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Garden Seed Starting

Many garden seeds are easily started, but others have special requirements such as specific temperature and light or darkness. This information should be on the seed packets, so please read the instructions carefully. If no light requirements are stated, light does not play an important role in germination. Remember to plan ahead. It takes from 2½ to 4 months for most annuals to bloom from seed. Seedlings are ready to set out in about 8 to 10 weeks.

It's a good idea to keep a garden journal to keep track of start dates and conditions and transplant dates and conditions. You should also record the varieties used and how well they did in your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions About Seed Starting

Q: What do I need to start my seeds?
Q: Can I use regular garden soil to start the seeds?
Q: How do I start the seeds?
Q: What is "damping off"?
Q: How can I prevent "damping off"?
Q: When are my seedlings ready to be transplanted?
Q: How do I transplant the seedlings?
Q: Can I put the plants outside after I transplant them into Jiffy® Pots?
Q: My transplants are getting taller, but not looking any fuller. What do I do?

Q: What do I need to start my seeds?

A: First, you need a sterile medium that does not contain a fertilizer. Products like Jiffy®-Mix or Jiffy-7® Plant Starters are perfect for starting seeds. You will also need a clean flat or container, and a plastic bag or dome. Jung's has many seed starting products designed to help you get your seedlings off to a good start. You may also want to purchase a Seedling Heat Mat to provide bottom heat and a light system if you do not have adequate light.

Q: Can I use regular garden soil to start the seeds?

A: No. Garden soils, no matter what you do, contain the fungi that cause "damping off". Small seedlings at the point of germination are the most susceptible. Therefore it's very important to use Jiffy®-Mix or milled sphagnum moss.

Q: How do I start the seeds?

A: If using Jiffy®-Mix, place a layer of moistened Jiffy®-Mix in a clean flat or container. Gently pack the Jiffy®-Mix in the flat to make a firm seed bed. Try to germinate only one vegetable or flower species in each container as vegetable seeds and flower seeds germinate at different rates. Make small rows in the seed bed and label each by variety and the date seeded. Evenly distribute the seeds and cover with a thin layer of Jiffy®-Mix unless the packet indicates otherwise. Place the flat in a plastic bag (or use a dome), close it with a twist tie and put it in a warm location until the leaves come up. When they appear, remove the germinating tray from the bag and place it in a cool, sunny window where you get plenty of light. Try to keep the temperature around 70° or less and water only when the medium dries out.

Q: What is "damping off"?

A: "Damping off" is the most common problem in growing seedlings. This disease causes the seed not to germinate, or can make the plant fall over and die at the base after the seedlings are up. The fungus that causes this condition likes the same conditions that germinating seeds like (moisture and heat).

Q: How can I prevent "damping off"?

A: You can prevent damping off by watering only when the medium feels dry. Then water them thoroughly, but let the medium dry out before watering again. If you see signs of "damping off" beginning there are fungicides that can be used to help control the disease.

Q: When are my seedlings ready to be transplanted?

A: When seedlings have 2 or 3 sets of true leaves, or when they are large enough to handle, they are ready to be transplanted.

Q: How do I transplant the seedlings?

A: The easiest way to transplant is to use a sharpened pencil to gently loosen and lift the seedling out of the flat. Transplant only the strongest seedlings and leave the others to grow if more plants are needed. Transplant into Jiffy® Pots filled with a good growing mix (1/3 sand, 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 peat moss, with Osmocote® added for fertilization). With a pencil make a hole in the center of the pot that is large enough to get the roots of the seedling into easily. Use the pencil to guide the roots into the hole. Then gently, but firmly, pinch the soil around the plant with your fingers and carefully water the seedling to settle the medium around the roots. Keep the plants in a sunny, cool location.

Q: Can I put the plants outside after I transplant them into Jiffy® Pots?

A: Not right away. Within a week or two of planting outside, transplants need to be taken outside during the day to "toughen". In other words, expose them to the cooler temperatures, brighter sun and wind of the outdoors. The first day or two they should be out for only a couple hours, but after a week they can be out all day and only brought in if the temperature is going to be too low.

Q: My transplants are getting taller, but not looking any fuller. What do I do?

A: If you're growing annual flowers, pinch the tip of the plant out. This encourages branching and gives your plants a much fuller look that will make your flower borders look nice. Tall, thin plants can also be caused by a lack of light, too much water or fertilizer, or crowded plants, so grow your plants in a sunny window at 65-75° and only fertilize occasionally especially if you use Osmocote®.

You can contact Jung Garden Experts for any of your questions on planting and growing for your garden.


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