Seeds, Soils and Lights!

March 29, 2010

Here is that bag of Berger germinating mix I was telling you about:

It’s a pretty huge bag and I haven’t used even a quarter of it yet despite seeding a dozen trays and giving some to my mom.  Remember how I said that the quality was really good?  Look for yourself:

I like to use plastic seed tray inserts for all my indoor seeds.  The easiest way I’ve found to prepare the trays is by dumping a bunch of the seed starting mix into the sink:

And then adding a lot of water.  You don’t want the mix too dry or too wet, something similar to moist and crumbly:

The amount in the sink is enough to fill up three trays with a little bit left over:

In the above picture you can see my new two-tray seedling mat which is twice as awesome as my single-tray seedling mat that I gave to my mom.

Last week I finally got my grow op set up in the basement.  Since I got my camera fixed up, here’s a shot of the current trays of seedlings:

Those upper-left leggy seedlings?  Lettuce and greens.  The rest are mainly tomato seeds.  When you sow your tomato seeds, it’s good to have a clear dome on top to keep the moisture in while the seeds germinate.  Sometimes you’ll get a seedling that still has the seed coat on the initial cotyledon leaves.  This happens when you don’t tap down the germinating mix over the seed when you sow it – the seedling has to poke up through a packed soil surface, leaving the seed coat below the surface.  Here’s what you don’t want:

If you keep the dome on the tray, the moisture will keep the seed coat damp, allowing you to easily remove the husk:

If you take the dome off before you remove errant seed coat husks, the husks will dry and be harder to remove.

Here’s a shot of all my little seedlings:

They get about a half hour of fan abuse everyday to help them strengthen their stems (I was slow in doing this for my lettuce seedlings which is why they’re so leggy).  Here’s my list so far of all the tomato seeds I’ve sown.  The numbers in brackets indicate the number of seedlings that have popped up so far:

  • Amish Paste (8)
  • Andrew Rahart’s Jumbo Red (1)
  • Azoychka
  • Berkely Tie Dye
  • BHN-624 (8)
  • Black from Tula
  • Black Krim
  • Black Plum (7)
  • Brandywine, Cowlick’s Pink
  • Burbank
  • Chapman
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Cuostralee (7)
  • Eva Purple Ball (9)
  • German Red Strawberry (1)
  • Giannini
  • Gogosha
  • Gold Rush Currant (6)
  • Goose Creek
  • Jaune Flamme
  • JD’s Special C-Tex (5)
  • Josefina
  • Juliet (2)
  • KBX
  • Martino’s Roma
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry (7)
  • Mexico Midget
  • Momotaro
  • Opalka
  • Paul Robeson
  • Pink Berkely Tie Dye
  • Prue (5)
  • Red Brandywine
  • Red Penna (9)
  • Riesentraube
  • Ropreco Paste
  • San Marzano
  • Sapho (7)
  • Sara’s Galapagos (5)
  • Snow White (4)
  • Sweet Pea Currant (8)
  • Tommy Toe

Remember how I said that other organic seed starting mix was rubbish as there were lots of twigs in it?  Here’s a shot of some cabbage and chive seedlings that I started in that crummy mix:

See all those little chunks and twiggy bits?  The quality has really declined over the years.  Compare to the new Berger mix stuff I’m using:

It’s a pretty huge difference – it’s lighter and has a better consistency.

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4 Responses to “Seeds, Soils and Lights!”


  1. Love it! Up until last season, I had been using peat pellets. Last season I learned why not to use peat. This season I used coir. It worked ok. I wonder though, if it wouldn’t be cheaper to use a mix like you do.

    • Kathy Says:

      Thanks David! I’ve never used coir and I’ve never liked peat pellets. This works for me and, now that I’m not paying a high price for crappy quality mix, it saves me money and time.

  2. Tally Says:

    I am completely in awe of your abilities/ambitions. I am still trying to figure out how to tame my backyard, and have only started 6 Amish paste tomato seedlings. Gotta start somewhere I guess! And I’m going to take the fan out tonight and start the process of abuse! 🙂

    • Kathy Says:

      Thanks Tally! Just watch the soil moisture level in your seedlings if you plan to leave your fan on for a while. A couple of years ago I used to only have the fan on them for half an hour to an hour a day and now I’ll leave it on for 8 hours every few days. It’s an oscillating fan on the lowest setting that I’ve placed about 4 feet away so the wind generated is a gentle breeze. Be sure to turn the flats around so that the other side of the tray’s seedlings get a direct hit too. You can also brush the tops of your seedlings once a day. Good luck!


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