Many growers overlook the seedling and early vegetative state and focus their resources and efforts on flowering. Providing the proper care for your seedlings builds a solid foundation, which allows them to grow into robust, resilient organisms that will reward you with heavy yields.
Okay, now that we’ve covered the germination process in part 1, let’s get to the fun part: pop some seeds in the ground and get started!
When choosing seeds to sow, choose only fully developed, intact seeds that have no damage to the seed coat.
Sprout plugs are an excellent way to give your plants a good start. Made of compressed tree bark, these spongy, absorbent little guys maintain a perfect balance between moisture and oxygen. They also include a beneficial fungus that colonizes around the rhizosphere and assists in nutrient uptake.Flat inserts will hold the plugs upright. These inserts are then placed into a grid inside a nursery flat.
Rockwool is another great option for seed starting. Horticultural rockwool is made of basaltic rock, which is melted, then spun into fibers like cotton candy! Rockwool is an excellent substrate because it can be easily wet and drained quickly. It retains ample amounts of nutrient solution without becoming waterlogged. Thriving plant starts can be grown in a small rockwool cube or plug, giving the root system a considerable head start.
Many growers unnecessarily use humidity domes to prevent plugs from drying out and then leave the dome on during early seedling development. Humidity domes are better used for the propagation of cuttings. In fact, higher humidity and insufficient fresh air can leave your young plants susceptible to fungal infections such as pythium or fusarium. The soil/plug itself should remain moist, but the plants don’t require a humid environment. If a humidity dome must be used to keep plugs moist, leave the dome vents half open. Humidity levels should be at or below 50% for most plants.
Seedling heat mats are placed under trays to raise soil temperatures and expedite germination time. The extra warmth from the heat mat signals the embryo that it’s time to start growing and promotes early root development. Temperatures at or above 75 degrees really accelerate this process. Advanced growers use a digital heat mat thermostat to maintain this range. Once seedlings emerge from the soil surface, they need light to begin photosynthesis and to secure a source of energy. A 2’ T5 light system covers a single nursery flat well.As soon as roots begin to grow through the bottoms of the plugs, they’re ready to transplant into containers. Check back soon for our next post on transplanting.
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