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This morning I was reading some replies to a different topic (on Media) that started me thinking about seed starting...plus it is the seed starting time of year.  TCLynx was saying that she uses peat pots for her cucumbers to start them in a more favorable pH environment.  Hmmm...never thought of that.  Raychel is using coconut fiber she shreds from her own coconut trees!  I think John Thompson uses pearlite.  Can you guys expand on your techniques?

I'm a big fan of Rapid Rooter peat / latex sponges, largely for their convenience and because I have a supply left over from experiments with the company who makes them from years gone by.  They do a great job with most seeds but I find, however,  that they don't do well with large seeds.  I need to try another technique...maybe vermicompost?  What is your advice?

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I have sprouted in coconut coir/vermiculite mix for a year and have had mixed results. Sometimes I get a bad block and my sprout % goes way down.
Lately I have been experimenting with seeding into net pots filled with black cinders. I am getting earlier and much better sprouting % than in coir. The roots seem to get through the cinder quicker too. This is an advantage for raft growers like me. The cinder pots do take more watering initially so they do not dry out before they can go into the rafts.
Aloha Chris
Do you then put the cinder pots into the raft directly and not transplant to anything else? That sounds a lot better than shucking coconuts even though I would sill have to do it for my taro.
I am trying several methods to find the most efficient. Direct planting cinder pots into rafts is one of them. It will be a while before I have any conclusions on the best method.

I have been planting taro in cinder as well. I do not waste any system space because it does great in my koi pond. I use 2 or 3 gallon pots that gets placed into the shallows.
Can I ask where you guys are getting cinder? Please forgive my ignorance but are you harvesting it somehow or is it a commercial product? Sounds interesting....
Good morning Sylvia
Chris and I live in the land of cinders especially Chris. He live on the Big Island where there is a live volcano. We can get it by the bag and we can get by truck load. It comes in black and red. It is the cheapest medium we have but even it isn't cheap anymore. I tried to use the red for the grow bed but the cinders are too big I think so I switched to gravel which is just blue rock from the mountains crushed. The black cinders are more fine and I thought I would lose a lot if I washed them. Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I had to work but I am thankful I have a job.
I think cinders are small lava rock.



Sylvia Bernstein said:
Can I ask where you guys are getting cinder? Please forgive my ignorance but are you harvesting it somehow or is it a commercial product? Sounds interesting....
Thanks for explaining, guys. I thought that might be the case. I had a lovely day, Raychel, thanks for asking. Lot's of baby-time with my new 4 week old nephew ;-).
I have been starting seeds like cucumbers and tomatoes in potting soil, rinsing them off and putting them after sprouting and putting them in hydroton. I have started them in vermiculite beds as well and transferred them to both soil and hydroton.

With my leafies (lettuce, spinach, etc.) I seed directly in the hydroton cups and put them in a settling tank I have setup for the vermiculite beds where they sprout before I put them in the main system.

Speaking of which I have to go seed the rest of my new 3" grow tubes! :D
I've used rock wool and put seeds directly into net pots filled with hydroton, protected during the first little bit by cut ends of water bottles. Most recently I bought vermiculite and am trying that in newspaper "paper pots." I just planted the paper pots into my growbed, and again am covering them with the sawed off ends of itty water bottles. Except for the radish, which is growing like mad.



Sylvia Bernstein said:
I do the same thing with small seeds that I would normally direct sow into the dirt garden, like salad greens, radishes and carrots. Murray has a great looking seeding technique on his Secrets video. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like it could be a good way to go

Toads - I've had 'em. The problem with toads is that they breed in water troughs and you have zillions of tadpoles. The tads may eat some roots, or may nibble at scum on the sides and bottom; they definitely do get sucked into the pump inlet, which is sad and yucky and makes for work cleaning it out. Some make it into the fish tank, where the little toadlets can't get out and the fish don't eat them. I've had my students scooping out hundreds of 1/2" toadlets a day... Now, thank goodness, they seem to be pretty much gone.


Sylvia Bernstein said:

Thanks for explaining, Raychel. Never occurred to me that toads could be a problem!

Seeds - I start them in shallow plastic tupperware-type containers, in mulch, potting soil, or sometimes plain dirt. We feel our worms all kinds of old food and plant stuff, so vermicompost tends to have weed seeds (such as tomatoes) in it, and I don't use that. When plants are 1 to 2 " tall I flood the container, carefully loosen and pick out seedlings and put them in peat pellets - soak the pellet, split it in half, fold the seedling into the middle. Then I put those into plastic Dixie cups with the bottoms cut out and set them into the holes in my styrofoam floats.

     Why such a procedure? Well, starting in the small tubs takes much less space than direct seeding into peat pellets, and I have very little table space. I started with the Dixie cups when my first batch of net pots were too small for the holes I'd drilled. Now I really like them because the roots don't get tangled in the smooth plastic cylinder as they do in net pots - very easy cleanup and re-use. The peat pellets don't leak much into my troughs, and I compost them.

Here in Hawaii, I have had good luck with seeding directly into black cinder in net pots. The roots cling to the uneven surfaces. I am hoping this will help some of the leggier lettuce's problem of occasionally falling over. The cinders look beautiful, don't seem to harbor damping-off fungus, and are too big to fall through the net/slit pots. The germination rate is very high. I think i may switch over to only cinder from a coir/vermiculite mixture.

Kate Mink said:

Toads - I've had 'em. The problem with toads is that they breed in water troughs and you have zillions of tadpoles. The tads may eat some roots, or may nibble at scum on the sides and bottom; they definitely do get sucked into the pump inlet, which is sad and yucky and makes for work cleaning it out. Some make it into the fish tank, where the little toadlets can't get out and the fish don't eat them. I've had my students scooping out hundreds of 1/2" toadlets a day... Now, thank goodness, they seem to be pretty much gone.


Sylvia Bernstein said:

Thanks for explaining, Raychel. Never occurred to me that toads could be a problem!

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