Patty's Plants Natural & Organic Garden Supply
February 2012
Simple Seed Starting Tips 
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It has been awhile since I did a newsletter on starting seeds, so I thought I would update one of my old newsletters for you. Why do we want to start our own? I'll tell you why.

 Saving money, growing hard to find plants and getting a jump start on spring are just a few reasons to grow our own seeds. But one of the best answers I can think of is that it is fun! We can experience and experiment on the entire growing cycle. Watching the newborn seedlings grow to become strong healthy plants will give us not only joy but also the satisfaction in knowing what products we used to grow our healthy plants.(No GMO's, I'll explain this later). Yes, there may be some failures. Damping off, mold on the soil, leggy seedlings, these are part of the learning experience. In this newsletter, I will give tips on starting your own seeds. Prevention of damping off disease, one of the more important aspects. One day you have beautiful seedlings growing and the next they are all laying over. I've said this before, it really is heartbreaking. I have a couple of organic homemade recipes for this that my grandmother used to use that may help you if you have experienced this before. There are many seeds that can be directly planted outside. I will include the list of those so you don't take up your space and time growing plants indoors that can be planted with ease and much success outside. I will also list few of products I carry to make seed starting easier. 



Happy Gardening, Patty  

 Best Time to Start

 Think backwards when starting seeds. Our average last frost date is between the 15th and the 20th of May. Look at the number of weeks listed on the seed package on how many days it takes to emerge and when it says most seeds should be started. Then count backwards on the calendar from the average last frost date. Most seeds should be started six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Some seeds can be started a few weeks before it, while others may need 12 to 14 weeks. If you start seeds too early, you will have to keep the seedlings inside too long, and they will becometo leggy and weak to transplant outside.

It is really important to read the seed packet. Seedlings shouldn't be put outside until the ground warms up and the average temp. is in the mid-50's at night. You must also factor in the time it takes to harden them off. I will talk more about hardening off later in this newsletter


Supplies Needed

You will need to start with good quality seeds and seed starting mix. Most seed starting mixes are sterile and blended to be light and porous so fragile seedlings get both the moisture and the oxygen they need to thrive. If it is not sterilized, you can do this by baking the mix in the oven.    

 Here's how:

Spread soil not more than four inches deep in non-plastic containers, clay pots and glass or metal baking pans. Cover each container tightly with aluminum foil. Insert a meat or candy thermometer through the foil into the center of the soil. Set the oven between 180� and 200� F. Heat the soil to at least 180� F; keep at this temperature for 30 minutes. Do not allow the temperature to go above 200� F. High temperatures may produce plant toxins. After heating, cool, remove containers from the oven and leave aluminum foil in place until ready to use. The heated soil will give off an odor, basically it stinks.I carry some of .

Containers for seed starting should be 2 � - 3 inches tall. Use commercial seed starting containers or recycled household items like milk cartons, yogurt cups, or aluminum pans. Whatever you choose be sure to punch holes in the bottom for drainage. These are some of the products I carry: OMRI Listed Espoma Organic Seed Starter Mix, Dot Pots, Nesting Pots and Coir Pots

 When To Start

Vegetable Seeds: February 15th is the time to start onion seeds indoors. Around March 15th is a good time to start most of these veggies from seed: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, and eggplant. April 1st start peppers and April 15 start tomatoes. Radishes, lettuce, pea seeds, may be planted outside end of April to early May. Beans, zucchini, squash, pumpkins seeds should be planted outside around May 15 to 20th.

Herb Seeds:basil, chives, lemongrass, parsley and thyme, do best started indoors in the middle of March. 

Flower Seeds:

January, for impatiens, geraniums, mums, pansy. February for gazania, lupine, hibiscus, foxglove, columbine, delphinium, pinks, bee balm, daisy. March plant coleus, polka dot, nicotina, flowering maple and cosmos.

Planting: Make sure your soil is moist but not to wet.

