Author Topic: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil  (Read 1414 times)

Acoalwell

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Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« on: September 16, 2020, 02:00:29 PM »
Hello everyone,

I was wondering what everyone's input is on what substrate to use when germinating seeds. Last year, I tried most of my seeds in coco coir or soil and has a lot of the longer germinating seeds rot in the soil. This year, I've started using damp paper towel. I prefer this method because I can see what the seeds are doing more easily. I have had a lot of luck, but have to change the paper towel regularly to prevent mold. I've seen a lot of people in this forum use vermiculite for seed starting, and was wondering how it compares. I'm not sure I would want to use it because you couldn't see if the seeds had germinated or not. What's everyone's input?

TomekK

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2020, 02:55:46 PM »
I have always used paper towels, usually with great success. But, Iíve grown a bit tired of that method as the towels get moldy and if you donít catch it in time the seeds will rot, also if left for a very long time on a heat mat sometimes they dry out suddenly. Recently Iíve been using damp peat moss in a plastic box on the heat mat, itís worked very well for some lemon drop/superior lemon drop mangosteen seeds, as well as a not described species from Borneo which took a month to germinate.

Iíve always found that seeds sprouted directly in soil tend to be much healthier and less prone to dying as small seedling in contrast to the risk of planting delicate sprouting seeds into the soil. But, when planted directly in soil the seeds have a higher chance of rotting before they even germinate, especially with my poor potting mix.

Never tried vermiculite, would be interesting to see how it compares to the peat moss.

Jani

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2020, 04:26:38 PM »
I always wonder if people overthink this...for me its soil (if I'm tracking it closely) or just scattering in mulch/compost under my big lychee and forgetting about it has had practically 100% success rate for me, be it mango, annona, citrus, lychee, any seeds really...many times it's unintentional success from eating fruit and discarding seeds on thre mulch as i walk around the yard.
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Jani

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2020, 04:28:31 PM »
Oh, just realized you guys are in VA, so it's probably a little easier down here to germinate with little comparable effort.
always longing for a JA Julie

spaugh

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2020, 04:34:38 PM »
Dirt always...
Brad Spaugh

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2020, 04:36:32 PM »
I always wonder if people overthink this...for me its soil (if I'm tracking it closely) or just scattering in mulch/compost under my big lychee and forgetting about it has had practically 100% success rate for me, be it mango, annona, citrus, lychee, any seeds really...many times it's unintentional success from eating fruit and discarding seeds on thre mulch as i walk around the yard.

Same, dirt in pots.  And also we bury our scraps and spit seeds everywhere and have tons of volunteer plants, avocados, mangos, cherimoyas, watermelons, squash, tomatos, lychees, loquats etc pop up on their own everywhere. 
Brad Spaugh

TomekK

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2020, 06:00:33 PM »
Oh, just realized you guys are in VA, so it's probably a little easier down here to germinate with little comparable effort.

Here itís easy with temperate vegetables: throw on the ground and they grow! Leave a tomato or cucumber to ripen and next year you get a clump or them. Tropicals, especially during the winter when all the Southern Hemisphere fruit ripen, are very finicky in comparison.

Jaboticaba45

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2020, 06:04:16 PM »
I use dirt...just throw in lots of random seeds in a huge pot then separate them when they sprout. And yes there are a lot of volunteer plants...squirrels take my seeds and bury them in the middle of the woods 8)

K-Rimes

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2020, 06:11:21 PM »
I generally use the Burpee propagation trays with the clear tops. I've used soil plenty of times, and also direct sow when appropriate (direct sowing having the best result for in ground plants). It grows a pretty mean root which you can gently extract and they're off to the races.

Whenever I didn't use propagation trays, my take rate was worse (maybe 25% losses) and this sucked when it was expensive seeds. For really sensitive stuff (like jabos), I would recommend them. For cherimoyas, mangoes, etc etc - nah, just soil.


Daintree

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2020, 11:02:49 PM »
I love Soil Moist super absorbant polymer granules. When I rehydrate it, I add a little Physan to keep it all from getting moldy.
Sometimes the little roots grow right though the granules, but you can just plant them with the seeds.

Carolyn

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2020, 03:06:10 PM »
I use paper towel because it's convenient.
It get moldy fast.

I've packed unwrapped scions with vermiculite.
No mold after 2 months.

brian

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2020, 03:28:18 PM »
I use dirt in pots.  If germination rates are expected to be low I just sow multiple seeds per pot.  The only time I have used paper towels is when I have very limited amount of seeds and I have to check them every day. 

