Selecting and getting those seeds started.

From presentation by Arzeena Hamir.

Seed Catalogs – what to look for

The seed catalog companies do not grow their own seeds. They have their growers in many different places. This means that if you buy from a local company this does not mean that your seeds will be local. For this you need to buy from your local small farmers – Seedy Saturday is an excellent showcase for them and opportunity for all of us to get locally grown organic seeds.

Look for the “Non GOM pledge in the catalogs.

OP (open pollinated = can save the seeds)  F1 (Hybrid = cannot save the seeds; will not breed true)

Corn is nearly all hybrid and often genetically modified. Look for certified organic, from PEI or Europe.

What the labels don’t say  (read between the lines) eg Early tomato. produces before its hot, not so likely to get late blight but no mention of flavour. Tomatoes need the sun to bring out their full flavour.

eg Sweet pea, container variety, short plants, no tendrils, compact. What about smell? No mention No scent.

When they say self-sowing you could think “weed”. Those little blue forget-me-nots are self sowing.

Days to maturity. This could be when the seed is planted or when the seedling is put out into the garden.

A tomato that is 100 days is from when it is put out. Our season is too short.

Watch out for companies that treat the seeds with with neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that affect the central nervous system of insects  resulting in paralysis and death, killing our bees and other insects.

Starting seeds – 2 very distinct phases with completely opposite requirements.

Stage 1. Seed needs a growing medium, heat and water.

This medium could be 1. damp paper towel, kept moist under plastic. OR

2. a sterile potting mix made from 50% peat, 25% perlite, 25% compost/worm castings.

3. A ready made sterile potting mix eg Promix (miracle grow is not organic)

The heat should be bottom heat. This could be 1. a growing mat with thermostat,

2. a heating blanket with a space between mat and seed tray,

3. an special electric coil in the soil

Different seeds need different temperatures. Have to research the ones you are growing.

Keep them damp. Cover in plastic so that they don’t dry out.

Stage 2. As soon as the shoots appear they need 1. cooler temperature. Turn down to around 50 degrees F.

2.  light – lots of light.

You want to produce short stocky seedlings. Legginess + not enough light.Florescent light tubes labelled “Natural light” give a good spectrum. Or one tube cool and ane warm wavelengths.

The light bulbs should be less than 4 inches above the seedlings.

14 hours of light is minimum eg 6am to 8 pm.

3. Less water. The surface of the soil can feel dry. Water from the bottom. The weight of the tray can indicate when it needs water. When the top oif the soil is wet it is the ideal condition for fungus – the damping off fungus. This fungus lives on the surface of the soil. All the seedlings suddenly fall over. Throw them all out because of the fungus. Prevent – sprinkle with cinnamon, a natural fungicide. Can also use cool camomile tea or a 1/2inch layer of perlite on the soil, leaving no air for the fungus. Also very important – when you plant your seeds press the soil down around them to get rid of the air and they will be incontact with the soil and nutrients.

Young seedlings do not need a lot of water. Their root system is still very immature.

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