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Old 07-22-2009, 03:29 PM   #1
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idea Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges

I'm a little late posting this, but summer and my gardens call when the weather is nice. I'm in a bit of quiet spot during my gardening time so today I am posting my spring experiement.

Seed Germination in Sponges Part 1
Well I had never heard of germinating seeds in sponges until FW brought it to my attention. It sounded interesting and I love garden experiemnts, so I decided to give it a try.

If any others have tried this method, please let us know about your setup, how it turned out for you, and any tips or tricks you discovered.

What are the benefits of germinating seeds in sponges?

  • You're able to watch your seeds germinate and grow.
  • If a seed doesn't germinate, you can toss it and begin again.
  • It provides a medium for rapid germination.
  • You can germinate a LOT of seeds in a small space.
  • It prevents dampening off.
  • No gnats.
What are the drawbacks of germinating seeds in sponges?
  • Unless everything is kept fairly sterle, mold will develop.
  • Tiny seeds can be difficult to work with.
  • Requires a bit of tinkering when transplanting the seedlings.
Materials Needed:
  • Sponges
  • Seeds
  • Trays
  • Scissors
  • Misting bottle
  • Bleach
  • Peroxide
  • Saran Wrap or Press-N-Seal Wrap or zip lock bag
NOTE: I used sponges and trays purchased at the Dollar Store.

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0250.jpg

Preparing Your Setup
  • Wash and rinse all the items you will be using in a 1 to 10 bleach solution (tray, scissors, misting bottle.)
  • Cut your sponges into small cubes.
  • Soak the sponges in a 1 to 10 bleach solution and rinse well. Soaking the sponges in a bleach solution will prevent mold growth on your sponges.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0252.jpg
  • Wring out the sponges but leave them damp.
  • Place them in the tray to test for fit.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0254.jpg
  • Use your scissors to make a cut from the edge of the sponge to the center of the sponge.
  • Make a little divet in the center of the sponge. This is where your seed will go.
  • Place the prepared sponge in your tray.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0262.jpg
  • Continue with the process above until you has many sponges and trays as you need.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0265.jpg

Click here to continue reading Seed Germination in Sponges Part 2
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Old 07-22-2009, 03:35 PM   #2
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idea Part 2 - Seed Germination in Sponges

Seed Germination in Sponges Part 2

Continuation from Seed Germination in Sponges Part 1.

Planting the Seeds

  • Press a seed into the center of the sponge in the little divet you created.
  • Continue this process until you have your sponges filled.
  • I used a notecard with a diagram to keep track of the seeds I planted in each row.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0271.jpg

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0273.jpg

Covering the Seed Trays
  • Cover each tray with plastic wrap, saran wrap, ziplock bag or press-N-seal.
  • Whichever plastic covering you choose, it's important to remember that you need to create a seal, and lift the plastic when periodically moistening.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0282.jpg

Keeping the Seeds Warm & Moist
  • Place your trays in a warm spot.
  • Periodically peel back the plastic to check the moisture level in order to determine when the sponges need to sprayed.
  • I sprayed my sponges with a combination of water and peroxide (just a couple of tablespoons of peroxide added to my spray bottle of water.)
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0280.jpg
  • If your seeds need light for germination, place them under a florescent light.
  • I used a thermapen to keep track of the temperature. This gadget was "borrowed" from DH's cooking gadgets. The thermapen gives an instant digital reading and it worked great for monitoring the temperature of my seed sponge trays.
NOTE: Make sure you put the thermapen back where it belongs before DH notices that it's missing and has a fit that his hi-tech kitchen gadget is covered in dirt.

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0283.jpg

Click here to continue reading Seed Germination in Sponges Part 3.
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Old 07-22-2009, 04:09 PM   #3
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idea Part 3 - Seed Germination in Sponges

Seed Germination in Sponges Part 3

Continuation from Seed Germination in Sponges Part 2.

After I got caught with the thermapen full of dirt when my hubby needed it to check the temp of his roast beef, I had to resort to alternative measures to monitor my sponge temperature. NEW RULE in our household: No swiping DH's kitchen gadgets for my gardening projects.

