Abelmoschus Manihot. I grew this. Not from seed but from a small plant. Growing from seed is proving to be quite the challenge for one without a greenhouse. But I have a plan. There are some tools I need to invest in to ensure germination success. Once I've got this thing down, there will be no limit to the wild and wonderful plants I can attempt to grow in my little garden. But first, let me regurgitate the basic facts of seed starting that I have picked up over the past year and a half.
Little seeds are so delicate and require - for the most part - pretty precise conditions. The soil mix must be light enough in consistency that a tiny baby sprout can push through it. The soil temperature (different from air temperature) must be in the high 60's I think. This is achieved by placing your tray of seeds on an indirect heat source, such as a heating mat or a heated cable coil with a piece of plywood in between the seedling tray and the coil.
Little seeds need darkness and moisture to germinate. A plastic dome (which often comes with seed trays) placed on top of the germinating seedlings will trap in humidity, creating the perfect conditions for germination. Per flower farming guru Jennie Love, most seeds germinate within 3 days. Eek, not mine. Yet.
Once 50% of the seeds have germinated, move them into an environment that is still warm and one where they will receive at least 8 hours of light a day. This is another area where I think I'm F'ing up. The sun breaking through the clouds and fog here happens infrequently, and probably never for 8 hours a stretch in my backyard. But like I said - I have a plan for that.
The first little leaves to protrude out of the potting mix are called cotyledon. They are not "true" leaves, but little tools for the seed to break through the soil. At this stage you want to be watering your tray of seeds at least once (maybe twice) a day. (As you should have been doing when seeds were germinating in the dark). Watering is very critical here - and the type of nozzle you use is pretty important. I think this may be another downfall area of my operation. What you ideally need is a "rose on a hose," a misting type of watering nozzle.
So say you're amazing at this and you have seedlings now with "true" leaves, aka leaves that look like what the adult plant will have. And 4-ish weeks have gone by since you first sowed those little seeds. It's time to transplant!
If you are a lucky suburban or rural dweller, this can be done directly into the ground. Now would be a great time to mix in some organic compost. 1 part compost to 3 parts soil I think is a good ratio. If you are a city dweller like me, you might be transplanting into pots. I love nothing more than a classic terra-cotta pot. Once you've transplanted all of your viable seedlings, it's also a great time to fertilize. I put fish emulsion mixed with water in a little spray bottle and spray all of my new transplants. If possible, place them in an area where they will not be subject to harsh conditions (aka blazing bright sun) for the first few days. They need a little babying to recover from the shock of being uprooted and transplanted.
From here on, water every day the first week. Fertilize with fish emulsion (and/or kelp and compost tea) once a week. Water once a week after that point.
These basic tenants should hypothetically work. I am still not great at starting things from seed. Could be because some of my seeds are over a year old (put them in the freezer!). But what I KNOW would help me are a few items below. Maybe you already own them. Maybe you don't. They are:
- A "rose on a hose" spray nozzle. Also a hose. Right now I'm just using a basic watering can. I do live in the city after all!
- Grow lights. Seems excessive, perhaps, to use in a mild climate like SF, but consistency is key to results and I need consistent light. I plan on buying a hanging florescent grow light to install under the work shelf portion of my potting bench. You can use metal chain links to adjust the height of the lights as your seedlings get taller. I believe you want the lights a few inches from the surface of the plant.
- Other general things I want to invest in: DRIED kelp/fish emulsion (just add water!), Organic compost (my kitchen compost experiment is a little iffy. Still doing it, It's just always chunky because I keep adding new things to it).
There you have it. I haven't lost faith in my ability to do this successfully yet. Maybe you already are an excellent seed starter. Would love to know if you have any wise words to share.
One week of summer left before Labor Day - ahh!! Hope you're outside enjoying it.