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Watering Your Seedlings

There are basically three methods for watering your seeds or seedlings

Watering seedlings

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 seeds and seedlings.

1. The “water from above” method

This is the most common watering method not only for seeds but also 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 a dollar is 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.

spray bottle using a spray bottle to water plants


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-size 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 kind of like being forced into a cold shower when you really need a sauna to work in.

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 seedlings are depending on you!

putting the water in the plants container watering plants

Photos: Greg Holdsworth

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Gardening Basics

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Seed Starting
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