Germination Nation

This is the beginning of the vegetables that we are going to eat this Summer and Autumn.  Hopefully, I should say, hopefully this is the beginning of the vegetables we are going to eat.  Why?  Because this is the first year since we built the raised bed garden that we are going the distance.  Yes, we are attempting to start our garden from seed this year versus a mix of seeds we directly sow into the ground along with nursery-purchased plants for those vegetables that don’t grow so well from a seed planted in mid to late-May.  Earlier in February, we put together the Jump Start grow light in our basement.  This was the first step for seed germination.  Now it is time to plant the seeds that we ordered earlier in the month and let them grow under the light until we plant them in the garden from mid to end-of-May.  I’ve decided to plant the seeds in two batches.  The first batch is seeds that produce plants that grow better in cooler soil.  These are the ones I will plant outside around mid-May.  The second batch is seeds that require warmer soil.  These will be the ones I plant outside at the end-of-May.  You know we had the grow light and the seeds.  Now let’s take it from there and show you the way we are starting our seeds for the 2011 garden.  It all starts with some soil.

The first thing we learned is that you should avoid regular potting soil.  So we purchased a twenty quart sack of germination mix from our friends at Johnny’s Selected Seeds,  The soil is named ‘Johnny’s 512 Mix’.  512 Mix is made from a 1/2″ screened blend of sphagnum (brown) and sedge (black) peat mosses, compost, and perlite.  The mix contains enough nutrients to carry most plants from seed to transplant.  The mix also does not require as frequent watering as many other brands that are out there.   It is excellent for soil blocks, trays and small containers.

After moistening the soil with some water, we began the step by step utilization of our pretty amazing seed starting kit, the APS 24.  The Accelerated Propagation System (APS) is a complete self-watering growing system that makes starting plants from seeds a relatively easy task.  It is a five-part system that seems to take most of the work out of seed starting.  The five parts are as follows:  A)  The greenhouse cover that traps moisture and helps to keep the soil warm while under the grow light.  Warm soil is a must have for seed starting.  B)  The planting tray used to hold the germination mix and the seeds.  This is the main growing area.  C)  The capillary mat that is the watering system used to give the seeds the water they need to grow.  D)  A pegboard stand to put the seeds on top of while allowing water to reside on the bottom.  E)  The water reservoir to hold the water so that frequent watering directly onto the seeds or new plants is not necessary.  Here is a graphic from Gardener’s Supply Company,, where we bought the APS 24.

Here is our step by step process:

First, we firmly pressed the soil into each planting cell so that it will have good contact with the capillary mat.

Second, we moistened the capillary mat and then laid it on the pegboard stand with the capillary mat extending over the unnotched end.  This is so that it will be laying in the water reservoir and will continually soak up water as it dries out.  This will keep the germination mix moist throughout the growing process.

Third, we placed the pegboard stand and capillary mat in the water reservoir, peg side down.  We needed to make sure the extended end of the capillary mat was inside the water reservoir for watering purposes.  We then filled the water reservoir with water at the notched end of the pegboard stand.  We can now check the level of the water by looking at the water gauge we bought that fits into the notched opening of the pegboard stand.

Next, we placed the planting tray on top of the capillary mat and pegboard stand, then lifted it up to make sure the soil touched the capillary mat under each cell.

We then planted two seeds into each cell and marked each row of cells with a marker in order to be able to know what seed is planted.  Each cell is designed to hold one plant.  As each seed grows, we will decide which one looks the stronger of the two planted in each cell and cut out the weaker one.  The first batch of seeds planted are the ones that enjoy cooler soil.  They are eggplant, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  The second batch of seeds that we plant will be at the beginning of April and consist of seeds that prefer a warmer soil condition.  This will include tomatoes and artichokes (a fun test to see if they can grow in Connecticut).

After planting, we gently watered the soil thoroughly from above and placed the greenhouse cover on top of the planting tray.  Watering the soil from above ensures that the soil will have good moisture contact with the capillary mat and continue to wick moisture to the germinating seeds. The greenhouse cover will keep the soil moist and warm and help our seeds quickly germinate.  We will remove the greenhouse cover as soon as our plants emerge. 

Our last step was to place the seeded APS 24 under the grow light.

We are keeping the grow light on an electric timer and keeping the light on for 14 hours a day.  Here’s hoping that we have success and all of our seeds sprout.  It is our first time growing plants from seeds, so you never know, do you?  Keep your fingers crossed for us.  We are excited to see the results in the coming months.  We hope you are too!  Do you grow your garden plants from seed or do you buy them from a nursery?

4 thoughts on “Germination Nation

  1. At Drumbore Farm we start most of our vegetables from seed. About two weeks ago we planted numerous varieties of tomatoes, beets and peppers in our greenhouse, using a setup very much like the one illustrated in your blog. Worked great and we had lots of seedlings, as in prior years. Unfortunately my spouse, who shall not be named, had a little accident and our neat little boxes now look like they endured a tornado. But not to worry. I started a whole new set of seeds and I fully expect that by planting time in mid-May or so, they’ll be ready to rocket. Pretty soon we’ll start lettuce and spinach seeds outside in tented rows. Around that same time we’ll plant the rest of our vegetable seeds directly in the sun.

    We just started prepping our gardens yesterday. We discovered five wonderful, large parsnips that wintered over beautifully and were forming new tops. So I dug some up and tomorrow we’ll have parsnip soup. Many people say that the flavor of parsnips is better after they winter in the ground. I like them either way.

    • Hi Carolkin. We’ve missed you here at Acorns On Glen. Where have you been? We have lots of patience here and we love visitors with comments. Come back and see us soon.

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