Sunday, February 22, 2009
Using peat pellet is a great way for starting seeds or propagating cuttings. It is very convenient and easy to use.
Peat pellets are compressed peat, a coarse wafer of crushed peat moss with nutrients added. The whole pellet is surrounded by a very thin gauze-like material that is biodegradable and expands with the expanding peat to create a basket of sorts to hold the pod of peat together -- no pots needed. The pellet measurement is 40mm diameter and 8mm thick before adding water.
Put a compressed pellet into warm water and it expands to several times its original size, making it ready for planting immediately. Drop the seeds into the hole at the top of the pellet. When the roots grow through the pellet bottom you plant the pellet. Transplant the seedling by putting the pellets into the garden or into growing containers. This also helps eliminate transplant shock because you aren't disturbing the roots at all.
The following steps outline the procedures for starting seeds in peat pellets.
1. To prepare the pellets for planting, arrange them side by side in a shallow pan. Add enough warm water to cover the pellets, add more water as needed until they are fully expanded.
2. When the pellets have reached their full size, use a needle/pencil point to make one to three shallow planting holes in the top of each pellet (one when the seed is large, three when using smaller seeds), spaced as far apart as possible. Plant the seeds into the holes about 1/4 inch, then press lightly with your thumb to cover the holes. Label each pellet.
3. Cover the containers with plastic. Keep the pellets in a well-lighted area but out of direct sunlight. As soon as the seeds germinate, poke holes in the plastic tent to increase ventilation and prevent overheating.
4. When the pellets begin to turn a lighter brown and dry out, add warm water to the container. Remember that at this stage they have to stay moist but not soaking wet. After germination, reduce watering slightly, but do not let the seedlings dry out.
5. When the seedlings show their second set of right leaves, remove the plastic and reduce watering. Place the containers in a south-facing window where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. At this stage best temperatures for the seedlings are 60 to 70 degrees during the day, to about 10 degrees at night. Turn the container daily to keep the stems growing straight. Plants are heliotropic, which means they turn toward the light.
6. As the seedlings begin to crowd each other, use scissors to thin them to one per pot, snipping off the weak ones. Don't pull out the extras; you may unintentionally pull up the one you want to keep, because the roots are tangled.
7. Three to four weeks after the seeds have germinated, begin applying diluted liquid fertilizer.
8. When the roots begin to grow through the bottoms of the pots, it's time to transfer them into the garden.