper lighting plants will grow tall and spindly. South and west windows provide enough light and work well if the temperatures can be kept low.
Grow or florescent lights are often used by gardeners that do not have use of a greenhouse. Grow lights work best when they are adjustable and move upwards as the crop grows. Lights that are far away encourage plants to grow tall and spindly. Plants that grow slowly have stronger stems and are less likely to fall over.
Temperature needs vary between plants. Choose seeds and plants with similar requirements unless there is more than one growing room. Plants will not be healthy if they are grown in a too hot or too cold climate. Plants that are not grown in optimum conditions are often of poor quality.
Any container can be used for growing seedlings as long as the container is clean, has drainage holes and can hold a quantity of soil. When using old or recycled containers, wash them thoroughly and dip them into a 5 per cent bleach solution.
Dirty or unsterilized containers can contain viruses and diseases that kill seedlings. Once a disease starts it must be eradicated or it can spread quickly from container to container.
For the same reasons be sure to use sterilized soil or a soil-less mix. Most commercial mixes fit into either of these categories.
Special mixes that are recommended for starting seeds are also available. The materials used in these mixtures are finer making it easier for the seeds to reach the surface.
Growing plants from seed can be a rewarding experience. If it is attempted without adequate lighting or proper temperature control the quality of the plants will suffer.
Dirty containers without proper drainage or unsterilized soil usually results into some plant loss due to disease. Time is another factor to consider as plants need to be checked daily and watered and fertilized regularly. If theses commitment can’t be met there is a good chance that the plants will be of poor quality and will not look good when placed in the garden.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org