Nurturing seeds

Nurturing seeds

If planning to grow a garden from scratch, A Dyuthi offers some useful tips. Read on to know how to get the best results when you’re growing plants from seeds.

Sweating profusely, he changed the location of his precious pots once more, frowning as the stubborn soil refused to show up some semblance of green! No sign of life despite the daily exercise! I was eager to unravel the mystery of the sulking seeds. Here’s what my research yielded.

Now, what’s actually involved in the germination process? A seed contains within it a plant’s beginnings. To help encourage its development to its full potential, you need to create the proper environment in terms of heat, light, air, water and growing medium. An error in any one of these aspects even will stifle the seed’s attempt to multiply its cells, supply food and break out of its seed coat to sprout out its root and start developing into a whole plant. So, let’s first identify the optimum growing conditions for germination to occur successfully.

Environ for growth

Whether you purchase seeds or collect them from your own garden or your friend’s, make sure they’re whole and healthy. Are they suitable for your garden’s or area’s conditions? Are they of species in season right then? Have you stored them for so long that they have lost the capability to germinate?

Once you’ve ascertained the quality of your seeds, choose proper growing containers. Use pots or plastic containers, but check whether there are enough drainage holes. Determine pot-size depending on the seed’s size. Place saucers/trays beneath each to prevent water from running down onto the floor.

Grow them indoors first and then move the pots outdoors when the plants start showing signs of resilience.

Select the right fertiliser if you’re using one. Higher nitrogen content is ideal for grass and foliage plants, while phosphorous and potassium are good for flowering and fruit-bearing plants. However, fertiliser isn’t indispensable.

As for lighting, fluorescent bulbs are usually recommended since most seeds require only low level light. If you prefer natural light, then place the pots in indirect sunlight. Long hours of direct harsh rays will only kill the seeds. Keeping the pots on the window-sill will prompt the seedlings to tilt towards the sunlight, resulting in long and weak plants. Avoid using garden soil. It sometimes promotes fungus growth and diseases. Go for potting mix instead.

Now proceed with the sowing of seeds in the pots. You can use a pencil for making tiny trenches for the seeds to go in. Very small seeds can be scattered on the surface and lightly pressed down. Spread a light layer of soil over them.

Take utmost care while watering. Avoid splashing lots of water onto the pot. The soil should only be moist and not drip with water. Misting the soil with a spray-can is a wonderful method to achieve this result. Maintain moisture during germination by placing a clear plastic bag over the pot leaving at least one-inch space above the soil level. But, punch holes into the bag to let the seeds breathe. Don’t forget to remove the bag once the seedlings emerge.

Make more space

As the seedlings grow, they’ll require more space if you’ve planted them densely in one container. So, transplant them when the first true leaves appear. But, avoid hurting the roots. Handling them by the leaves and not their delicate stems will minimise injury to the seedlings. Don’t arrange the pots outdoors, leaving the poor little things to their own devices.

They can’t survive the sudden change in environment. Place the plants initially in a warm, protected area outdoors like the porch/portico for a few hours daily. Refrain from this process on windy or extremely cold days. Gradually increase the length of exposure time to the natural elements till the plants adapt to the changed conditions. When the plants appear firm and hard, move them to their designated locations.

A word of caution! Even a small mistake can prove to be costly. So, where are you most likely to go wrong? Forgetting to water the plants, or more commonly, being overcautious about preventing flooding, leading to dry, growing medium. Not all plant species can be subjected to the same level of heat and light. So, first determine the optimum levels for your particular seed type.

Also, be sure to use clean containers. Remove all debris from them and cleanse them thoroughly before use. Use deep containers for large seeds. But, never drive seeds too deep into the soil since this will render rising up to the soil-surface an impossible task. Remember, planting too many seeds in a single container will only choke them.
Next, is the ventilation good? And when you’re acclimatising the plants to the natural environment outdoors, don’t overdo it. For, extreme exposure can damage them! Plus, fetch them indoors at night.

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