Episode-831- Seed Starting Primer for 2012

Starting Seeds

Starting Seeds is Easy

I get a lot of questions from people who are looking to start plants from seeds vs. buying plants at the nursery.  Many people struggle with seed starting for a variety of reasons so I am dedicating most of today’s show to help you master the skill of taking tiny seeds and turning them into food and medicine producing plants.

The reality is starting seeds can be frustrating if you don’t do it correctly but it doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you follow the blueprint Mother Nature has laid out for us.  Once you do that starting your own makes producing your own food extremely cost effective.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • Understanding how seeds germinate in the wild (this answers so many questions)
  • What are the needs of a seed
  • Cubes, pots, paper and peat
  • Why starting indoors is a good idea
  • Light and not all light is equal
  • The role of the greenhouse and getting by without one (sort of)
  • Building a simple grow light
  • Mist watering and watering from the bottom
  • Creating constant temperatures
  • Culling and “pricking out”
  • Starting seeds in pots that are generally considered “direct sow”
  • Seeds that should almost always be direct sowed
  • Hardening off seeds
  • Potting up the why and how
  • Holding back in ground planting until you are sure
  • Mulch is your friend

Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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38 Responses to Episode-831- Seed Starting Primer for 2012

  1. Haven’t listened yet but this is perfect. My order from Baker Creek just came and I’m busy making origami seed starting pots out of news paper.

  2. Does anyone know of anywhere to get soil tested or is this something I could handle on my own?

    • Your local county U.S Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. But get information and get sample in before farmers rush season. They usually have a sampling tool for you as well and instructions.

    • I herd this on a podcast a couple days ago “logan labs” $20 a test.
      Thanks my first time.

    • Call your local land grant university or extension center. They usually offer this service for a reasonable price.

  3. Great show, Jack. I believe the big seed/plant company you might be speaking of is Bonnie Plants. Which is what we sell at the Home Depot I work at.

    Vegetable & Herb Gardening

    I have also been using the trays with the peat pellets the last few years.These are distributed by Burpee seed Co. I find they work out great. One I transplant everything into my garden, I rinse them out and put them away for next year. They do sell replacement packs of peat pellets at Home Depot and other box stores. We have just recently gotten all of our spring shipment in of seeds and trays. I’m looking forward to starting my garden this year.
    John R
    Long Island, New York

  4. Hey Jack,
    Another Long Islander here and another info packed show from Jack.
    I use $20 plastic shelves from Home Depot and cheap shop lights. I wrap the shelves in plastic and keep a 5 gallon fish tank in the bottom with a fish tank heater and it keeps the temperature and I can control it as I need to by venting the top and adjusting the heater. It also keeps the humidity up. Worked like a charm last year. I had huge starts going out into the world. I think my complete system cost about $60 since I had the tank and heater.

  5. @ Tom: While it *is* possible to purchase a home soil testing kit, I would still recommend using your local extension agent or university. Most Agriculture colleges/universities have these facilities & directions for taking samples on their websites. There is usually a *small* fee, but I find it useful & extremely helpful for the typical home owner.

  6. This will be a show the wife and I will listen to! Perfect timing too!

  7. A nice well thought out book “The New Seed Starters Handbook” by Nancy Bubel is a great resource. May be out of print.

  8. Jack,
    I am using soil blocks with the major ingredient being peat moss which acts as a wick. I use plastic trays with grooves at the bottom and noticted that the blocks are wicking the water in the grooves, staying moist (watering from below).
    Mesquite, Tx.

  9. For people who’re complete gardening newbies like me, I found this site useful.


    You enter your frost dates and it gives you a table that tells you what you’re supposed to be doing in a given week — starting things indoors, sewing things outdoors, hardening off, or transplanting. It’s so helpful for folks like me who just don’t know where to start.

  10. Awesome job Jack! I just did a video on germinating Tobacco seeds but it could be used on any seed!! Great show as always! Larry
    How To Germinate And Start Tobacco Seeds!

