The best soil medium for starting seedlings is loss, well-drained, fine textured, low-in nutrients, and free from disease soils. Most commercially purchased soils meet the requirement listed.
Soilless or peat lite mix is recommended to start seedlings since garden soils contain disease organisms that can be highly destructive to small plants and do not drain well in shallow containers.
Garden loam soil should be pasteurized, this can be done at home by spreading the soil on a cookie tray. Once the soil is spread on a tray, bake it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit until the soil temperature is 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
It should be held at that temperature for 30 minutes. Heat it up to 30 minutes. This is a smelly process, but it works. Garden soil high in clay should be conditioned with compost or perlite to prevent excess moisture and/or shrinkage. You can mix your peat-like mix using 50 percent vermiculite or perlite and 50 percent fine sphagnum.
Fertilizer mixed at half the recommended strength may be added to the mixture. Mix together well.
The material used for starting seedlings and growing plants and flowers are peat-lite mixtures consisting of peat moss and either vermiculite or perlite.
Here are the ingredients of peat-lite mixtures:
Peat Moss: Commonly available as baled or bagged sphagnum peat moss and has a good texture. The soil texture refers to the soil’s size and distribution. Such material as Michigan peat, peat humus, and native peat is usually too decomposed to provide necessary structural and water-drainage characteristics for mixes but are suitable for seed germination.
Most sphagnum peat moss is acid in reaction, with a pH ranging from 4.0 to 5.0. It usually has a very low fertility level but does have the capacity to retain nutrients. Do not shred sphagnum peat moss too finely.
Vermiculite: This is a sterile, lightweight mica product. When mica is heated to approximately 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, it expands its plate-like structure. Vermiculite will hold large quantities of air, water, and nutrients needed for plant growth.
Its pH is usually in the 6.5 to 7.2 range. Vermiculite is available in four particle sizes. Larger-sized particles give much better soil aeration.
Perlite: This is a sterile material produced by heating volcanic rock to approximately 1800 degrees Fahrenheit resulting in a very light-weight, porous white material.
Its principal value in soil mixtures is aeration. It does not hold water and nutrients as well as vermiculite. The pH is usually between 7.0 to 7.5. Perlite can cause fluoride burn on some foliage plants.
Fluoride damage is usually seen on the tips of the leaves. The burn progresses from the tip up into the leaf.
Fluoride burns can be prevented by adding 1-½ times the recommended amount of lime when mixing the soil.
Home Mix # 1
½ bushel ( 4 gallons) of #2-grade vermiculite
½ bushel ( 4 gallons) of shredded sphagnum peat moss
4 tablespoons ground limestone
1 cup (½ pound) 5-10-5 or ½ cup(¼ pound) 10-10-10
Mix thoroughly and store in a plastic or nonmetal container. For better drainage, add one gallon of medium perlite.
Home Mix # 2
1 gallon of milled sphagnum peat moss
1 gallon of #2-gallon vermiculite
1 gallon of medium perlite
How to decide the suitable container for indoor plants.
There is no limit on the size and type of container to start your seedlings, You can start your seedlings in pots, old cans, cutoff milk cartons, and egg cartons. Many types of containers can be utilized.
Seeds in flats or large containers may be planted in rows, and the seedlings were grown until they have one or two sets of true leaves. At this point, they are transplanted into other containers for growing to the size of the transplant outside.
Commercial trays and containers can be purchased at your local garden centers. The pop-out trays are easy to use and reusable.
Peat pots are suitable for large seeds and herbs. Sow one or two large seeds or 10-12 small herb seeds directly in each peat pot. Thin the former to one seedling per pot, but allow all the herb seeds to grow together. They hold each other up and grow much better than if sown singly.
When transplant times come, they are strong enough to take some dividing if desired. Peat pots may be planted directly in the garden; remove one side and do not allow the edges of the pot to stick out above the soil since they will act as a wick, and moisture will evaporate from this exposed surface.
Planting your seeds in your containers.
Regardless of the container used, fill about ⅔ with a moist potting medium. Level and compact the medium. It should be damp but not soggy.
Make a furrow ¼ of an inch deep. Sow large seeds directly in the bottom of the furrow. Before sowing small seeds, fill the furrow with vermiculite; ensure to sow small seeds on the surface of the vermiculite.
Seeds may be sown in flats following seed package directions or in individual peat pots or pellets, with two seeds in the pot.
After the seed is sown, cover all furrows with a thin layer of vermiculite, then water with a fine mist.
After planting, gently soak the soil with water by misting it. Be careful not to wash off or displace seeds planted.
Seeds and seedlings are susceptible to drying out. If your home is dry, it may help to cover the container with plastic wrap to maintain an even moisture level.
Set the container away from sunlight where the temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
As soon as the plants germinate, remove the plastic cover and place the seedlings in the light. If natural light is poor, fluorescent tubes can be used.
Place seedlings close to the tubes. After removing the plastic new plants need watering and fertilizing since most planting material contains little or no plant food. However, they should be soaking wet since this condition is conducive to damping off, a deadly fungal disease for plants.
Use a mild fertilizer solution after plants have been watered. When seedlings develop two true leaves, thin plants in individual pots to one seedling per pot. Transplant seedlings in flats to other flats, spacing 1 -½ inches apart, or to individual pots.
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