It’s Seed Starting Time

I know it is still snowing, but this is perfect weather for winter sowing. It is also a good idea to look at your seeds and figure out which are still viable using my simple seed test. You should also start getting your equipment ready. Is this the year you order new LED lights?

Below are some excellent videos that answer many of the questions you have about starting seeds including my most popular video about using the baggy method for seed starting which now has 1.2 million views!

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Best Seed Starting Mix, Including DIY

You work very hard to grow the very best seedlings you can. So start them off right and give them best seedling mix you can. I have grown over 2,000 varieties of plants from seed and wrote the book Soil Science for Gardeners. In this post I review the best commercial and DIY seed starting mixes and give you my opinion on starting your babies off right.

Two hands potting up a tomato seedling
Use the right seed starting mix

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Seed Dormancy – What is it and How do You Break it?

In my previous post, Plant Seed Basics, I described the germination process in very general terms. A seed lands on the ground, absorbs water, and germinates. It is all so simple – or is it? In this post I will have a closer look at something called seed dormancy. What causes it and how do you overcome it so the seed germinates.

Seed dormancy, Germinating Fritillaria seed, by Robert Pavlis
Seed dormancy – germinating Fritillaria seed, by Robert Pavlis.  Notice the radicle growing through the seed and emerging from the bottom of the seed.

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When Do You Fertilize Seedlings?

When do you start fertilizing seedlings? The most common advice is that newly germinated seedlings do not need to be fertilized because they get initial nutrients from the seed and the soil/media. If that is true, why does the horticulture industry start fertilizing as soon as they seed? Do they know something gardeners don’t?

When Do You Fertilize Seedlings?
When Do You Fertilize Seedlings?

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Floating Seeds in Water – Is This a Good Seed Viability Test?

How do you know if your seeds are still viable? Simple, do a seed germination test. Place the seeds in some water. The ones that sink are still viable – the ones that float are dead.

This advice is all over the internet so it must work? But how reliable is it?

Floating Seeds in Water - Is this a Good Seed Viability Test?
Floating Seeds in Water – Is this a Good Seed Viability Test?; source: Pens & Pencils

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Growing Seeds in Ice Cream Cones – Great Idea or Ultimate Stupidity?

You have probably seen the memes showing you how to grow seeds in ice cream cones. There are lots of pictures on the internet, especially in places like Pinterest, showing nicely grown seedlings like the one pictured below.

The whole idea did not make sense to me, but who knows, maybe it’s a good idea and I’m just jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

I had to try it!

Growing Seeds in Ice Cream Cones - Great Idea or Ultimate Stupidity?
Growing Seeds in Ice Cream Cones – Great Idea or Ultimate Stupidity? Source: Sarah Neuburger

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Seedling to Adulthood – Secrets for Growing Mature Plants From Seed

There is a lot of information about germinating seeds, but what happens after germination? How do you take care of the seedlings to get them to a mature size? When do you transplant seedlings? How much should you fertilize them?  How do you harden off seedlings before they go outside?

In this blog post I will walk you through the whole process I use to get seedlings to adulthood.

Seedling to Adulthood - Secrets to Growing Mature Plants From Seed
Seedling to Adulthood – Secrets to Growing Mature Plants From Seed

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Seedling Heat Mats – Are They Needed?

Seedling Heat Mats are used by quite a few people and many web sites suggest that they are required for germination. But other people never use them; so are they really necessary? What, if any advantage do they offer? Can you grow better plants if you use a seedling heating mat to germinate seeds?

In this post I will look at the truth about seedling heat mats.

Redi-Heat Heavy-Duty Propagation Mat By Phytotronics
Seedling heat mat, Redi-Heat Heavy-Duty Propagation Mat By Phytotronics

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Why Do Beets Always Need to Be Thinned?

You sow beet seed in the garden, and they come up too thick. So next year you plant less seed, and what happens? They grow too thick and need thinning again. Why is it that beet seed can’t be sown so that it does not need to be thinned?

I decided to have a close look at beet seed and in this post I’ll explain why beet seed is always planted too thick. I’ll also introduce you to a couple of new cultivars that don’t need to be thinned and tell you about my favorite heirloom beet which I have been growing for 30 years.

Why Do Beets Always Need to Be Thinned? germinating beet seed
Why Do Beets Always Need to Be Thinned?

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Heirloom Seed Myths – Are They Worth Buying?

What is so special about heirloom seeds? I see a lot of online questions from people looking to source heirloom seeds. Are these seeds really that much better, or is this just another new craze or fad?

People grow their own food mostly to be healthier and they believe heirloom seeds are better for you. Is this true? Do they produce better tasting food, or produce a better yield? What is the real value in heirlooms?

Maybe the attraction to heirloom has more to do with tradition as suggested by this comment; “To the gardeners who love them (heirlooms), it matters that ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato came from a man who bred his own tomato plants, selling enough of them to pay off his mortgage”.

Heirloom Seed Myths - Are They Worth Buying?
Heirloom Seed Myths – Are They Worth Buying?

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Tomato Seed Fermentation – Is it Required?

Is tomato seed fermentation required? There are quite a few methods described on the internet for collecting and cleaning tomato seed, but which one works best? How do we define ‘best’? What works well for a commercial seed company may not be the best option for a home gardener.

A very common option is the ‘tomato seed fermentation’ method. Some say that it is absolutely necessary in order to get a high germination rate but not everyone uses it and they still claim to get good germination.

It is also believed that fermentation reduces pathogens on the seed. In this post I will look at the science behind collecting and cleaning tomato seeds.

Tomato Seed Fermentation - Is it Required?
Tomato Seed Fermentation – Is it Required?

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