How to Speed Up Seed Germination With Stratification

I’ve been having trouble getting my spinach to germinate. This prompted research Seed Germination Temperatures. I learnt that it was just way too hot in Kuwait for spinach to germinate at the moment. Furthermore some seeds need to be exposed to frost, or low temperatures, to germinate. Yet many countries doesn’t experience frost… and thats when you should “stratify” your seeds.

Stratification is essentially emulating frost temperatures with modern technology such as fridges and freezers. It’s a great option if you live in countries that just don’t get cold enough to otherwise germinate the plants, yet not so hot that the plants can’t grow as seedlings.

Seeds that take 2-3 weeks to germinate will often germinate faster when stratified first. Too slow of a process could mean that the seeds don’t get the ideal moisture from the soil (if growing hydroponically this usually isn’t an issue), and reduces the risk of growing mould and other diseases (can be an issue when growing hydroponically).

Here is a great video from YouTuber MIGardener that talks about how and why to stratify your seeds.

I attempted the technique that MIGardener teaches (video above), and it worked! I was about ready to give up after 3 attempts to get my spinach to germinate had failed.

My grow room is now reaching around 26°C (78°F) during the day; when the temperature is at 77°F rates drop to about 30% and can take a week or longer. Using the stratification technique allowed me to grow the seeds earlier than normal (whilst it was still too warm for the seeds to normally germinate), and gave me a 100% success rate!

Have you tried statifying any seeds? What is your success or failure stories for seed germination? Share with me in the comments below.

Transplanting Seedlings for Hydroponics Tips

A lot of people use hydroponic machines to start seedlings. Some people will start seedlings to transplant outdoors, and others will start seedings to transplant to larger containers. This post proves that I’m no exception: I just transplanted my San Marzano seedlings into their final Kratky hydroponic home.

Each method of transplanting has its own risks, as discussed below. By far the biggest risk of all is killing your innocent-baby plant. But if you follow the tips listed below, you will minimise the risk of being a plant slaughterer.

Also know that not all plants should be transplanted as some plants can’t handle root disturbance well, like spinach. You should only ever transplant healthy plants.

From Hydroponics to Soil

This is one of the most common methods to grow your plants; starting your delicate seedlings indoors and then planting in your garden when they are old enough to fend for themselves.

You should only transplant once roots have emerged from the bottom of the grow medium. If you wait too long then you risk stressing your plants.

Use grow medium that can be planted outdoors; trying to remove the plant from grow medium can be quite damaging to the roots. I tried separating my lettuce seedlings from the grow medium, and they definitely experienced shock.

Help your plants grow new roots, fast, by using root growth hormones. Whilst I haven’t used hormones on my own plants I have read online people recommending SUPERthrive Plant Vitamin Solution and HydroDynamics Clonex Rooting Gel.

Keep your soil well watered for a few days. You want the soil slightly damp, but not holding so much water that root or mould will grow. If your soil is well draining then consider watering a couple times a day.

You can also add a diluted nutrient solution to your water to help the plant get any extra energy it might need to grow new leaves and roots. This can be the same nutrients that your seedlings were growing in. Don’t give them full strength nutrients yet, as too much can actually harm your plants.

From Soil to Hydroponics

It is possible to transplant from soil to hydroponics, though many hydroponic growers like to keep their grow areas sterilised. Introducing dirt grown plants into a grow room can also bring the risk of unwanted bugs and diseases, potentially harming other plants (or even loosing all your crops!). I have personally lost entire crops from an exposure of an aphid infected plant, and so now I will only grow new plants from seeds.

Let your plant’s soil dry out prior to transplanting; dry soil is much easier to clean any dirt from the roots than wet. Once you have removed as much dirt as possible, then submerged the roots into a bucket of water and rinse any remaining residue. The roots need to be as clean as possible; dirt will contain bugs, algae, and can even damage some hydroponic pump systems.

Place your plant into a net pot and gently pull any long roots through the net pot holes. If the roots are fragile and just break, it’s better to keep them inside the net pot than risk damaging them. cover thoroughly with grow medium like clay pebbles. You need to ensure that no light can enter into your water reservoir.

Depending upon your hydroponic setup, make sure that air is still getting to the roots. Many people will use an air-stone to oxygenate your plant roots. If you are doing the kratky method then you should only submerge the lower roots and net pot, keeping at least half above the waterline to avoid drowning the plant.

