Seed Starting Tips

--Wondering if last years seeds are any good?
  Place a few seeds between dampened paper towel,
napkins, newspaper or coffee filters and keep moist. 
If at least half the seeds germinate, they are good
enough to plant. Various seeds will take different
amounts of time to germinate but should take no
more that 2 weeks.

--If your seeds have a gray fungus, through them away. 
However, if they are unusual, rare or of sentimental value,
soak them in hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes which
will kill the fungus and improve the chance of germination.

--Cover newly planted seeds with a water proof cover to
seal in heat and moisture.  Clear plastic wrap from
your kitchen, dry cleaning bags or plastic bags
(even the ones you can't see through) will work.

--Seeds will sprout sooner and faster if given bottom
heat to the seed flats.  Place a heating pad or old
electric blanket under your seed flats. Place a metal
cookie sheet (which will also conduct heat) between
the heating pad and the flats to protect the heating
elements from moisture.

--When planting seeds directly outside, a newspaper mulch
can help for those seeds that do not require light to
germinate.  (Check the seed packet.) Simply spread the
newspaper over the seeded area or tear it into strips.
  Then water down the newspaper and anchor it with
soil or stones. Water as needed and check the area
daily for signs of germination.  When the seedlings
start to poke through the soil, remove the newspaper.

--You can use any vertical thermometer to check the soil
temperature, ie. pool, outdoor, oral or other as long as
it can register 30-90 F.  Note that marigolds, beans, zinnias
and morning glories need soil at least 65 F. while lettuce
and larkspur will not germinate if the soil is over 55 F.

--For tiny seeds, mix with 1-2 tablespoons of granulated
sugar.  Pinch some between your fingers and sow.  There will
be less crowding or thinning required and less waste of seeds.

--When planting seeds indoors or out, it is helpful to make
a hole for each seed.  Use a pencil to make the hole, then
dampen the eraser and press it against a seed which will stick
to it. Then tuck the seed into the hole. The pencil can also
be used later to separate seedlings for transplanting.

--Empty and clean metal or plastic spice containers can be
used to store seeds in a cool, dry place.  Be sure to label
and date the container with the contents.

--A salt shaker can be used to plant tiny seeds. Simply shake
out the seeds evenly into the hole or furrow.

--An old greeting card can be used to make a row in either
a flat or when planting outdoors.  Place the folded edge
of the card in the soil opening the card as needed to make
the appropriate sized furrow.  The card can then be used
as a funnel to place small seeds into the soil.

--You can make your own seed tape using toilet paper and
flour paste.  Roll out the toilet paper on a long table.
  Make a light past with 1 cup of flour and enough water to
create a consistency of white glue.  Mix a small amount
of the paste with the seeds and with a small paint brush,
toothbrush or your finger, dab the mixture in a long row
on the toilet paper.  Let the paper dry overnight, then
roll up until ready to use.  The paper will decompose
and the flour paste will provide starchy nutrients for the
sprouting seeds.

--For seeds with tough seed coats, ie nasturtiums, peas, corn,
morning glory, use an old nail file, emery board, or sandpaper
to rough-up the coating. This will allow water to better
penetrate the seeds resulting in quicker germination.

--Keep your seeds in a dry, cool place until ready to plant.
  Keep them dry by using a tablespoon of powdered milk
in a tissue with the seeds and fold and secure with a
rubber band and place in an air tight container or plastic
bag. The powdered milk will absorb moisture from the
air around the seeds.

--Cardboard egg cartons are handy for starting seeds instead
of expensive peat pots.  When ready to put in the garden,
you can plant the cartons and all without disturbing the seedlings.

--Indoors new seedlings need lots of light.  Use aluminum
foil under the seedlings to reflect the light that is available.

--Using peat pots and sphagnum moss growing mixtures
tends to dry out quickly making it difficult to moisten again.
To avoid this add 1/2 teaspoon of mild dishwashing
liquid, ie. Ivory, to 1 gallon of water and use the mixture
to water your plants.  The detergent acts as a wetting
agent binding the water to the molecules in the soil and
moistening it more effectively.

--Seed starting containers in your kitchen:
              Bottom of cardboard milk containers, tin cans, egg cartons,
yogurt containers, shoe boxes, plastic milk or juice jugs,
              cereal boxes with openings stapled & cut in half, disposable
plastic or styrofoam bowls, clear clam type plastic produce
boxes, styrofoam take-out containers, chinese take-out boxes,
                   paper towel and toilet paper rolls