I've got them in an aluminum foil pan, with a seed warming mat underneath in the basement, relatively warm for a basement. They are covered by a big plastic tupperware. They are in 3" peat pots (all I had around) with moist jiffy starter mix and I bottom soaked them (maybe 0.5-1in of h2o), most of the water was absorbed.
It's 6 days later and the soil is still moist and I've got 4 pots of the twelve showing sprouts as of a few days ago. Once I saw growth I removed the cover and hooked up the lights, 2 4ft florescent T8 6500K, 2800lumens? bulbs. I figured the loss of the "greenhouse" would be tempered by the heat of the lights. I've got them maybe an inch away from the top of the seedlings.
I'm not planning on watering (bottom soak) until the top of the pots looks drier, is this appropriate?
I know germination is usually 4-5 days, but if the basement is a bit colder it will take longer, correct? Anyone else germinating in these conditions? How long were your germination times?
Any other thoughts on improving the process?
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My process is pretty much identical to yours, except using plastic cell packs instead of peat pots. Used repurposed food containers with lid for the moisture retention on the mat. Had to mist a couple of times during the days on heat mat, then moved them off heat with a quorum of sprouts up, under lights - 5 days later this time. Not all were up, but enough that I didn't want to cook any roots, nor promote any kind of rots. My basement is cold and the lights are over a window in an unheated room, so I'm counting on heat from the lights. Also I moved them away from the cold window at lights out last night.
I don't use peat pots because they wick water away from the plants or alternately get soaked and stay too wet - they complicate water relations. Also I don't bottom water (many folks do though). For seeds especially, you need the moisture near the surface where they are, and you don't want it to be waterlogged down below them, it can be dryer below and that's okay, especially if temp is cool. So if your surface soil is at all dry where the sprouts are not up, I'd use a mister to drive a little moisture down around the seeds just to make sure they are getting the soak they need.
I'm not sure about the mystery of why some seeds germinate sooner than others.
There are several possibilities I'm mulling over, especially as the seeds I saved last year are taking longer than some seeds that are 7 years old!
(1) cheap heat mat may heat unevenly (some not warmed enough or too much?)
(2) drying conditions of seeds. Last year's seeds stayed in paper packs all winter, which I usually pack up into plastic before xmas. That means they would / could be dryer than older seeds which were packed in plastic when they were 'just right'. They may then need a longer soak/ repeat soaking to come up.
(3) genetic differences in how fast and/or favorite germination conditions. maybe some seeds are happier to sprout off the heat mat.
Age of seeds is often said to make them take longer, but in this case it's something else. I'm leaning towards, how dry were those seeds.
temperate marine climate
yearly precip 61 inches/1550 mm
I'd put a thermometer at the same level as the top of the pot and see how warm it gets. With an instant-read, you can get the soil temp directly. This just provides a data point. Sounds to me that you're doing just fine.
I'd stop bottom watering for now and use a mister or even a syringe when the tops get dry. (I'm genetically conditioned to avoid soil saturation.)
How many seeds per pot?
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I also remove the cover and the heat mat when my seeds first show germination in 3-4 days. They go under fluorescent lights after they germinate.
I also do not like the peat pots. I used them many years ago and at the end of the season, I found some of them still almost intact in the ground. They just did not break down as expected. Secondly, if you plant the pots in the ground make sure that the entire thing is buried or the exposed parts of the pot will wick away moisture from underground.
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