It is all starting here…
The life of the plant right until it ends up on your plate will be determined here. A good beginning makes a huge difference on the success of your plant growth or premature death. We have experimented a lot with all sorts of methods and medium to get a good seedling growing strongly, and we failed miserably many times. Today we are still testing various methods and are becoming more successful, but the road to nice plants is paved with drowned seeds, weak stems, dying roots, you name it, we got them all.
The Foam Cubes.
We were told like everyone to start growing the seeds on a cube of foam, we bought them pre-packed in bunch of a few hundreds, and we carefully inserted a seed inside the cube, placing them in a tray with a fine layer of pure water. It was obvious at first that using city water was not a good idea, we were at least right on this one… After setting up everything in the tray, I waited a few days and nothing happened… still not sure about the quality of the seed pack in the first place tried a few more with not much more success, and we discarded this method pretty quickly.
We then started again but this time placing the seed on top of the cube and we got immediate results, seed shooting in a couple of days and starting to grow nicely.
We then left a fine layer of water, constant in the tray, moved it in the open air and monitored the level of water.
Transfer to little pots
Once we had some little plant, we would transfer it to a small pot with the foam cube at the bottom and permalite to cover to the top and place it in our protected nursery area where the pot was dipping in water with nutrient. The water would move a few times a day and this would be enough to feed the plant. Our first plants grew like this and we were quite successful with large chilies, which happen to be very resistant and solid… in other words you can’t go much wrong. However, with the salads, again this method did not seem to work well either.
The main problem we had was that the stem seemed to be too weak and too thin to support the plant, and very quickly a bit of a breeze would break the little seedling.
Another issue that I noticed is that the stem was during the transfer, buried in the permalite and only the top of the plant would stick at the top, this seemed to be in favor of the seedling as it was supporting its stem and making it more resistant against the wind, however, the amount of humidity from the permalite transferred to the stem constantly damaged it and eventually, it started rotting…
We were still were far from the correct method and nobody seemed able to help…
We tried various media and used small teabags, same initial promising result and ending up with too much water and rotting at the stem level. The teabag method looked very good at start but the accumulation of water in the bag made the plants weaker and sick.
By then we were realising that there was an issue with excessive water but did not know how to fix it. Various tests that we ran with less water generated more damage as the seed dried quickly and died.
A finer substrat and humidity instead of water!
This is when we read about 2 elements. A fine substrat that would keep moist but NOT water, and an initial start in total darkness for 48 hours. I also read that since there was little water on the substrat, we had to make sure we would keep the moisture trapped inside the area where the plant would start growing.
This produced immediate results in the shape of nice little seedlings growing on tissue paper with nice little white roots and short stocky stems, and this just after a couple of days. After the initial period of 48 hrs had passed, we would use a transparent cover on top of the little plants, to keep the moisture inside but provide light for better grotth. After a week, the plants were tall enough to be transferred to individual pots. All these methods above use pure water, without nutrient of any sort. The water comes from a reverse osmotic system so water is extremely pure.
The PRO version…PH is controlled between 6 and 7.
Talking to some friends about our difficulty, we were advised to consult with a pro and this is where we were told the simplest method. Basically we put the seeds directly in permalite in a small green pot, and put these directly on a film of highly concentrated water film with nutrient (2.3 milli Siemens). We could put them directly in the gullies on the NFT and watch them grow. I decided to improve on this one also by making a box that would have a lid to cover the seeds for 48 hrs and then remove it to have another one translucid for a few days and then eventually release the plant directly in the open on the NFT system. This is by far the best results we have seen but we are still in the beginning period and we will need a few more weeks to get confirmation that this method will produce strong little plants.
Quality of Water
I have been testing results with water coming directly from the tap and compared with reversed osmosis filtered water. The difference is enormous, filtered water gave much better results that standard water. The excess of chlorine and various chemical plus metal particles suspended in the water makes it really hard of the plants. In Bangkok, nobody would drink water from the tap directly and good quality filtering systems are needed if you don’t want to purchase water in bottle every day. We use a very sophisticated system with reverse osmosis for particles, heavy metals etc…, carbon for chloronie and smell, and UV for bugs. The water coming out of our system is perfect for drinking, it unfortunately misses the minerals that you would have in natural water.
I recommend using at least a basic filtering system to remove solid particles, chlorine and other chemicals and render the water if not perfect for drinking, at least good enough for the plants.
To be continued…