Sunday, August 29, 2010

How To Start Seeds In Hydroculture

I recently saw a sale on seeds in my local ace hardware store. The seed packets were expired, so I had my pick for 50 cents. I ended up getting Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris), Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Dill (Anethum graveolens). The packets had an expiration date of December 2009. One year shouldn't be so bad...

I wanted to start all of these in hydroculture and grow them as if I was using soil. On top of that I thought it would be fun!!

NOTE: Rockwool is made from molten rock spun into cotton candy-like fibers, resulting in a fibrous medium accessible to capillary action that is not degraded by microbiological activity. While it has many advantages, one of the downsides is that the typical sharp properties of the fibers poke the skin and can cause irritation. In my case it does and I use garden gloves when I work with rockwool.

This is what you need to get started:
  1. A-Ok Rockwool Starter Plugs
  2. 1/2 Lemon
  3. Gallong Jug of Water (preferably distilled)
  4. Seeds
  5. Big Bowl that can hold 1 gallon of water
  6. Seedling Tray (I used my homemade plastic egg carton)
  7. (optional) Tweezers
  8. (optional) Garden gloves

Take the rockwool cubes and add them in a bowl with the 1 gallon of distilled water. You'll need to calculate 1 cube per seed (but since my seeds were expired I added more for a higher success rate. The problem with this is that once the seeds establish themselves the root system will intertwine with the rockwool. Thinning seedlings out can become tricky because you can't really tear the rockwool with any accuracy and you may end up disturbing the root system of any of the other seedlings in the cube).

Plants prefer a slightly acidic solution to grow well, the ideal range is between a pH level of 5.5 and 6.5. Distilled water has a pH of 7, so by squeezing in half a lemon you can adjust the pH of the water and make it more acidic. If you want to go fancy schmancy, you can buy a pH tester and pH Up and Down Solutions. But I make due with squeezing out the juice of 1/2 lemon per 1 gallon of water.

Pour the lemon juice in the bowl and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Soaking 24 hours is not necessary, especially if you are starting with distilled water, as your pH might drift out of range in that amount of time.

Take a seed and put it in the pre-punched hole. You're supposed to add one seed for every one hole, but in this case I used more.

Here is my seedling map. 1 & 2 Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris), 3 & 4 Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), 5 & 6 Sage (Salvia officinalis), 7 & 8 Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), 9 & 10 Dill (Anethum graveolens), 11 & 12 Heirloom Peppermint (I haven't been able to germinate these in soil, so I'm giving them a try again, I don't know if they are viable), 13 & 14 Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata), these haven't worked for me either, so one last try.

Thyme came up quick, germinated within 24 hours. All day I've been talking about 'How much thyme I have on my hands!'

Sage after 24 hours, not much, but somethings happening!

Dill after 24 hours!!  This one's been busy.  I can't believe how quick this little guy came up.  Maybe if I stare at it, I can see it grow...

Nothing on the Chives, Parsley, Peppermint and Jasmine...


I think the Chives are dead and the jasmine seeds fell apart. I checked the package of chive seeds to see if I had planted them correctly and I realized that the expiration date, which I thought looked like December 2008 really said December 2002. Oh well... I don't know why the jasmine seeds fell apart, it makes me think I have bum seeds...

Parsley finally came up after a week or so. I had almost given up on it.

Peppermint came up too. I'm excited about this one, as these seeds are heirloom and harvested from someones garden, and I have no idea how fragrant this plant will be or if I'll end up with spearmint.

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