Enter Sasha.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0274.jpg

Sasha says it's warm enough.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0277.jpg

Monitor the Sponge Moisture
  • Lift the corner of the plastic on top of your trays to check the moisture.
  • If moisture is needed, peel back the plastic cover, and spray with you water & peroxide solution.
  • The sponges should be moist, but not soggy.
  • Don't pool water on the bottom of the trays. A few drops of water on the bottom of the trays won't hurt.
  • Turn a couple of corners of the plastic cover back every day for about 10 minutes to let fresh air in.
Germination
  • The seeds will germinate quickly.
  • My seeds started germinating in a couple of days. Some took a little longer.
  • Some of my seedlings popped out of their divets. I just gently pushed them back in.
  • I tested both small seeds (peppers) and large seeds (gourds.)
Pepper Seedlings in Sponges
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0329.jpg

Pepper Seedling in Sponge, Close-up
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0286.jpg

Gourd Seedlings in Sponges
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0494.jpg

  • A few of my seeds were not viable and did not sprout. I tossed the seeds, rinsed the sponges in bleach solution and reused them Then I started more seeds in the reused sponges.
  • If any of your sponges develop a spot of mold, discard the sponge and seedling. I tested with 6 trays of sponges and only had one sponge develop mold.
  • I was thrilled to have such quick feedback on my seed germination and it was fun being able to watch the seedlings emerge. It sure beat trying to figure out what a seed was doing in seedling pot with dirt or starter mix.
Click here to continue reading Seed Germination in Sponges Part 4.
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Old 07-22-2009, 04:24 PM   #4
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idea Part 4 - Seed Germination in Sponges

Part 4 - Seed Germination in Sponges

Continuation from Seed Germination in Sponges Part 3.


Transplant your seedlings
  • I wasn't sure how much the seedlings would actually grow in those little sponges. So I transplanted the peppers after they developed their first set of leaves. I left the gourds alone to see just how big they could get sitting in a sponge.
  • When you transplant your seedlings into soil, you can either put them directly in the garden or you can put them into pots. This would depend on how big you let them get in the sponges. I live in an area with cool springs (we had frost on June 1st), so I put my seedlings into pots.
  • The sponges can be removed from the seedlings, or you can trim the sponge down and plant the seedling sponge and all. I tested this both ways and didn't see a difference either way. Also I wasn't crazy about the remnants of sponges in my garden. Perhaps a natural sponge or a luffa sponge would be better suited for this purpose, as both of those types of sponges would break down.
Pepper seedling prior to transplanting.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0298.jpg

Pepper seedling with the sponge trimmed down.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0311.jpg

Transplanted pepper seedling.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0320.jpg

Gourd seedlings in sponges prior to transplanting.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0496.jpg

Root structure of gourd seedling in sponge.
Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0520.jpg

I was really suprised at the amount of roots on my seedlings. I didn't expect that all.

All my transplanted seedlings grew just great. I put all my seedling pots inside my unheated greenhouse and then planted everything in the garden when outdoor temps warmed up. All the seedlings I started in sponges are growing well.

Click here to continue reading Seed Germination in Sponges Part 5.
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Old 07-22-2009, 04:28 PM   #5
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idea Part 5 - Seed Germination in Sponges

Seed Germination in Sponges Part 5

Continuation from Seed Germination in Sponges Part 4.

Some of you may have that perfect warm location for your seedling trays, but I'm only allowed to have dirt, seeds, and everything that goes along with seed starting in the basement (burrrrr it's cold down there). Thems the rules in my house. Actually it was a compromise....no more seed starting in the kitchen if my DH bought me a greenhouse. So I do all my early seed starting in the basement and eventually move everything out to my unheated greenhouse as spring warms up.

I've never used a heated seed starting mat, but for this experiement to work properly I wanted a nice warm spot for my seedlings, so I improvised.

I used a couple of strings of outdoor holiday lights enclosed in soft plastic tubing. I purchased these at Wal-Mart several years ago. I can't remember how much I paid for them, but they weren't expensive.

