Alternative seed sowing methods

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023

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By Randi Clifford

VCE South Central

Master Gardener

I can feel spring in the air. In fact, it has been there for quite a while. It’s crazy that while others are being overloaded with heavy snow, we are already seeing signs of leaves and flowers popping out. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to talk about seed sowing methods. For proper germination, most seeds benefit from heat and humidity. Not all of us have greenhouses that can offer these perfect conditions. However, I have found several methods that work for me which I have shared below.

The method that works best for me is to use those disposable aluminum foil pans which are frequently used for cooking lasagna or baked ziti. They come in different sizes and some even come with a clear plastic lid. This lid is great for keeping the soil moist and humid. I use peat pots (you can buy these in individual cup style or a twelve-square pack) and fill them with good seed starter mix. I sometimes combine . soil and . seed starter.

The soil goes on the bottom to help when the plants gets bigger and their roots need more nutrition. Once I fit all the peat pots in the aluminum pan I can then add water directly to the pan. This lets the pots absorb the water from the bottom without too much disturbance on top of the peat cup. It’s a good idea to also mist the top of the peat cup as long as you can avoid blowing any small seeds away as you mist. With the individual peat cup method, as the plants germinate and grow, you can remove them from the aluminum pan without interfering with the seed pots that have not germinated yet.

I also have a good supply of black plastic trays from nurseries. As long as there are no holes in them, they can be used the same way. The clear lid discussed above works just as well on these trays.

Another method is to use the same principle with the foil pans or plastic trays but to use homemade pots. One of my garden club members has learned how to make them out of newspaper or cardboard (from toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls!). What a creative idea. These paper sources may not last as long as the peat pots but it’s a good use of available items that decompose.

Each of these methods allow you to safely dig the plants in the ground without disturbing the roots. This definitely reduces any transplant shock.

Along with peat, you can find fabric, coir and honeycomb paper pots. They all seem to serve the same purpose but have different pros and cons.

For anyone who is interested, the South Central Master Gardeners will be at the South Hill Farmers Market on opening weekend (May 6th) and can demonstrate these methods. Hope to see you there. Happy sowing!