Fill your containers to the top with the moist mix. Firm the top of the soil to make sure it doesn't sink after watering. Scatter small seeds evenly over the surface. If the seed needs to be covered (according to the seed packet) do so, gently press seeds into the mix and scatter a little mix over the seed. Lightly press the mix down. For larger seeds use a pencil eraser to push the seed down to the desired depth. Be sure to label your pots, many seedlings look exactly the samewhen small.

Watering: Keep the soil moist during germination, as well as after germination and during the growing phase. Never over soak your seeds or seedlings. Seeds that are kept too wet or too dry will not grow well. You can use a spray bottle to water the seeds in with a fine mist. Cover it with plastic wrap or a Humidity Dome until they germinate.

Seeds may not sprout if a) unusually cool or wet weather occurs, b) if planted too early when soil temperatures haven't warmed up sufficiently, c) if seeds are not sown at the recommended depths and/or d) if seeds are not kept consistently moist. Extensive sowing information is included on the outside or inside of seed packets!

Temperature: The recommended soil temperature range for most seeds started indoors is 75 degrees F to 90 degrees F. If room temperature is about 70 degrees F, you may need to place containers in a warm spot, such as near a kitchen stove, heat vent, or on top of the refrigerator. A seedling heat mat is ideal. After germination, slightly cooler temperatures will slow down growth and result in stockier plants. Seedlings kept too warm will grow too fast, get weak and leggy.


Just as soon as any baby seedlings begin to emerge out of the soil it's critical to give them light right away. Remove any covering immediately and provide a strong light source. If all you have is a south-facing windowsill it will have to do. Grow lights or a fluorescent shop light suspended from chains with hooks so you can move the lights up as the plants grow is better. Suspend the light just 1 or 2 inches above the seedlings and it will provide both light and warmth. (Once germinated, seedlings will grow happily at 70 - 80 degrees. As the seedlings grow, move the lights up, keeping them just a few inches above the tops of the plants. If you are growing them in a sunny windowsill make sure you rotate the plants every few days so they don't start reaching for the light. Seedlings that are stringy looking, weak or pale are not getting enough light. There should be no more than an inch of stem between the surface of the soil and the first little leaf. You may leave artificial lights on for 12 to 16 hours a day. With warm conditions and enough light, seedlings will grow fast.



Damping off

 One of most depressing things that can happen when starting your own seeds is "Damping Off". Your seedlings are all coming up nicely, you check them before going to bed, there's a smile on your face, sweet dreams. The next morning you hurry to look at your new seedlings (even before making coffee). With a smile on your face, you see them, the smile is turning upside down. You want to scream, cry or both. They were standing last night, now they're all flopped over. Gone, they are all gone. All that time and work, what happened? Damping-off is what happened. It is a fungal disease that can kill seedlings overnight. The fungus rots the stems at the soil surface, causing the seedlings to fall over and die. Why did this happen? To crowded, to wet, soil to cold, soil to heavy, bad seeds, there are a number of reasons this might have happened.

 Natural Preventative Solutions For Damping Off 

Don't plant to close together or snip off extra seedlings early. Being over crowned can lead to damping off. Make sure your soil isn't staying to wet. Put a small fan near by to keep air moving.

Warm the soil to help seeds germinate and grow faster. Use a heating mat or put them on top of the refrigerator for bottom heat.

Chamomile Spray:

Chamomile tea. It is an excellent preventative for damping-off. Chamomile is a concentrated source of calcium, potash and sulfur. The sulfur is a fungus fighter. This can also be used as a seed soak before planting.
Pour 2 cups boiling water over 1/4 cup chamomile blossoms. Let steep until cool and strain into a spray bottle. Use as needed. This keeps for about a week before it goes bad. Spray to prevent damping off and anytime you see any fuzzy white growth on the soil. Chamomile blossoms can be purchased at health food stores and usually grocery stores.


Another solution my grandmother used. She used cinnamon for everything from this to keeping tiny sugar ants (as she called them) out of her cupboards. It acts as a natural fungicide. She said it was the best damping off remedy for her.

Compost Tea: This is available as a worming casting tea or even chicken compost tea. It can be handmade easily. We carry these in pre-packaged tea bags which is then soaked in warm water. Mist with or water it in.

