I finally finished potting all my seedlings for next year’s fusion projects.
I have had several people ask what is my secret for successfully growing seedlings. There is no secret but here is my method.
Plant fresh seed:
I try to collect my own seed. I have bought seed from several different online retailers and got poor germination results. I doubt that they discard old seed and probably just mix it with new seed. The fresher the seed, the higher the germination rate. When you collect your own seed you know the source and freshness.
I have had poor results stratifying seed in the refrigerator. Here in Northern Virginia (zone 7) it gets cold enough in winter to stratify seed outdoors. Refrigeration keeps the temperature constant and I believe that the fluctuating outdoor temperatures between day and night improve the stratification process. After I collect the seed in autumn I plant it directly in a seed flat and cover it with a screen to keep critters out. I then put it in an open location that gets sun and rain.
Use a loose soil mix:
I plant my seed in flats that have a mix of 50% fine pine bark (peat moss can be substituted) and 50% sand. Roots need oxygen to grow and too much organic matter will hold too much water and slow the growth. When the seedlings are ready to pot the loose soil makes it much easier to separate the roots. I also use the same mix in their first pot. I also soak my seedlings for 5 – 10 minutes in a liquid B1 solution when transplanting to reduce shock.
The theory of super feeding is to use an organic free soil that holds very little water and lets the roots breath and grow quicker. This requires watering several times a day to keep the roots from drying out, but it also flushes out nutrients so heavy feeding is necessary. Growers have created formulas and schedules for fertilizers using this method. I have a full time job and can only find time to water once a day so I use my 50/50 mix. I have no formula, just a feel for different combinations of composted manure, fish emulsion, kelp, bird guano, blood meal and bone meal. Sometimes I create a liquid tea, sometimes I apply solid material directly to the topsoil. There is no one size fits all method here. I do not begin feeding until the seedlings have been in their pots for 2 weeks. I usually feed every 2 weeks or as much as the seedlings can handle without burning.
I like my seedlings to get some sun but summer sun and heat can wilt them quickly so I use a shade screen in summer.
This method seems to work well for me and might not be perfect for you but you should be able to adapt some of it to fit your needs.