Finally, your plant is going to go into shock, potentially a lot. It may look like you’ve killed the plant, with lots of leaves falling off or browning. Give it time and in most cases the plant will recover, anywhere from two days to a couple weeks. You may lose the original leaves as the plant will often abandon preserving those to focus on more important root growth.

From Hydroponics to Hydroponics

This will often be the easiest way to transplant seedlings, if you have planned out your plant growth before hand. The time to transplant is when the roots begin to emerge. Hydroponic roots are very fragile, so if they extend beyond the net cup then they are almost guaranteed to break.

If you know that your plant will need transplanting, try starting the seedlings in the final grow media such as rock wool. Simply transplant the entire cup or simply lift out the plant from one cup and transfer contents to a larger cup, adding more clay pebbles to block out any light.

Don’t make my mistake and wait too long: I transplanted some lettuce from peat moss (started in my Aerogarden) to cloning collars. The process or removing the lettuce seedlings from the Aerogarden net cups and washing out the peat moss caused them to mostly lose their fine roots. They looked dead for the first few days. It took them nearly a week to recover and start showing new growth.

Have you transplanted plants before? Share some of your tips in the comments below.

Growing Swiss Chard in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interests
Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interests

It’s been one week since I planted my Swiss Chard seeds in my Kratky hydroponic container, and its time to see how they have grown! The variety is Bright Lights.

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

Please excuse the dusty lid; whilst my plants are growing inside, we still get quite a lot of dust from dust storms, and just general air. I also noticed that my paint hadn’t fully cured and was slightly sticky, thus catching all those little dust particles.

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

4 out of 5 of my Bright Lights Swiss Chard plants sprouted, and have grown enough to remove the little grow dome (salvaged from some used Aerogarden Bounty pods).

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

One net cup did not sprout anything at all, even though I planted three seeds in each cup. In itself I would consider this just bad luck, but in the kale bucket beside this one the same outer cup didn’t grow there either.

The rock wool medium is wet, so the seed should be getting enough moisture to germinate. Perhaps there is too little light reaching these outer cups? I have switched the outer cup with an inner cup in the hopes that it gets the light needed for a slightly later blooming, but so far nothing.

Do you have any idea why just one cup might not germinate? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Seed Germination Temperatures

A bit over a week ago I planted some spinach seeds, and sadly they didn’t germinate. I began a bit of research as to why. Despite my spinach varieties being hardy to warm weather, they still need cooler soil to germinate! The adult growth stage can handle warmer temperatures but the seedlings are too vulnerable still.

I began to wonder what I could grow with my current temperatures. It’ll also be handy to know the minimum temperatures for when the seasons change.

Whilst my plants aren’t being planted in soil, instead hydroponic is usually planted in rock wool or peat moss, the germination temperature should theoretically remain the same.

Optimal °FOptimal °C
Amaranth, Red Leaf68-7520-24
Basil, Purple Petra65–8518-30
Basil, Genovese70 – 9021 – 32
Broccoli45 -85 7-29
Cilantro55-7013-21
Cucumber, Lemon70–9021-32
Kale, Nero Toscana 65–8518-30
Lettuce, Little Gem (Romaine)40-755 – 24
Lettuce, New Red Fire60–7016-21
Lettuce, Red Sails60–7016-21
Lettuce, Red Salad Bowl50-7210-22
Pepper, Cayenne65-9518-35
Pepper, Jalapeño 65-9518-35
Spinach, Matador50–7510-24
Spinach, Lavewa50–7510-24
Spring Onion68-7720-25
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights75–9024-32
Swiss Chard, Lyon50 – 7510 – 24
Taisai, Pak Choy50- 8010 – 27
Tomato, Marmande VR60 – 7015 – 20
Tomato (Cherry), Supersweet 100 FT75 -9021-32
Tomato, Sam Marzano70–9021-32

I measured my Aerogarden water and it’s hitting a maximum of 85°F (30°C)! No wonder my spinach never sprouted, its ideal temperature is 50-75°F (10-24°C). Its just way too hot for them.

I’ll have to wait a while for the weather to get a bit cooler before I can sprout spinach; in the meantime I can try growing some Bright Lights Swiss Chard and Nero Toscana Kale.