The gardening soul lives in every one of us and it is one of the ways we connect with nature. Normally, the gardening itch may take some time to manifest, but it is much sooner for others, and thankfully so.
Hydroponics gives you absolute control over the gardening environment, and you can provide the best conditions for growth. However, it helps significantly if you germinate the seeds and transplant to the hydroponics.
Well, the gardening center clones are a good option for people that want to skip the hard work and wait game associated with starting seeds, but their shortcomings are more than those of starting your seeds.
If done the right way, germinating seeds for hydroponics is a snap and brings with it a sense of fulfillment. There is something about growing plants that connect with our deeper meaning in life. Starting your own seeds gives you a much wider variety of flowers, vegetables, and herbs that you would not get from transplants, not to mention that it is a lot cheaper.
We dive a little deeper into how to start seeds for hydroponics.
Why Germinating Your Own Seeds is the Best Decision
- Germinating seeds for hydroponics is preferable based on various reasons, such as better yields than clones. Typically, clones replicate existing plants without the same yield potential as the seeds. You get a better deal with seeds.
- On the other hand, germinating your own seeds is the best way to soothe that gardening itch you have had for a long time. Seeing new seedlings come out, thanks to your efforts, is more fulfilling. You feel like a co-creator, and there’s nothing more satisfying.
- You access a better selection of genetics and varieties when you start your own seeds and you are not limited to what is available at the gardening store.
You see, the local gardening store will only stock the varieties that are most likely to be bought; something to do with margin and dead stock. Therefore, they may not have the exotic types. Starting your own seeds lets you grow some of the rarest species you will not find in a local nursery.
- Also, it is cheaper to buy your own seeds than the cloned seedlings at the local nursery. You need to get the clones rooted as soon as possible to avoid losses, which is not the case with seeds. You can purchase a wide variety and in large quantities cheaply and store some for later.
Shortcomings of Starting Your Own Seeds
Starting your own seeds is not always a walk in the park, especially if you are a beginner. For starters, germination takes time. You need to wait for around three weeks, plus getting it right the first time is a long shot. Another thing is that you need to hack the formula to get most seeds to pop.
Usually, germinating the seeds is pretty much a guessing game, as you cannot tell for sure about the genetics and whether the seeds are male or female. This is something that mostly happens when you don't get your seeds from a reputable retailer.
Conditions for Germination
Moisture, air, and warmth are the three things necessary for germination. Every seed has a taproot that breaks out in search of moisture when the conditions are right.
Sufficient moisture causes the seed to swell, crack, and the taproot to shoot out into the soil or other grow medium. The taproot then develops a generous amount of roots to support the growing plant. Note that the germination will not occur until the conditions are right. It is your job to make sure of this.
The Various Ways to Start Seeds
1. Soil or Other Medium
The most conventional method to germinate or grow seeds is using a pot filled with soil. This saves you from the trouble of transplanting, which sometimes damages the taproot.
Soak the soil or the medium you are using with water and add some rooting compound to the medium to boost the rooting process. Next, put some holes in the medium, around 7mm. Don’t go too deep, as the seeds need to be closer to light.
Gently place your seeds inside the holes and close. Wait for germination.
The process should take around two weeks if everything is in order.
2. Using a Paper Towel to Germinate Seeds
Using a paper towel to germinate seeds may seem awkward to some, but it's a preferable method for hobby growers. An absorbent kitchen paper towel holds moisture very well, which is one of the critical conditions for germination.
Steep the paper towel in water and allow the excess amount to drain. You don’t want to drown the seeds before they have a fighting chance.
Place the seeds inside the paper towel and fold them in half to blanket them. Move the seeds somewhere there is a good amount of natural light, such as a windowsill to make sure they get good amounts of it.
Sprinkle some water on the paper towel when you notice it is getting dry, and keep the seeds warm using a seedling heat mat.
Remember that you mustn't disturb the seeds as they germinate or risk damaging them. Some beginner growers may be tempted to keep checking for signs of taproots and roots because they can’t wait to move to the next stage. It is critical you exercise a bit of patience and keep your hands off them.
The process takes up to seven days, depending on the seed variety and genetics.
You will still have to handle the delicate seedlings. However, keep at the back of your mind that some seeds may never germinate. A piece of advice, avoid the paper towel method if you are afraid of damaging the roots.
3. Using a Seed Starting Kit
A seedling kit and starter plugs are the stuff of serious gardeners, those who want better, quick, and instant success. The higher success rate for those who know how to start seeds for hydroponics gets a better investment return.
The starting kit is much cleaner than soil and much safer than a paper towel.
Moreover, a complete hydroponic seed starter kit cuts the waiting period to just a few days. Seeds grow faster after germination, and the transplantation process is much easier.
To get started, use a spray bottle to spray some water on the starter plugs and then add some rooting hormone. Every starter plug can accommodate two or three seeds. This increases the probability of at least one germination from the three, and which is not so bad.
Clip off the weakest seedlings so that you are left with the strongest in every starter plug.
Rooting plugs reduce the risk of damage to the roots quite significantly. Furthermore, the system is straightforward to maintain. You are free to place a transparent cover over the starting kit to increase the temperature and enhance moisture retention.
Taking Your Plants Through the Vegetative Stage
True leaves have striation on them. Watch out for this and make sure there are at least three of four leaves before moving on to the next stage, where you bring out the big guns in the form of more powerful LEDs.
Start feeding plant nutrients and make sure to follow the provided schedule. We cannot stress this enough, be careful not to shock and burn the immature seedlings by overfeeding them with nutrients. Ideally, start with small doses of nutrient concentration and increase gradually as advised.
The tiny plants' growth rate will shoot over the next few weeks. Watch for taproots and prepare for transplanting to a larger container if you used a smaller one for germination.
Follow the manufacturer's recommendation on the hanging height of the LED grow lights. In most cases, the hanging height is a case of trial and error. Keep an eye out for signs of plant stress and adjust appropriately.
Plants that look stretchy and weak are signs that you are not giving your plants enough light. Adjust the grow lights' height slightly by moving them closer to the canopy, and then closely monitor the changes. Adjust again if necessary.
Tips for Success and Quicker Seedling Rooting
- High-quality seedlings grow lights are the perfect combo for germinating seeds for hydroponics. They encourage faster rooting in the indoor environment and growth towards the lights.
Place the LED grow lights some distance away to prevent burns to the seedlings. Follow the 18/6 lighting schedule for success - 18 hours of light and 6 hours in complete darkness. A simple timer will automate the process and make it easier.
- Apart from light, the other critical condition for germination is warmth. Ensure the seedlings get enough of it.
A heat mat keeps the temperatures around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal for germination. With the grow lights, the heat mat quickens the germination process to your satisfaction.
- Keep the growing medium moist for easy seed access to moisture. You can use the humidity dome for a consistently moist environment. Maintain the humidity at around 75% reading on the hygrometer.
Starting your seeds is inarguably one of the most fulfilling. However, not all the seeds make it to the germination finishing line. But what do you do to have a good number of germinated seeds? Well, by germinating a few more extra.
This also allows you to select a good number of males and females among the successfully germinated plants. A hydroponic seed starter kit improves the germination success rate by double percentage points. Our Total Germination kit comes packed with everything you need and offer a good return on investment, and of course that’s the main idea.