Photo/Illustration: Greg Holdsworth (All photos)
Pre-moistening your mix ensures that your seeds have enough water for a while.
Water your seed starting trays "from the bottom up". A quarter to a third full should be enough.
The same method can applied to seedlings.
Tip: If your soil mix tends to "bubble" when you pour water over it, mist it with your spray gun first.
A good quality spray gun is your best (watering) friend.
Water joins heat, light, air and soil as the main components used to start your seeds and grow your seedlings (although one could argue a little luck is also involved). There are basically three methods used in watering ’em:
1. The “water from above” method:
This is the most common watering method, not only for seeds, but also your other indoor and outdoor plants. My weapons of choice are a spray bottle and a quart-size watering can.
First, a note on the spray bottle. Buy a good one. In one of my local dollar stores, there’s a round bin with spray bottles in it… and that’s about how much they’re worth, so don’t skimp on the cash here. Like any quality tool, it must be comfortable to use in your hand. It should have an adjustable nozzle and a soft trigger. You’ll want one for water; as well as separate ones for food/foliar spraying, and if you have to, pest control.
Second, a note on accessing your water. I’m not implying I’m lazy, but making a dozen trips to the kitchen to refill gets old. I’ve found great use in the 3-liter or gallon-sized water jugs. I have a “stash” of them already in the room I’m planting in, so the watering can gets filled up on the spot. In addition, if I’m using a root stimulator or organic liquid fertilizer, I can mix it in this same type of container. As a side note, natural rainwater is better for them than tap water.
Third, temperature. Try to use water that’s room temperature or warmer. Cold water can discourage germination and growth. It’s kinda like being forced into a cold shower when you really need a sauna to work in. Moving on…
2. The “make some moist mixture” method:
In this method, the soilless mix you plan to use is “pre-moistened” prior to being put in the growing containers. Using a small plastic tub or tray, add in your soilless mix. Then, pour in just enough water to saturate it to “wrung out sponge” wetness. The idea here is that the soil is already moist when you plant your seeds, so you don’t have to worry about watering for a few days. The only drawback is if you’ve made too big of a batch, you’re stuck with a pile of unused moist soil. Simply place it outside to air-dry, or add it to your garden soil.
3. The “water from below” method:
While this method takes the longest to moisten the soil, I think it’s the easiest. Here, you use a physics property called capillary action, also called “wicking”. Water is placed in the plastic or metal tray that the seed containers are sitting in. The water is soaked up through the bottom holes and into the soil mix. In my experience, you only need to fill the tray about a quarter to a third full of water. You don’t want to overdo it, as it will encourage mold or fungus.
So get watering… your seed(ling)s are depending on you!
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