starting seedsSeed propagation is the method of breeding, reproducing, or multiplying plants through the use of seeds. Seeds that are started, propagated, in an optimal environment will germinate and actively grow. Plant propagation is a fairly easy process, although can be a delicate one that requires careful preparation, patience, and a gentle hand.

How to Propagate Plants from Seeds

With so many types of soil available it can be confusing to know which type of soil to choose to start your seedlings and to see them through a mature plant cycle.  To germinate your seeds with the highest level of success the first thing to do is to carefully read the instructions.  While this might seem obvious, you would be surprised how many experienced growers forget the step.

Without learning about your particular type of seed and the optimum nurturing environment, you could miss something important. Most seeds successfully germinate in a dark, warm, and humid environment. There are some types of seeds, however, that may require cooler temperatures in the beginning before warming up. This is not common although you should read the instructions for your types of seeds. Generally, your grow medium should be warmer than the air outside.

Your seedlings will need the right temperature, humidity, and dampness, although be careful to not overwater as this will cause your seeds to either die or poorly germinate. Unless you are germinating surface sown seeds, you should not need to introduce light until your seeds begin to sprout.

Choosing the right propagation medium is important to get your seeds off to a healthy start.

What Is the Difference between Potting Soil and a Seed Starting Mix?

Potting soil is much denser, heavier, and coarser than a seed starting mix. Potting soil typically contains field soil along with compost, peat moss and vermiculite.  Potting soil may or may not contain fertilizer.

Seed starting mix does not contain actual soil and is much finer in texture than any potting soil. Seed starting mix is specifically designed to be lightweight to prevent weighing down the seeds as they attempt to germinate and sprout. A good starting mix contains lightweight ingredients like coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.

It should be simple to tell seed starting mix from potting soil, although not all labeling conventions are uniform for gardeners, and it can be very confusing.  For example, potting mix is not the same as potting soil, as some companies refer to a soilless seed starting mix as potting mix.

Do I Have To Use Seed Starting Mix? 

While using a seed starting mix instead of potting soil may not technically be necessary, you will set yourself up for greater success with germination and healthier plants.  One thing you definitely do not one to do is to use soil or topsoil from an outdoor garden.  Filling containers with outdoor soil to propagate plants is asking for trouble and inviting outdoor pests, disease, and weeds.

How to Select a Good Seed Starting Mix 

When choosing a good seed starting mix, it helps to read the ingredients and understand what the items mean. Here are some tips to help you choose the quality type of seed starting mix for your plant propagation:

  • A seed starting mix should contain no compost, no sand, and no field soil. If a mix contains soil, sand, or compost, it is a potting soil.
  • A quality seed starting mix will contain some combination of light ingredients such as coco coir, vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, sphagnum moss, and a wetting agent.
  • Do not choose any products that contain “forest products” which is a dense filler ingredient.
  • Do not choose a mix that contains lime or fertilizer. Germinating seeds should not require additional fertilizer beyond what is in a good seed starting mix.
  • Avoid selecting any bags that feel heavy, damp, or wet. Only choose lightweight and dry bags.
  • Do not select a seed starter mix that does not list the ingredients.

Knowing what to look for and following these tips will help get your seeds off to a bright, healthy start. Start with a quality seed starting mix and maintain the right temperature, generally between 73° and 77°F. Do not forget about healthy airflow, avoid overcrowding seeds which can cause stress to your plants. Keep your starter mix damp but not overwatered, a high humidity environment can help to keep your seeds from drying out in between watering.

RainMakers Supply offers indoor and outdoor gardening supplies and equipment, with everything you need for hydroponic growing and seed germination. Ask our horticulture experts for the best seed starter mix to germinate your type of seeds. Contact us with any questions and for quality soil and soilless grow mediums.