Rex Begonias

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2022, 11:57:23 PM »
I had been potting everything out, as I never cared for paper towel method, but running out of space for pots and tired of having to clear out empty pots months later, so Iíve just started trying to germinate everything in ziplocks with vermiculite.  Iím also trying some hydrogen peroxide on the seeds.  Started this as Iíve had some really great success with seeds purchased from members germinating in the baggies of vermiculite sellers have packed and shipped in. 

Found and resurrected this thread out of interest for yíallís opinions.  Iím not sure yet if Iíll continue doing it this way.  Iím also not sure if Iíve been cleaning the seeds well enough, but thatís probably a whole different thread. 

SHV

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2022, 12:31:35 AM »
A valuable seed should be sterilized with low % peroxide and germinated in vermiculite.  By far the most success in this medium.  Most seeds, just throw some dirt and heat and they germinate just fine.  Paper towel is fine but you need the time to watch them in case of mold.  Iím a set it and forget it type grower so vermiculite is ideal when I have it, but good sandy soil in a garage or greenhouse does the trick most of the time.

SeeSchloss

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2022, 03:45:30 AM »
I just want to share the experience I just had with the seeds of a citrus relative, Limonia acidissima:

I generally soak the seeds for 20 minutes in 4% H2O2 as this both cleans them and reduce the chances of the seeds rotting before they germinate, and might improve germination speed. This is not very important, but I did this for a batch of 20 seeds.

I then sowed 10 of them in sterilized dirt, and 10 of them on a moist paper towel (also somewhat sterilized by using boiling water). The dirt and the paper towel were both placed in small plastic pots with a lid next to each other. In the dirt, three seeds sprouted after two weeks or so while the seeds on the paper towel stayed inert for (checking my notes...) almost two months. They didn't rot because of how I treated them, but they didn't germinate either. I thought maybe I didn't wait long enough for the water to cool down and the seeds might have been cooked. But last week I transplanted the last seedlings from the dirt into individual pots, and I thought I'd put the paper towel seeds in the dirt to see what happens, and a few days ago I noticed that one of them sprouted.

So that's the first time I notice it, but something prevented these seeds from germinating on the paper towel. Maybe they are sensitive to light (citrus seeds aren't, as far as I know, and this is a close relative, so I'm rather surprised). Maybe this paper towel had some kind of inhibiting chemical but I've used the same roll to germinate dozens of other citrus seeds. So I'm not sure, but I found this experience interesting.

Galatians522

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2022, 10:24:03 PM »
A lot of vermiculite has trace amounts of asbestos. I stay away from the stuff. I was actually quite surprised to see a friend who is very into health food starting seeds for her organic garden in vermiculite. She was mortified when I told her about the potential for asbestos.

Jaboticaba45

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2022, 10:52:53 PM »
Very interesting that vermiculite can have asbestos. Maybe I'll stay with perlite.
Anyway, from my last post, I've tried to get my act together and sprout seeds better.
I now label them and use better soil. Fingers crossed for them eugenias.

elouicious

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2022, 11:05:05 PM »
A lot of vermiculite has trace amounts of asbestos. I stay away from the stuff. I was actually quite surprised to see a friend who is very into health food starting seeds for her organic garden in vermiculite. She was mortified when I told her about the potential for asbestos.

Galatians this is quite interesting- Most of the stuff I am seeing is referencing Vermiculite insulation, due to a contaminated mine in Libby, Montana pre-1990, and does not mention the garden products-

Also, fwiw, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral- It is a hydrous magnesium silicate with the chemical composition of Mg3Si2O5(OH)4. The harm comes from the fact that it has a needle like shape that when inhaled is difficult if not impossible to clear, which causes repeated injury to the lungs and can lead to mesothelioma. I will be much more careful about handling vermiculite in the future.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2022, 11:08:04 PM by elouicious »

SHV

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2022, 11:47:45 PM »
A lot of vermiculite has trace amounts of asbestos. I stay away from the stuff. I was actually quite surprised to see a friend who is very into health food starting seeds for her organic garden in vermiculite. She was mortified when I told her about the potential for asbestos.

Galatians this is quite interesting- Most of the stuff I am seeing is referencing Vermiculite insulation, due to a contaminated mine in Libby, Montana pre-1990, and does not mention the garden products-

Also, fwiw, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral- It is a hydrous magnesium silicate with the chemical composition of Mg3Si2O5(OH)4. The harm comes from the fact that it has a needle like shape that when inhaled is difficult if not impossible to clear, which causes repeated injury to the lungs and can lead to mesothelioma. I will be much more careful about handling vermiculite in the future.

Eh, unless your handling it on a commercial scale, I would be surprised if you inhaled enough vermiculite, peat, perlite, or dirt to cause any noticeable lung damage.  Micro plastics in bottled water or package food is probably a larger risk to the average consumer. To be safe, the best practice for working on a farm with any solid or liquid that is aerosolized is to wear a face mask. 

