Anyone who has tried propagating plants from seeds will tell you the process is not as easy as it seems. Each year I give it a try, without much success. The ideal time to start the process is six to eight weeks before the last frost date in your area when they can be planted outdoors.
This year I started way back in the fall with my oldest granddaughter. We have had some success, but not much.
Since then I have researched more and tried different techniques. I can get the seeds sprouted but the sprouts always flop over and shrivel up.
My latest attempts (it has been a long winter) have been more successful, using these techniques:
Humidity is a must to coax the seeds to sprout. I have several mini greenhouses and peat pellets that are perfect for for achieving humidity levels the seeds require. This is especially important as most homes have lower humidity levels during the winter months.
My granddaughter convinced me to use labels to differentiate the seedlings in their rows within the greenhouse. She noticed my memory is not as good as hers, so thought the labels would help me remember what I planted. She was right.
Grow or Heat Lamps
Once the seeds sprout, the seedlings need heat and light. This can be achieved by keeping the seedlings in a warm window, rotating them often so they grow straight up and not tilted towards the sunshine. Or, you can create warmth and artificial light with a grow/heat lamp.
I am using a desk top in a south facing, sunny window as my propagation station.
With the humidity comes the growth of mold and mildew on the soil surface. Both are disastrous to seedlings, causing them to wither away.
Cleaning all your (previously used) containers before use with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide will sterilize them, reducing the chance of mold. You can purchase hydrogen peroxide in your local grocery store or pharmacy and pour it into a spray bottle, or already in a spray bottle here.
Spraying the soil surface daily with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water (1:4) once the seeds have sprouted will keep mold at bay. This solution will also kill any fungus gnats (the tiny fruit fly-like bugs) hovering around your baby plants.
Cinnamon is not just a tasty and aromatic ingredient in your spice cabinet. Sprinkling it liberally on the top of your seed pellets, before the seeds sprout, will help control mold growth so the seedlings have a fighting chance breaking through the soil.
The use of peat pellets make it simple to transplant the seedlings into larger containers. I just squish them into a pot filled with soil. The size of the new container will dictate how many pellets I transplant into each container.
I like to use a premium potting soil with lots of moisture retaining ingredients to enhance drainage, aeration and add some nutrients.
This is when I use the hydrogen peroxide solution described above to keep the bugs away.
Sticky Bug Catchers
In between the spraying of the peroxide solution, sticky bug catchers work great too to capture the little fungus gnats that like to hang around the plants. They are durable and harmless to kids and pets.
I also use these bug traps in my house plants to keep other insects at bay. They work on the fruit flies and mosquitoes that are more prevalent around here in the summer months…
A heat source might be a good addition to my experiments as my house does cool off at night. I am considering purchasing heat mats to place below each container to maintain a more consistent temperature for the seedlings. I would love some feedback on these.
There are lots of seeds that can be directly sewn into your gardens and outdoor containers. Of course, they have their own issues. Birds, wandering grandchildren, overgrowing established plants are just a few.
Obviously I could use advice to improve my rate of successful propagation. If any of you have had greater success in propagating plants from seeds, please pass it on!
Oh, and the labels work well outside too to remind me where I planted which seeds.