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Old March 21, 2008   #1
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Default Effective germination of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant - critical parameters

I may have posted something like this in the past, but I hope people find it helpful. Everyone does this slightly or drastically differently, but my method seems to work reproducibly well for me each year, and it is just something I wanted to share so people can compare against it. If you find it helpful, great.

Once again this year I am getting great germination, healthy seedlings and no damping off at all - and probably have 6000 or so babies growing. I am going to try to point out what I think are the specific success factors.

1. The germination mix - I use fresh soilless mix - my brand of choice is Sungrow's MetroMix 360.

2. Fill the pots with dry mix (must have holes in the bottom!), then water with warm water until water starts coming through the bottom holes just a bit.

3. Sprinkle on the seeds - I plant densely, but you can read about that in the dense planting thread.

4. Sprinkle dry soilless mix over the seeds only until the seeds are no longer visible - very, very thin covering!

5. Mist lightly with a spray bottle to moisten the surface - if a few seeds show, add another pinch of mix.

6. Cover the flat with Saran wrap - doesn't have to be tightly sealed all around.

7. Place in front of a south facing window on a heat mat.

After 3-4 days, the seeds should be popping up. I don't remove the saran wrap until most of the seeds are up - just drape it loosely over the tray, the seedlings easily push it up.

As the seeds germinate, I spray with water to push off the clinging mix - this also moistens any stuck seed coats.

Once most of the seedlings are up, the flats go into my cool garage under fluorescent lights - the top of the seedlings about 1-2 inches from the bulbs.

At this point, I water from the top to ensure that the fluffy mix does not dry out.

Once we get a few mild sunny days, I ease the flats into the sun - 1 hour the first day, 2 the second - within a week they spend as much time as possible outside.

Doing this, I get great germination and no loss to damping off at all.

To me the most critical factors are the medium (light, fluffy), the very shallow planting, the south exposure and bottom heat, and the loose covering to keep the seeds and seedlings hydrated.

Use this in good seedling health and success!!!
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Old March 21, 2008   #2
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Thanks Craig, Very nice tutorial indeed. 6000 plants. That would take a few minutes per day.
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Old November 23, 2008   #3
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Thanks, Craig! I cannot wait to start my seeds. I think mine will be under 100 though .
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Sustainable Gardening One Planter at a Time
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Old December 2, 2008   #4
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Thanks for your starting instructions - always like to hear different methods and compare.
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Old December 16, 2008   #5
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Craig How thick is the layer of germination mix or is that not a factor? karpes
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Old January 13, 2009   #6
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How cool is your garage? Does the cool temperature help keep the seedlings from becoming leggy?

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Old January 18, 2009   #7
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Very useful post but for the benefit of us who can't buy US products could you give us some idea of the composition of MetroMix360, please
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Old January 21, 2009   #8
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[MetroMix 360]

I might be able to answer that. I have a bag of
Sun Gro LG-3 here, and on the back it lists the
composition of a bunch of their seed-starting
and container mixes. It does not mention "MetroMix",
but there is a "360":

35-45% composted pine bark, composted peanut hulls,
Canadian sphagnum peat moss, perlite, vermiculite,
dolomite lime (for pH adjustment), gypsum, wetting agent.

If the mix is labelled "Organic", the wetting agent would be
yucca extract.

(For reference, the LG-3 is: 70-80% Canadian sphagnum
peat moss, vermiculite, dolomite lime, gypsum, wetting
agent. I did not actually select it from among the several
Sun Gro mix formulations, I traded a landscaper/nurseryman
something for it, and that is what he had on hand for seed
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Old March 7, 2009   #9
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Metro-Mix 360

~* Robin
It's not how many seeds you sow. Nor how many plants you transplant. It's about how many of them can survive your treatment of them.
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Old March 14, 2009   #10
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Kay - had to share before going off to snooze - I planted according to aforementioned directions using Metromix 300 - maters & peppers on 3/10. Am using an electric blanket on GFI outlet & have 3 trays in 1 gi-normous very thin plastic bag & a fourth covered by a thin plastic vegie bag the same thickness as the biggie but it is only across the top of that tray.
On 3/12 I had 1 Beefsteak seedling (!) & some fuzz looking stuff in the fish pepper section. Today 2/3 of the tomato cells have seedlings! And the Fish peppers have sprouted! That's just barely 72 hrs!
Woo Wooo! Am gonna setup lights in some primitive fashion tomorrow (probably using bricks I have a small pile of outside) & arrange my bales of straw to support my freecycled piece of old storm door glass (my primitive cold frame)! Thank you all for your wonderful advice! I so appreciate getting good advice & following it rather than having to learn everything through the school of hard knocks!
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Old August 7, 2009   #11
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Thanks, nctomatoman -

I followed your post to the letter and in 3 - 4 days had my sprouts as you said I would!

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Old October 14, 2009   #12
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You do not put the seeds in water before in the dirt?
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Old October 14, 2009   #13
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Originally Posted by FILMNET View Post
You do not put the seeds in water before in the dirt?
I haven't reread thru this long thread but it's rare that I ever soak tomato seeds in water before sowing them.

The only time I do that is if the seeds are very old, and thus dehydrated, and then I do soak overnight and add a pinch of blue stuff, ala Miracle Grow or PEters, etc, or one can use a few drops of seaweed or fish emulsion. Adding that stuff ups the concentration of nitrate ion which is known to be somehow involved in seed germination.

Now by old seeds I'm talking seeds over maybe 12 yo. With seeds less than 5 yo I just sow straight out. with seeds maybe 5-12 years I double sow, but when they get over about 12 yo and I'm pretty sure they are either non-viable or have very low germination, then I will soak. And darn if I don't still get good germination for some of them.

My best effort was waking up non-viable seeds that were 22 yo but the known record is waking up 50 yo tomato seeds.
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Old October 15, 2009   #14
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Now thats a great answer!!!!! thanks
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Old December 4, 2009   #15
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Call me crazy, but I actually sift a batch of Pro-Mix to use as a starter medium...fine and fluffy; works like a charm. A bit over the top, but I want my babies to be comfortable.

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