Wednesday, April 29

Garden Pic Wednesday: How To Sprout Seeds

Wednesday's are my free-day to spend how I want out in the garden, if it's nice and it's very nice this week. Tonight and the next couple nights, 56 to 59 F, which is cool for north Florida.
Today, I edged some beds and moved the nice St.Augustine grass from those locations to bare spots, planted some new plants that came in the mail and mowed that north side of the lawn.
The plants that got planted included a Rue shrub, an Imperial Artichoke, a French Thyme and a type of butterfly milkweed.

Today's pictures are how to force seeds to sprout using plastic wrap and a paper towel:
This is a good method for the following cases:
1) For fine or small seeds that might get lost in direct sowing.
2) For checking what seeds might still be good in those seed packets you've had for a couple years.
3)  For checking seeds you saved from last years flowers or veggies to see which ones will sprout. 
4) For getting a quick start by sprouting some seeds, such as tomatoes, during the winter months about 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting time.
(Large seeds such as squash, pumpkin, beets, beans, etc do quite well when sown directly into the garden. 
A few other plants don't like being transplanted, such as the herb Cilantro, which prefers being sown directly.  So do read up on your seeds!)

What you'll need:
Plastic Wrap
Paper Towel
Seeds you want to sprout
A set of small peat pots
Bag of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil (or similar)
A foil pan or plastic tray deep enough to hold 1/4 to 1/2 inch water for peat pots to sit in.

For illustration purposes, I'm using some older bush bean seeds, which took a larger sheet of plastic and paper towel then average. I was trying to see if they'd root, which, unfortunately they didn't.

What to do:
First, tear off a sheet of plastic wrap the size you need and lay it out on a flat surface.
About 8 inches is enough for most seeds.

Secondly, you need a section of paper towel. Normally, I use a half sheet folded in half, then folded in half again.
Lightly dampen the paper towel by patting water on it with your hand from a faucet, then lay it in the center of your plastic sheet.
Put a few seeds on one side of the paper towel.

Now fold the other side of the paper towel over the seeds.

Next, fold the length-wise portion of the plastic wrap over the paper towel, first one side, then the other.

Finally, fold the ends over.
This will keep the paper towel from drying out and create a warm environment for hatching seeds.
Set it on a sunny window sill.

(This will not work if you have UV retardant windows!)

In 2 or 3 days, check your seedlings by unfolding the plastic in the reverse order you folded it: ends, then middle, then open the paper towel.  This requires a certain amount of patience.
If you see any seeds with a root showing, use the tweezers to gently pick it up and move it into it's new home in a garden soil filled peat-pot you have ready.
If you don't see any roots, close the seeds back up in plastic and check again in another 24 hours.
Once they sprout a root, it grows fast and can penetrate the paper towel, so it is more likely to break off when you move it. Sometimes you have to dig the root out of the towel with the tweezers.
Here's my peat pots in an old seed-starter plastic tray I purchased in the past and have held onto for this purpose.

Those are sandwich baggies I put over the peat pots for a mini hot-house effect--which works better in the cold of winter.
Now that it's spring, those bags, which hold moisture in, tend to promote mildew on the soil surface very quickly, which is hazardous to the seedlings.
I only left the bags on 2 days, then set the tray outside, since it's nice and not blazing hot yet.

What's in these peat pots are Balloon Flower seeds I saved from last years blooms and Black-eyed Susan's, also saved from last year.
The bean seeds just wanted to rot and refused to do anything--but that can happen with seed older then 2 years.
Sprouting seed like this just speeds up the process slightly and lets you check whether you seed is usable. 
In the world of gardening and flower growing, there are no guarantees.
Stop back tomorrow for Mama Kat!

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