Why We Research Before Planting Something New

Or why we set ourselves up for failure when trying to start new things from seed. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

This morning we did our major bunch of seed starting for the Demo Garden this year. That involved a bunch of tomato seeds, a few peppers, a couple herbs, and more varieties of eggplant than any reasonable person should plant. (That would be 7 different varieties!)

The first task….filling the pots with soil. We use a basic, soilless potting mix. I never spring for the more expensive “seed starting mixes,” although I do only use a mix that doesn’t already have fertilizer incorporated. I also recommend that you fill your pots with soil all the way to the brim and very gently pack it down. Don’t press hard, but you want to make sure you don’t have any air pockets in the pot. By filling them all the way to the top, you will have some space once the soil compacts during watering and you guarantee that all the pots have the same amount of soil. Why is that important? Because then they should all need watering at the same time, rather than some drying out faster than others.

The next step (if you didn’t do it already) is to write out your labels and stick them in the pots. We put one label in each pot, because things do get moved around a bit throughout the spring, and I hate having unknown plants. It also makes it really easy to make sure you are planting the right seeds in the right pot and that you have enough of each.

Then the fun part! Planting the seeds. I’m a stickler about one seed per pot (as long as the seeds are fairly easy to handle and only get one per pot). We usually only need one or two plants of each variety in the Demo Garden, so we plant extra pots rather than planting extra seeds in each pot. This year we only need one tomato plant of each variety, but we planted three. One of the extra is just in case germination is poor and the other extra is just in case something goes wrong when we transplant. Because a lot of our varieties aren’t available as plants locally, if we were to only plant one pot, we would be in trouble if something happened.

We don’t currently have a good watering can with a fine mist ability, so we have been using the spray attachment on the sink in the response center to thoroughly wet down our pots after seeding.

I now have six and a half flats of seeds under my lights in my office. And one 4-cell pack in the refrigerator.

Oh yeah, I was going to tell you about that.

You see, one of the things we were going to plant was this ‘Candy’ Stevia. Why wasn’t ordinary stevia good enough? Well, this variety is supposed to have 4″ long by 2″ wide leaves! Huge! So we’re getting ready to plant, and I turn the seed packet over to check the planting depth and read this:

Well then. Can you explain to me why the seeds need light to germinate, but then it is recommended to cover them with either loose mulch or put them in a refrigerator? Any why didn’t the catalog give me any warning about the crazy germination requirements?!? (It lists the “ease of germination” as “Moderate” and says that the seeds can be planted “anytime.” Yeah, right. Just it might be months before anything germinates. OR MAYBE TWO WHOLE WINTERS OF COLD!!! Couldn’t they put the seeds in the freezer for a year and sell me pre-cold treated seeds?

Anyway, we dutifully put the seeds on top of the soil and then gently watered them in. I put the cell pack in a plastic bag and then put it in the refrigerator. We’ll see how long it takes for me to get annoyed with it and throw it away.

And that is Why We Research Before Planting Something New.

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on March 26, 2013, in Around the Garden and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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