Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Kelly Heidbreder

Time to sprout seeds for spring planting

Now that you have your planting plan for this spring, it's time to prepare for those seeds once they arrive.

Pre-season sprouting

If your seeds have been stuck in a drawer for a few years, make sure they are still alive. They may not germinate at all if they haven't been stored properly and have become too dry.

There is an easy way to see how viable your seeds are. Fold a paper towel into quarters and dampen it. Put a couple of seeds on the damp spot under one quarter of the fold, being careful that the seeds don't touch each other. Now, slip the moist towel in a plastic sealable bag. Don't zip it closed, but store your science experiment in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Look in on the seeds daily, taking note of if and when they start to grow. If there is some sturdy growth within the first three to five days, the seeds are good to grow. If there isn't any action in the paper towel after two weeks, the seeds probably are duds.

Planting pots

Save eggshells and use them as biodegradable planting pots — they are the perfect size to fill and use to sprout your seeds. Begin by rinsing out the shells and keeping them in a safe place until you are ready to get your production line going.

Fill each shell with sterilized potting soil and plant your seeds. There should be room for one large or three very small seeds. Once they are big enough to move outside, simply pop the eggshell and seedling into the ground. You can also fold newspaper into small boxes for seed pots that will break down once they are planted in your garden without disturbing the plants' fragile new roots.

Bottom feeders

Once your seeds start to grow, they will get all of their food and water from the soil. Letting plants soak in what they need from the bottom up is the most efficient way to keep them moist. You can build a self-watering system that will make your job a lot easier.

Start with a shallow plastic pan that is about two inches deep. Cut a piece of Styrofoam or a large sponge to fit in the pan with about an inch of clearance on all sides of the container. The foam shouldn't be any thicker than the depth of the pan. To help the water wick up to the plants, cover the foam with a piece of felt that stretches across its entire top, and make it long enough so the felt touches the bottom of the pan on one side.

Once your watering mat is ready, get the felt pad on top wet, then add water to the pan. Make sure one end of the felt is soaking in the water. This is the key transportation method to make sure water moves up to the plantlets.

Put the small seedlings in containers with an absorbent bottom, such as sprouting cups made of newspaper or recycled materials, found at home and garden stores.

Make sure the cups have a hole in the bottom so the seedlings can soak up the amount of water they need, then place them on the pad.

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