How I assembed my "Warming Table"
  • Cover a table in black plastic.
  • Place some skinny wood pieces on the table in rows (I found some leftover wood scraps in the garage.)
  • Tape the ends of the sticks down with clear plastic packing tape.
  • String your lights up and down the rows of sticks. If the lights won't stay where you place them, use plastic cable ties to secure them to the wood sticks.
  • Plug the lights in.
  • Check the temps periodically.
  • I used the wood pieces to keep the bottoms of my seed starting trays from resting directly on holiday light strings. When I set them on directly on the strings, it seemed too warm. Also, the wood pieces kept my seed starting trays level.
Warming Table All Setup

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0268.jpg

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0269.jpg

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0270.jpg

More surpises. The warmth generated from holiday light strings turned out be perfect for good germination temps. If the temp gets too warm, just unplug the light string now and then.

Part 1 - Seed Germination in Sponges-img_0283.jpg

This seed warming setup was a snap to setup and take down. I'll certainly be using it again next spring. Yep...Cheap & Easy; that's me.
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Old 07-22-2009, 08:31 PM   #6
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I am standing at attention for this experiment.

This is incredible.
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Old 07-22-2009, 08:41 PM   #7
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I buy the cheapest potting soil in 5 lb bags at the local grocery store. Works well for me, LOL!
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Old 07-23-2009, 05:28 AM   #8
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I am finding this interesting as well, so thank you BooBooBearBecky for documenting and reporting your findings. Two questions:

When you remove seedlings from the sponges, what keeps the little roots from tearing off?

Does anyone think that cellulose sponges would be any better than...I don't know what the others are made of, actually, but whatever the others are made of?
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Old 07-23-2009, 07:42 AM   #9
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Simply Hydroponics - getstart

In hydroponics the seeds are started in Oasis (floral foam), or coir seed cubes. Of course they come pre sterilized. The cubes are planted directly into the medium rather than removed from the cubes.

I wonder if you couldn't just cut away the excess sponge and plant it - to avoid tearing the tender root.

Quote:
<H3>Preparing Starter Cubes
Quote:

Starter cubes are an easy way to start seeds. They are used by hydroponic growers and soil gardeners as well. Starter cubes are made of an inert material, that is a material that doesn't provide anything to the plant other than as a support for the plant and it's roots. The material retains some water but doesn't supply any nutrient (unless nutrient is dissolved in the water. There are basically 4 kinds of starter cubes: Rockwool, Oasis cubes, Organo-Cubes and "peat pots". The types most favored are rockwool, organo-cubes and Oasis cubes. Peat pots are losing favor among gardeners because they have a tendency to retain too much water and as a result can "drown" the seeds and seedlings. Organo-cubes, rockwool and Oasis cubes retain water well but also retain enough air so that the medium doesn't stay too wet.
Preparing the starter cubes varies with the kind of starter cube you are using. Organo-Cubes come ready for use. The Oasis and Peat pot cubes should be pre-soaked with water that is pH adjusted to 6 - 6.5. The cubes need only to be saturated and then allowed to drain. These cubes are now ready to use. Rockwool has a high pH. As a result they must be treated differently. With Rockwool the cubes must be pre-soaked with water that is pH adjusted to 5.0. This low (acid) pH solution will balance the overall pH to a level that plants require. The cubes should be soaked for about 24 hours. Then drain the cubes, they are now ready to use.
Once the starter cubes are prepared you can plant the seed(s). Using the tip of a pen or pencil make a small hole in the top of the cube aprox. 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep (if there isn 't one already). Place the seed(s) into the hole and gently cover the seed(s) by packing some of the seed cube material from around the hole over the seed.
The seed cubes should be kept moist but not wet. They should never be allowed to sit in water. The cubes will not require light until after the seeds sprout. The plants don't require any nutrient until they have formed their first "true" leaves. When they develop the first true leaves you can start giving them a diluted nutrient solution . . . .
</H3>
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:52 AM   #10
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A note of caution when using either Oasis cubes or sponges. Once planted in the soil, the sponge and the Oasis cube will dry out quickly because the soil draws the moisture from the two artificial mediums. You will have to make sure that the mediums are well-watered until the roots reach a size sufficient to support the plant.
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