CeeJey

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2022, 01:29:28 AM »
I've use heat-sterilized and well-rinsed/well-wrung coir after a bath in low% hydrogen peroxide for just about everything this year, and it's worked pretty well. Probably going to switch back to vermiculite for a lot of the "bigger" seeds (araca boi-sized and bigger) as those seem to struggle in the coir for some reason. Prior to that I had damping off issues, even in humid vermiculite a couple of times. The coir is remarkably anti-fungal.

One thing I haven't figured out yet is how to keep the fungus gnats from eating the roots on my just-sprouted annonas...

elouicious

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2022, 11:31:52 AM »
I've use heat-sterilized and well-rinsed/well-wrung coir after a bath in low% hydrogen peroxide for just about everything this year, and it's worked pretty well. Probably going to switch back to vermiculite for a lot of the "bigger" seeds (araca boi-sized and bigger) as those seem to struggle in the coir for some reason. Prior to that I had damping off issues, even in humid vermiculite a couple of times. The coir is remarkably anti-fungal.

One thing I haven't figured out yet is how to keep the fungus gnats from eating the roots on my just-sprouted annonas...

time for a praying mantis

Rex Begonias

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2022, 12:41:50 PM »
Very interesting that vermiculite can have asbestos. Maybe I'll stay with perlite.
Anyway, from my last post, I've tried to get my act together and sprout seeds better.
I now label them and use better soil. Fingers crossed for them eugenias.

Vermiculite shouldnít have asbestos in it, that was primarily from a specific mine maybe a few decades ago, which has since been closed down, and currently available vermiculite should not have much, if any, asbestos in it.  I guess there was a big consumer awareness and crackdown on it at some point. I havenít been in the game long enough to remember any of that, but good to hear progress can be made on stuff like that.   

This is just what I read a few weeks ago, would have to look into it again to give better details and check the sources and all that good stuff give a bit more confidence on the info. 

Midwestfruitjungle

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2022, 01:08:26 PM »
I recently germinated giant mulchi seeds. I like to use a paper towel and change it every so often so I can see the progress of the seed. 5 out of 6 germinated (one was rotted). Once my seeds germinate I immediately put them in clean soil. All of them came up but then I moved them outside and they rotted back so I put them under grow lights with a humidity cover and 4 of the 5 came back. For my others seeds I like to just put them in dirt, itís easy and cheap. I have found itís better to germinate indoors with more temperature control.

CeeJey

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2022, 04:01:20 PM »

time for a praying mantis

Lol, some actually got loose in the house from the garden, but I moved them all back outside because I was afraid of stepping on one at 3 AM in the dark. Germinating seeds outside trades the gnats for other problems, notably skinks occasionally digging my seeds up (but also taking care of real fun pests we get out here like bark scorpions).

I recently germinated giant mulchi seeds. I like to use a paper towel and change it every so often so I can see the progress of the seed. 5 out of 6 germinated (one was rotted). Once my seeds germinate I immediately put them in clean soil. All of them came up but then I moved them outside and they rotted back so I put them under grow lights with a humidity cover and 4 of the 5 came back. For my others seeds I like to just put them in dirt, itís easy and cheap. I have found itís better to germinate indoors with more temperature control.

I lost 4 out of 6 mulchi seedlings to moisture issues last year too, they seem pretty touchy about it. The two that survived are doing pretty well in our negative-humidity desert air and a pot of Fox Farms Coco-Loco, though. I've been using that mix or a personal coir heavy mix for every first up-pot (except for the jaboticaba and anything that shows salt sensitivity) due to the plants show less fungal issues. Root rot is a real issue in the summer out here.

JCorte

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Re: Germinating seeds: Paper towel vs Vermiculite vs Soil
« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2022, 08:57:54 PM »
I like to start all my seeds in coir.  My soil is heavy clay so seedling roots can get easily damaged if I move them.  I plant out multiple seeds in a large fabric pot with coir.  I pluck them out to transplant into individual pots.  The finely ground coir allows a good root system and itís easy to pull out without damaging them.  There are differences in the quality of coir available.  I use one that's finely ground, rinsed of salts, and pH adjusted.

For seeds that take weeks or over a month to sprout, I put the coir into ziplock bags, making sure to squeeze out all the excess moisture.  I place seeds at the top of the bag and lightly cover with coir, then seal the bags.  Depending on the season, I put all the ziplock bags on a temperature controlled heat mat.





Janet
« Last Edit: October 21, 2022, 10:06:53 AM by JCorte »

 

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