  11. Jack referenced a video on making his growlight and linking it but didn’t add the link. doesn’t anyone have it?

  12. Timely topic, thx!

    As the plants are growing inside the house, does anyone run a small oscillating fan to help harden/strenghten their plants?

  13. So when a neighbor comes and turns up a garden spot for us for the first time, should we cover it in mulch until it’s planted? We’ve always managed to get plants started, but we’ve never had a “real” garden to put them in. 🙂

  14. Timely to say the least. I agree on the peat / coir pots – they “work”, but I pulled one out of the center of a compost pile that had been in there for months after it had already been through a growing season and it still looked reusable.
    The smaller peat pellets seemed way to small and were giving me issues where they were always too dry or too wet. The large peat pellets seemed pretty decent. I used them for rosemary transplants and they seemed to work out well enough. My trial I’m running for this year is with the single layer newsprint pots. I couldn’t find instructions I liked on the internet, so I came up with my own for wrapping around a can (you can use other sized bottles, tubes, pipes etc. all the same):

    • This is WAY easier than the origami pots i’ve been making. Thanks for the link. I’ll go back to strictly making origami jumping frogs and flapping cranes. 🙂

  15. Backwoods Engineer

    VERY GOOD show! I am ahead of the game this year, in that I already have seeds up and growing in my garage-based grow light system. But the hints on tomatoes and peppers (the “cold snap” theory) were very helpful.

    Your podcast is a daily listen on my daily commute for a reason, Jack. Well done.

  16. Are there any seeds that you would say are better off being started in a soil cube over trays? Any transplanting situations that would cause one to work better than the other for certain plants?

  17. I would say tobacco, lettuce, small seeds transplany easier!

  18. Hey Jack — great show, very informative! One thing that I didn’t hear you talk about, though, is cloches. I used them to direct seed tomatoes last year, as well as get pepper transplants out a little early, before all of the danger of frost had passed.

    Basically, I took gallon milk jugs and cut the bottom off. I left the top off so that it acted as a vent to prevent it from getting too hot inside. Then, I cut an “X” to make a snug hole in the top of the handle, and used a long, thin stake of bamboo pushed through that hole, through the handle, and into the ground in order to hold the cloche in place and keep it from blowing away. When I put the cloche in place, I pushed it down a little bit and piled up a small ridge of soil around it to prevent any gaps around the bottom edge.

    I also surrounded my transplants and seeds with a ring of small stones inside the cloche as well. That way, when the sun shines during the day the rocks act as a heat sink When the sun goes down at night, they slowly let it off, keeping the inside of the cloche warm enough to prevent any damage to the seedlings on cold nights. By doing this it’s not out of the question to gain an additional 2-3 weeks on your growing season, unless you get an EXTREMELY hard frost during that time.

    Thanks for all the great info you gave in this show, and keep up the great work! Hopefully you and/or some of the other listeners can find this simple cloche idea to be helpful. Cheers!

    I’m going to do a post about this to my blog in the near future, along with pictures, which will help make it clearer if it seems a little muddy right now.

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  20. I just stumbled on this:


    Has some pretty intense information for the more challenging seeds out there.

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  24. Hello Jack, thanks for the show. I have a question regarding your grow box. I constructed one like in your video but I have one question that has not been addressed. You say the seeds need a lot of light but for how long? Should I run the lights in the box continuous or for 12 hours a day? Could use your help, thanks.

  25. Jack I enjoyed your discussion on mulch in the garden, and I am going to give it a try this year. Question – if I have 4-6 inches of mulch over my soil how do I water it so that the water makes it to the soil? Is it just a matter using a greater volume of water than if watering bare soil?

    • Modern Survival

      @Bob you will use less not more water. Water only goes one direction in nature, down.

    • Mulch doesn’t absorb very much water. More importantly it keeps water from going up in the form of evaporation. The only issue I’ve ever had with mulch is it can burn young plants. I’m not 100% on why I’ve seen that happen, but I’m guessing it was some sort of composting action between the mulch and soil layers. Otherwise it is good stuff.

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