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I have started my OP veg seeds indoors, as the instructions indicate - depth - time to germinate - temperature, water, etc., in Jiffy pods you add water to, that come with the clear lids to make a little green house. I have planted 4 flats - TWICE now - with my OP seeds from Sustainable, Victory, Bakers and other well known OP seed providers, and I only got 6 plants to grow!! Is anyone else having trouble getting OP seeds to grow??
Do you mean the little Jiffy-7 peat pellets? I quit using those many years ago because they held water too long and then dried out very quickly. The result was almost always that my seeds rotted before they had a chance to germinate. Since then I've mostly used commericial-type "1020" sized nursery trays and "cell packs" (like those at http://www.greenhousemegastore.com/category/1020-trays) filled with either Fafard Seed Starter Mix or Metro-Mix seed starting media which I obtain locally.
1lisac, I've used them for years too... This is my second planting; I have no idea why the first ones did not come up after following directions strictly, but when I came home this afternoon and checked them, I found several that had sprouted!!! ...Now, why now and not before????? I have NO idea! But I'm thankful some have germinated!!! :)
I use Jiffy peat pellets with great results. I saturate the pellets with warm water, allowing them to soak as much as they will. After about two hours, I drain any remaining water in the tray by tilting and pouring out a corner of the tray. I scratch the top of the pellet with a toothpick to loosen up the pellet. I lay 1 or two seeds on the loosened mix, then press lightly with a finger to push the seed into the pellet and cover. I use a heat mat, so I put the tray on the mat set for about 80 degrees (F) and cover with the plastic lid. I allow air circulation by propping one corner of the cover open with a pencil laid flat across the corner of the tray. I leave the cover on until about half the seeds emerge, then remove it. I don't water again until the cover is removed.
I also start under florescent lights-- once I take the lids off, I move the lights down to be within an inch of the seedlings. I adjust the lights up as the seedlings grow. I water lightly for a few days, adding water to cover the bottom of the tray, then draining after a few minutes. As the plants get bigger, I use a little more water and wait about 10 minutes before draining. I can say this works well for tomatoes and peppers. I haven't tried other vegetables or flowers.
Do you have any reason to distrust OP seeds vs F1 hybrid seeds?
I think the main factors affecting germination are temperature, moisture and oxygenation (aeration).
Too cold or too warm will slow germination down and if temps are too extreme, reduce the total % germination.
A tray in a window with direct sun can get really hot in just a few hours!
A tray in a window with a draft can get pretty cold overnight!
If seeds germinate and emerge and grow too slowly, they become more vulnerable to rot and other diseases.
If a seed is moist enough to START germinating and then dries all the way out, it will die, but I assume that none of us are letting trays dry ALL the way out and then being puzzled by poor results.
More of us use a seedling mix that is easily made too soggy. If all the air spaces ("pores", "voids", "channels") fill with water, oxygen can't diffuse in and CO2 can't diffuse out. Seeds and rootlets drown, die and rot.
I used to do that, AND top-water, AND over-water. So I started adding a LOT of screened bark to my seedling mixes to improve aeration even if I over-watered from the top.
I also found an easy way to bottom-water: put a cotton flannel pad between the 1020 tray that holds water, and the cell-pack inserts or plug tray. Then I keep the pad damp but never allow standing water.
If the pad is damp, the bottom of the cell is damp and the mix can wick up enough water for the seedlings without ever filling the (medium-large) air spaces with water. The coarse seedling mix only pulls up CAPILLARY water, not PERCHED water.
If I over-water from the top and flood the air spaces, the mat will pull that perched water down and out of the cell, to where I can suck it out with a turkey baster.
I use peat pellets, planted shallow like David R, but without the heat mat.
Without the heat mat, germination is on the slow side, but fairly reliable. With the heat mat, sometimes they would get too hot &/or too dry - then not sprout at all.
I only use the heat mat for certain veggies but a thermostate takes away the guess work. If the seeds sit there too long they will rot. I'm wondering what veggies you are trying to start bc there are a lot I wouldnt try to start together, they have such different germination requirements.
In the past I have had difficulty with seeds purchased from some of the boutique seed companies that specialize in heirlooms. Typical problems have been poor germination rates or plants not true to type. I don't have any issues with OP or heirloom seeds that are more widely grown, from these companies or elsewhere. So, I suspect this is a problem with limited sources and a small genetic pool for much of what they sell.
IMO, plaid carrots and purple melons make great fun projects, and every now and then you'll find a winner. But if you want to grow *food*, it's better to stick with either the old fashioned varieties that are regional traditions, or hybrids bred specifically for your conditions. You can always leave some room for experimentation & fun.
