This Week's Podcast — A Replay: Sowing Tips — Starting Seeds with Ken
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It’s time to begin sowing many of your seeds for annuals, fruits and vegetables. Some of these plants are sown directly in the rows of the food garden, but many others – most – have to be started early, indoors. That includes the most popular edible: the tomato.
I thought I might go over some of the basics in the way that I sow seeds.
I don’t sow them in flats, or heaven forbid, pots or pellets made of peat. I use 3 ½” square plastic pots, and reuse them year after year (sterilized in the dishwasher).
In my discussion, today, I start with finding a place where you are going to set your pots of sown seeds; then the medium. Most seed-starting mix is a “peat-lite” mix made from peat moss and perlite. I don’t use peat moss, so that’s out. (Listen to the podcast to find out why.)
I’ve been using coir or a mixture of coir and compost with perlite or perlite and grit – little grains of flaked granite. Coir is a byproduct of coconut cultivation. It’s made of ground up husks. The coir is compressed into bricks or “tiles” and dried. It is pretty lightweight. When moistened, the bricks swell to about twelve times in volume. Although chopped coir is shipped, mostly from Southeast Asia, it is a sustainable resource. We can go crazy talking about coconut culture, clearing land for palms, etc. As always, compost is the answer to that question.
I sieve the compost through a sheet of ¼” hardware cloth or a fine riddle made for this purpose. The humus materials, coir and or compost, are mixed three parts to one part perlite or 50/50 perlite and grit.
Grit is miraculous for sowing seeds, not only as an additive, but to top-dress the medium. (top) Since I have been sprinkling a thin layer of grit, I haven’t been plagued by the diseases known collectively as damping off.
Tune in for more information and consult my book, Making More Plants: The Science, Art, and Joy of Propagation. The back of the book has a guide to propagating 750 genera. (Photo above, slipping seedlings out of their 3 ½” pot.)