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keeping seed starts moist  RSS feed

 
Posts: 26
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Hey all, just wanted to see if anyone had any ideas for how to keep my seed trays moist while I'm at work.

First, to set the scene. I'm in Austin Texas and it's been over 100 (and totally sunny) for weeks, save a day here and there, and on the dry side, in terms of humidity (thank god!). I'm new here, coming from NC, and am not attuned to this heat. Also my house get's no sunlight via windows except a bit of dappled light in the morning, as all the windows are on the wrong side of the house, with the attached garage on the southern side. Which probably keeps the place cooler but means I don't have a sunny window, plus, we have cats so indoor plants are generally a no go.

I don't have a green house either.

But it's about time to start my fall crop, kale, chard, that sort of thing. I don't know how I'm going to keep the seed trays moist while I'm off at work all day. Should I skip the trays and just plant in the ground? Or does anyone have any inventive way to keep a tray wet?

 
pioneer
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Do you have a dapple shade tree that you could put them under?  Then they'd get some sun but not the full brunt of it.  I'm thinking if you water them in the morning they'd still be moist by the time you get home.  But maybe not and maybe that's why I don't have the best luck with seed starting...
 
pioneer
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Hi Brandon-

I think the shade is going to be best for your trays, and try leaving standing water in the bottom of the tray for the soil to wick up during the day as opposed to all the water being just in the soil, working kinda like a little reservoir.
 
pollinator
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Wicking works. Either a wicking bed(tote) which would have all your starts in one bed, or individual wicking.

With individual wicking, you push yarn strips into the bottom of your pot. Let that yarn dangle into a water supply. This is done by taking something like a cake pan or the bottom tray that seedlings come in (but with no holes), and place a slatted shelf over it. Some dowels and hardware cloth would work.The plants sit on the shelf, the yarn goes in the water. It will self regulate.

Im 45 minutes north of you. Nothing you mentioned needs started ahead of time. Direct seeding end of August is fine. I would not do it unless i did it inside. Your starting plants that can't survive in 100 degree weather in 100 degree weather. Think about it. Lol. Starting ahead means putting them in a climate in which they can sprout.  Like starting tomatos inside or in a greenhouse in February where the temps are adequate to sprout,  vs keeping them outside where they won't sprout or will freeze. This defeats the purpose of starting ahead. Nothing is gained.

 
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Brandon McGinnity wrote:I don't know how I'm going to keep the seed trays moist while I'm off at work all day. Should I skip the trays and just plant in the ground? Or does anyone have any inventive way to keep a tray wet?



If the plants dry out too much during a single day, then I use a bigger pot.

Seems to me, like chard and kale would germinate great if direct seeded. Unless there are bug species that eat them while young. I concur with the suggestions already offered, especially with putting trays in a place where they are shaded mid-day.

 
pollinator
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Generally, if the pots are in the shade, then watering once in the morning and once in the evening should be enough to keep things moist enough to germinate and starting to send a root down into the moist soil.

You can extend the surface moisture by putting a wet towel over the top of the pots.  If it's in the shade, it'll take a couple of hours to completely dry.  During those hours, the moisture on the surface of the soil shouldn't be evaporating so quickly (particularly if the pots are standing in water and the water is wicking upward).

Once seeds have germinated, they very quickly send a root downward.  Within a couple of days, they'll be finding moisture in the subsoil. 
 
Brandon McGinnity
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Thanks everyone for the input. The wicking idea is a good one, I do have plenty of totes around, may give it a try if need be. But Wayne, you make a good point. I should just be starting them in the ground, probably better for the plant anyways, in terms of root system development. I just know I can't bear having to buy plants again as I did this spring. I had just moved here and really threw the whole thing together, with the not unexpected lopsided effects The soil isn't great and is very alkaline, which I've never dealt with. It was nearly perfect back in North Carolina, maybe a bit acidic for some things, but with lots of leaf mulch it turned into black gold, that nice loose soil you could dig your arm into; hoping for the same effects here, with time.

So yeah, I have a whole host of new issues to deal with which kind of sucks, and is also kind of fun. I mean, I want production, that's an important part of why I do this; but the tinkering in the garden is a joy, no doubt, except that I've been hiding from the heat for the last month and letting everything go. I'd love to hear any central Texas specific or relevant advice if anyone has any or can point me to the right forum.

Interestingly enough, I still have several kale plants that look absolutely amazing. I don't know how they're handling the heat so well. The squash and tomatoes petered out, the latter having been especially disappointing, but there they are, a lacinato and two red russians, looking great.
 
wayne fajkus
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the only thing i plant as transplants is tomato and pepper. The tomatos are needed in spring to get a harvest before it gets too hot. Too hot and they won't set fruit. While the plant may not die, it will end up being a fall harvest.

This year i got a bounty of tomatos by direct seeding.  Im not sure what went right. I think it was the weather. We went from a typical TX winter straight to summer. That early warmth got the tomatos sprouted quick enough that i got a harvest before the scorching days came. By direct seeding,  i dont plant them. Enough cherry tomatos drop the previous to self seed. I also spread out a cold compost that had plenty of seeds.

Deer got in and devastated my garden. Im prepping now for a fall garden(and adding height to my fence). Fall gardening is as good or better than spring and is not limited to cool season crops. Tomatos, corn,  squash, its all good. Here in Tx we get second chances.
 
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