Finally, planting!!

Finally, time to plant seeds! Now as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a really neat feeling having a packet of seeds in your hand. You know the potential in those seeds, all the fun you’re going to have watching them grow and flourish as sprouts, plants, and finally fruits/vegetables.

As you can imagine, it’s exciting to have something like this in front of me (sorry for the terrible picture. View the full list of plants in this previous article):

Planting seeds - 1

A bunch of vegetable seeds – exciting!

Yep, that’s how you get seeds when you order online from in the Philippines. Haha. Even here I go with online shopping over conventional, just another generation X technophile.

Now, just a little on planting for those learning. Most all seeds need a nice moist environment to sprout in. It’s the planting depth that changes. If you don’t have the information on a seed you’re planting you can use size as a general guideline. Smaller seeds need to be shallower (<1in/3.5cm deep) while larger seeds can be planted deeper. The seed carries a payload of nutrients that the plant uses as it grows towards the surface. Small seeds don't have as much nutrients so they need to be closer to the top, that way they can get a leaf up there to collect energy from the sun.

If you are having trouble with a batch of seeds germinating in soil, there are many tricks you can use to help them along.

The first thing I try is soaking the seeds in water for a day before planting. If that doesn’t work, I’ll use the paper towel method. Sandwich the seeds between moist paper towels, and those between two dinner plates, one overturned on top of the other. Keep everything as sterile as possible and don’t make the paper towels too wet. The pouch created between the plates should be a perfect humid environment for the seeds to sprout in. I might need to use this technique on at least one species here, so I’ll discuss that more if needed later.

For now I’ll use a seed tray and some custom soilless seed medium. I have a seed tray with 54 slots, but that isn’t nearly enough for what I want to plant. It will work to plant this first batch though. I’m planting the seeds for Planters 1 and 2 this time, plus some little assistant plants, haha. Here’s what I’m planting: cherry tomato, mica tomato, cucumber, eggplant, jalapeno and labuyo peppers, broccoli, coriander (cilantro), dill, parsley, and purple basil.

The medium I’m using to germinate the seeds is 1:1:0.2 or so of coco peat:Burnt Rice Hull:worm castings. Not sure I even need the worm castings in there but I threw some in just for a little fertilizer. And just like the planters outside, I inoculated this medium with a compost tea. So I guess I’m not using sterile soil, ha ha. I believe a healthy population of beneficial microbes is much better than a sterile planting medium.

Check out the seed tray with soil:

Planting seeds - 2

Soilless planting mix in the seed tray

Most of the plants I bought required quite shallow sowing so I just poked a little hole in the top of the soil and dropped those suckers in there. I planted several seeds in each slot. If they all germinate, which I’m expecting most will, I’ll just select the fittest and throw the others in the compost bin – sorry runts. OR I will donate them to friends who will probably kill them more slowly. I’m not sure which is a worse fate, at least in the bin they go to some good.

…and after some time, sowing is done! Just around sunset. I have the tray inside where it catches sun through the window from about 1:30pm to 6:00pm; which is drawing close as I finish sowing the seeds. Such nice light on the new tray bursting(not quite) with potential!

Planting seeds - 3

Evening light shining down on the freshly planted seed tray

I’d like to hear from you about how you germinate seeds. Some people use direct sow, others use paper towels and no soil initially, some use a sterile seed mix, etc. I’d like to hear about the different methods!

  • Henry

    Good going Patrick! I tried using the paper towel method before and it did succeed in germinating the seeds. However with the latter I found that the new roots tended to lodge themselves deep in the towel, thus causing some damage when trying to remove them.

    So I switched to coffee filters since the paper fibers in them are tighter than paper towels the new roots did not get tangled up in the paper fibers. I then fold the damp coffee filter, place it in a Ziploc bag, labeled and placed on top of my PC for a nice warm environment. I found using this method dramatically accelerated (by more than 50%)the germination time, especially with longer germinating seeds such as peppers.

    • Patrick

      Ooh good one Henry that’s interesting. It’s true they do get tangled up, I usually take them out soon after they pop to avoid that.

      Also, that’s a good call I forgot to mention in the post – it does help dramatically to put the plates somewhere warm like on top of a TV or computer. Haha it’s so warm here in Asia I haven’t needed that step in a long time..

  • Henry

    Forgot to add this. As soon as I see sprouts, I dust them with Mycorrhizae.

    • Patrick

      Good call. For those learning, mycorrhizae are species of fungi that form symbiotic relationships with plants. They colonize the roots and have been shown to greatly improve plant health and growth, resistance to disease etc. You can inoculate seeds before planting, or just when the roots pop out if doing the paper towel method, and the plants will benefit throughout their lifespan. Never hurts to reapply every 6mo or so though. I usually do a soil drench with mycorrhizae when plants are very young still.

  • george

    Hi Patrick,

    Greetings my new friend. Just looking at some of the great info at the Unconventional
    Farmer and can’t wait to get some seeds going. Have been a seedling “buyer” for a long time, but now will start with SEEDS! Very enthusiastic. Anyway one thing I am going to use is willow bark or leaves extract. It has a compound called salicylic acid which is a tremendous root promoter. Have heard amazing things from South America of Biochar/willow bark extract producing sunflowers the size of dinner plates “large dinner plates” and just doing amazing things to corn—increasing size and over all kernels by a lot. Use this stuff much? or come across it? There is a product called “root-blast” I haven’t used but wonder if it’s the same thing. Is the mycorrhizae in the BIM? yes? just dip the roots in the BIM then plant? Thanks Henry! for the coffee filter tip, will add that to the bag of tricks—

    • Patrick

      Hey George!

      Lots of great stuff in that post, where to start…I haven’t used willow extract but sounds really interesting I’ll have to look into it, I’m always looking for root growth promotants.

      We are very familiar with biochar though, we use it a lot here as a soil amendment in the form of “carbonized rice hull” which is basically charred rice hulls. Biochar is absolutely incredible stuff, look up the ‘terra preta’ soils of South America and you’ll hear all about how wonderful it is. I wrote a long post all about what biochar is, how to make it, how to use it and how to supercharge it to amplify its benefits. It’s coming out soon.

      BIM is pretty strong stuff so we dilute it heavily before inoculating plants. I don’t usually use it as a root dip, more a soil drench after planting – that’s a good idea though I’ll probably do that next time around. I think it would have ectomycorrhizal species in there but I also have some great spore powder that I use after transplanting.

      And the best part of that comment – thanking Henry for the great coffee filter tip. Awesome! That’s why we started this site, to start a community of unconventional farmers sharing wisdom, lessons, experiences and all that good stuff. It’s great to see it happening.


  • Hi! Where do you usually buy your seeds?

    • Patrick

      I always bought from Lifes Harbest hydroponics, I like Jackie.

      But looks like she stopped selling seeds recently I don’t see her ad for them.

      I’m toying with the idea of buying a ton of seeds from the states and bringing them over next trip. I want seeds, and lots of others here do too. Hard to find many varieties here, it’s amazing.

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