 Sand or Perlite:Sprinkle a thin layer of sand or perlite on the surface of the soil. This step will keep the stems dry at the soil surface where damping off occurs.

 These are all suggestions to try. Some people believe in them others don't. They can't hurt to try and they could put that smile back on your face.





Hardening off

This means you need to acclimate your seedlings so they can adjust to real sunlight, wind and cooler temperatures. They are very tender and could be burned by a nice sunny day or shocked by cold wind. Here's how to harden off your seedlings:

Place them outside in a protected area with filtered light. Start with 2-3 hours of sun gradually lengthening the time and giving more and more sun exposure. Bring them inside or cover them during cold nights. If it's raining out make sure you remove any saucer or container that might hold water, you don't want to drown your new seedlings after getting this far. In a couple of

weeks they will be strong enough and ready for planting in the garden. Don't forget to watch the weather for possible frosty nights. As far as any plants you may want to move out in the early spring, follow the same process. Tropicals need night temperatures in the upper 50's to low 60's.

These are the temperatures when some veggies can start to go out for hardening off:


40� F. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, onions, leeks, parsley

Half Hardy

45� F. Celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, endive


50� F. Squash, pumpkin, sweet corn

 60� F.Cucumber, muskmelon

 65� F.Basil, tomatoes, peppers



Scoring The Seed

Some seeds have very hard shells and need to be scored also called scarification. This is a nicking or scratching of the coat to allow water to enter so the seed to germinate. The best results are from lightly nicking the seed so that water will enter, then seed will begin to swell. Many failures are due to over-nicking and damaging the seed.
Lightly rub the seed with sandpaper or a file until just the very outer coat is scratched. Scratching with a knife-point or scriber tool works too, just don't go to deep. Some seeds only need to be soaked overnight. This tricks the seed into thinking it was planted longer and helps it germinate faster. Usually the seed package will tell you whether it needs it or not. Here are a few that might need it: Hollyhock, Indigo, Lupine, Sweet Pea, Mallow, Morning Glory, Nasturtium, Beans, Beets, Celery, Impatiens, Mimosa, Pansy, Parsley, Peas.


Seeds Need A Cold Period

Yes, there are seeds that need a cold treatment. This is called stratification. One way to stratify seeds is to soak the seeds for up to 24 hours and combine them with a mix of moist coir or peat and sand in a plastic bag. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and keep at a temperature of (34�-41�F) for 4 to 12 weeks. Read the seed packets carefully, they should tell you this information. Here are just some of the seeds that need this. Aquilegia vulgaris (14-21 days)- Columbine, Asclepias curassavica (14-21 days)- Blood Flower, Cleome hasslerana
(14-21 days)-Cleome, Purple Queen, Delphinium elatum (14-21 days)-Delphinium, Lobelia cardinalis (56-70 days)-Cardinal Flower, Salvia spp. (14-21 days) Sage, Silver Downy Leaf, Texas Hummingbird, Victoria.
Asclepias tuberosa-Butterfly Weed (14-21 days) Echinacea spp.-Coneflower, Yellow, Purple, Pale Purple
(21-60 days) Lavandula viridis -Lavender (14-40 days) Lobelia siphlitica (56-70 days) Melissa officinalis-Lemon Balm (14-21 days) Veronicastrum virginicum-
Culver's Root (14-21 days) 


GMO: (Genetically Modified Organism)

 I said I would mention more about GMO seeds. This is what it means:

Genetically modified varieties have had their DNA scientifically altered to make them more pest, disease, or chemical resistant. GMO seeds are controversial because no one is sure of their long term effects on the environment and humans.

The seeds that we carry are not GMO's.



This is a new company, format for creating and sending out my newsletters. I'm not sure how I like it yet. I am not able to put the pictures in that I would like to. Let me know your feedback.
Happy Gardening,
Patty Bailey
Patty's Plants Natural & Organic Garden Supply
819 E. High St. Suite 2
Milton, Wisconsin 53563
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