Well, this second time around, I got about 50% germination, so I'm grateful for that. The rest were duds.
I have no reason to NOT trust OP seeds vs F1 hybrids. I'm just wondering what the problem is, and is this a common/natural problem with OP because they have not had their weaknesses "engineered" out of them?
I will also try planting some of them right into the ground and see if they perform better there.
Rickcory, I will try the flannel tip. Sounds like a good fix to the problem. :-)
Bear in mind old heirlooms are typically selected for very specific conditions, especially as the competition among seed companies prompts them to find rarer and rarer varieties. The varieties wouldn't have survived if they were naturally weak, but if you don't have those conditions they may perform poorly for you. (Every now and then you get a surprise, though - short season Minnesota Midget melons bred for cold climates do great for me, because they set fruit before it gets too hot and humid and are done before the worst of the disease season.)
However, F1 seeds have hybrid vigor and are the end product of a lot of plant breeding knowledge and techniques. They also can be weak in the wrong environments, or have some great characteristic, like resistance to a particular disease, that means they need TLC in another area.
There are many very popular varieties which are OP that do quite well in a range of conditions, and are found at nearly every seed merchant. Banana peppers, California Wonder peppers, Cherry Belle radishes, Black Beauty Zucchini, and many more.
TL;DR - Different varieties have different strengths and weaknesses regardless of breeding origin. Choose the ones that have strengths which match your needs and conditions.
Learning is a never ending process...I have gone back to old seed trays where the seedlings have already been removed only to find MORE seeds had germinated. Still can figure it out. Some peppers are known for taking up to a month to germinate. That's why I ask what you were trying to start. I thought the issue mite be starting seeds that have totally different requirements ie: cukes, watermelon, with tomatoes.
I dumped out some old seed in the garden last year. One of the things that didn't sprout at all last year is coming up this year. Since it was a dud last year, I didn't jot it down, and now I can't remember what it was!
Below is information on germinating and growing temperatures for peppers and tomatoes. If you are using last years (or older) seeds you can check the germination rate by rolling some seeds in a damp paper towel, putting the towel in a plastic bag, and keeping it someplace warm like the top of a fridge.
BTW - I find that tomatoes tend to not grow much if the temps are too low.
Germination time: 2 to 4 weeks
Germination temp: 80 To 90 degF.
Optimal growth: Once the seedlings have 2 sets of true leaves, they can be up-potted to a 3-inch pot and grown at 70°F during the day and 55°F during the night."
Update... Strangest thing happened. I decided to throw the non-germinating Jiffy pods away but they were too heavy put in a garbage bag, so I sat all the trays outside on my covered front porch to dry. A week or so later I happened to walk near the window and looked down to find about 2 dozen of the seeds had germinated in the bone-dry pods, and with being in high 40 degree temps several nights.
Can anyone explain why they now decided to grow??? Oy!
I gathered them all up, added water to re-hydrate the pod, and now they're growing well...still outside on my porch! LOL
LOL! Well, at least I know I'm not alone, 1lisac! I can understand different requirements for germination, but in a pod that's b-o-n-e d-r-y, out doors, and in 40 degree temps? ...Crazy, crazy, crazy!!!
I'll make my own next year... I think I'm done with the Jiffy pods. ;-)
I had some wildflower seeds (silver lupine?) that went the other way. I planted them in fall because they were supposed to require a winter- long stratification period. They were starting to sprout within a week.
My mother had a dead house plant ( gloxinia?) that she knocked out of the pot against the wall of the house. It grew their several years before it winter-killed. It shouldn't have survived the first frost, let alone 2-3 Colorado winters - especially since it was already dead
I finally IDed the mystery plant that sprouted this year from last year's sowing. It is Cleome or Bee Plant - I remember now that I was trying some plants for beneficial insects with the veggies. I will save some seed and see if I can figure out when it likes to be sown (it didn't like June)
I call them Spider Flowers. I had one in the front of the house last yr. now there are too many to count. These are pinkish but all the ones I have are. A Texas Gardening book says to sow the seeds when all chance of frost is gone. I don't think we have any native ones here.
Well, last year I planted them after all chance of frost was gone and must have been too warm. I planted them in June and they didn't sprout until this spring (or maybe last fall) when it was cooler. They were already starting to bloom this year at the time I planted them last year. So this bunch doesn't like sprouting warm. I just need to figure out whether they prefer early fall, late winter, or spring sowing. Obviously Mother Nature says summer-fall. If it is the native, it isn't invasive here. I guess I will find out!