Updated: Mar 10
After taking a year off, I’ve been itching to start growing again. I started looking at seed suppliers in November, but didn’t order until January. While I am still waiting for one order of seeds to come in, I have already started planting flowers from my first one.
I still use the same germination method that I learned in my high school horticulture class. I find it works well on a small scale with few costs associated with it.
I collect plastic clamshells (the kind you get cookies or produce in at the grocery store). This is actually very easy because most people are happy to see things get reused. The only kind I actively avoid are the berry box style (the kind that blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries come in), because at first glance, it seems great that they already have all those drainage holes. but I find that they dry out much quicker and I have lost almost all plants I have tried to start in them. Some people also like egg cartons. I also find that they dry out the soil too much where I work and avoid them.
2. I poke drainage holes into the bottom of the clamshells. This way I do not have to worry about drowning my seeds or seedling.
3. I like to add water to my potting mix before planting my seeds. I find I get better germination that way. My soil is wet enough that I can squeeze water out of it, but not so wet that there is any sitting water in it. I use a big plastic tub and warm water (not hot! You should be able to handle it easily) also is ideal.
4. I put potting mix into my clamshell. I don’t need too much, since I am just germinating them in here.
5. I spread my seeds onto the top of the soil. I try to evenly space them. I only put one type per clamshell. I make to read the institutions on the seed packet. Some seeds need light to germinate and don’t need to be covered, but others require up to 1/2” of soil over them.I make sure to label the bottom part of the container with the plant variety.
6. The ones that don’t need light, I stack. Most plants germinate best around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but check the instructions on the seed package. It’s not true for everything.
7. I check the seeds regularly. When they germinate (start growing) I open the clamshell or remove the lid entirely. Then I move them to where they will get light and the temperature is cooler (for most plants this is 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, but always check to be sure).
8. Once the plants are big enough, often just before they grow their first “true leaves” I transplant them into bigger containers.
I often refer to the seed package for the best information on starting seeds. I also have a copy of the “Ball Culture Guide” that use for reference. This year I printed up a little schedule to help me keep track of all the information for the seeds I ordered.