Sowing Seeds Part 2

Marg Fleming’s Garden Diary March 25, 1997
by Marg Fleming
January 1, 2000

Seed sowing is made easier by reputable seed sources offering planting instructions both on the seed packet and in the catalogue. Such concise information can guarantee successful raising of your own garden plants.

Seeds are most often sown in a shallow container in soft, moistened, finely milled, "soil-less" mix. Such a mix can be easily penetrated by tender new roots, and the embryonic shoot can make an effortless emergence. Some seeds require light to germinate. These should be placed on the soil surface and pressed in gently before watering. Other seeds require planting beneath the soil surface. To meet this requirement a shallow hole or trench must be excavated in the soil surface, the seed placed within, and then gently covered with mix. The particular requirements of other seeds may include planting on the soil surface in total darkness for germination to be triggered. Such varieties must be planted in flats which can be slipped into a dark plastic bag to satisfy these demands. But don’t leave the bagged flat in a sunny window. Heat can build up inside and cook the vulnerable seeds. "To bury or not to bury" should be indicated on individual packets.

Large seeds such as nasturtiums or castor beans are fun and fast to plant because of their size. They may be sown in larger, deeper pots and remain in these original containers until transplanting outdoors in May. But very small seeds can be more difficult to sow, especially powdery seeds such as petunias, impatiens, and snapdragons. The problem lies with scattering the seed thinly enough to prevent crowding of the seedlings as they develop. Here are two very effective ways of sowing your tiniest seeds.

A product called "silver sand" can be purchased at some garden centres to assist in this type of precision sowing. Silver sand is a very fine, clean, mineral product which is used simply to bulk small seeds before they are sown. When fine seed is combined with silver sand the sand/seed combination is scattered into the prepared trench or on the soil surface.

Seed dispersal from this well mixed combination is generally very good. The sand portion eventually just becomes part of the soil medium.

A less familiar but just as effective method for sowing tiny seeds is with the use of flavourless gelatin. Mix about ½ packet of gelatin with slightly more than the recommended amount of water. A loose slurry should result after setting. If the gelatin sets too firmly, stir in additional warm water until the desired consistency is reached. What is the desired consistency? It should have some integrity but be loose enough to be forced through an inexpensive ketchup squeeze bottle! Add your tiny seeds and prepared gelatin to the squeeze bottle and shake to mix. The seeds can be quickly sown (squeezed) into a shallow prepared trench or directly onto the soil surface depending on the requirements of the seeds being sown. Finally rinse out the dispenser and squirt the rinsings also on the seeding flat. An uncrowded seed pattern will become obvious later as individual seedlings begin to grow and develop.

The gelatin sowing technique has its advantages. Gelatin contains a mild hit of nitrogen which is a boost for young developing seedlings. Also, the gooey coating left on the seed coat reduces the risk of desiccation for vulnerable surface-sown seeds. Third, the gelatin will act as a sponge to draw water toward the seed and hold moisture next to its surface. A little seed couldn’t ask for more…. or could it? More next week.

Submitted by: Marg Fleming

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