30 March 2008

From the Desk of a $64 Tomato Wannabe Author [#2]

by Dina Raevsky

Seedlings – a Tricky Business

In the past month, I have been placing delicate seeds into containers called seed starting kits so kindly provided by loving friends for an event I am hosting in June. ‘Lo and behold, who knew Darwin was right on his money about survival of the fittest?!

At first, I experimented with the starter kits by using only soil from my backyard, fertile thanks to composted fruits and vegetables. I followed the instructions of placing those little darlings in a dark spot
with little sunlight and covered with a clear plastic cover. The instructions stated that once the seeds start to show their first leaves, the plastic cover is to be removed and the newly weaned plants are to be moved into a room with direct sunlight. Out of the 50 dahlias, only 5 are surviving so far in that first batch. Out of the 25 cucumber seeds, only 5 are still surviving out of that batch to get their secondary leaves.

Keep in mind, I put that seed starting kit on my expensive glass dining table. The plants slanted, attempting to “reach” the sunlight streaming from the window. In that course, some fell flat on their belly. I rotated the seed starting kit to ensure that the plants do not tip too much to the left or too much to the right. It did not really work.

The scientist in me, piqued, yet steamed, decided to see if using a combination of potting soil and soil from my backyard (bottom soil from backyard, while the topsoil is a potting soil bought in a store) and see if it would make any difference to wait a day longer after the first leaves show before removing the plastic cover from the seed starting kit box. I also decided to leave that seed starting box in the same location, which gets enough sunlight but not a full blast requiring eye shades. I also kept the seed starting kit on the floor, below the window, to make the new plants stand up straight to “reach” the sun light.

As of now, five dahlias survived so far and 16 cucumbers are kicking some butt as well. Nonetheless, it is a bit too early to tell since secondary leaves are not popping up yet on the cucumbers. Interestingly, in the third kit, the topsoil was from my backyard while the bottom was a potting soil. The result was a sad and almost empty seed starting kit with only seven dahlias. The cucumbers did not even bother to make a grand entrance.

One thing that I have noticed about the three starting kits is that I need to put the seeds half inch or one inch further into the soil to prevent weak holding plants. I did so with my sunflower seeds recently and will be sure to provide you with the results.

I ordered jiffy pots as well for the sunflower seeds to see if it makes any difference. There are also those seed starters that are made of peat and swell up like a balloon when watered. I am awaiting a shipment from a friend with those little buggers to
see if they affect my seeds in positive way. Did any of you ever experience growing seeds from seed starting kits? What are your thoughts about that?

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