Pictures of successful baggie seed sprouts?

purple1701(5B Chicago)April 22, 2013

Hi there!

Yesterday I put a variety of seeds into baggies with the wet paper towel method (well I'm using napkins, but anyway).

I am unsure as to exactly when I should put them into the soil? FYI - I am on a very limited budget and so I do not have many of the things that people may say is "necessary" like potting mix, peat pellets, or whatnot. I have dirt from my garden (which does happen to be very well-amended with a good ph)and some empty egg cartons. I also have a nice uv lamp under which I plan to put them once they have morphed from sprout to seedling.

What I would really like to know though, is does anyone have pictures of what the seed/sprout should look like in order for me to know when to remove them from the baggie?

That would be most helpful. Thanks much!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Appearance will vary by the seed of course but link below shows you all sorts of pics. 4th pic from the left top row is good. Look for the little white tail and plant.

For future reference coffee filters work best and are cheap. Seeds don't stik to them.


Here is a link that might be useful: pics of sprouted seeds

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 6:09PM
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purple1701(5B Chicago)

Thanks, that's very helpful. I really wasn't sure at what point in the "sprouting" they should be removed from the baggie. Don't want to go too soon or too late, ya know?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:37AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

".... I have dirt from my garden ..." purple1701 - although you don't actually need most of the paraphernalia people will try to sell you for seed starting, one thing you really do need to make or buy is some proper seed sowing mix. Your garden soil, however well it performs outside, isn't the right thing for seed starting or container growing.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 2:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Good catch Flora - I missed that completely! I make the mistake of assuming that everyone knows that is a big no-no.

Nothing will do in your efforts faster than using dirt. Of course using egg cartons comes a close second to providing poor results. Surely you have some plastic yogurt or butter dishes, old plastic bowls, even some cheap Dixie cups will work better than egg cartons.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 7:42PM
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purple1701(5B Chicago)

Flora and Dave -

I mean no disrespect here, but perhaps you missed the part where I said "I am on a very limited budget". If I could afford seed starting mix I would get it, but that is not a reality for me. Is there some other sort of medium I could use? A mix of soil and something else? Maybe shredded newspaper?

If these seeds were meant to be sown outside in the garden in the first place, but I'm doing the baggie method to ensure I only plant viable seeds, why is using dirt from my garden so bad?

Also, why are egg cartons so bad? The ones I was planning to use are the sort of shiny, plastic/styrofoamy ones, not cardboard, if that matters. I do have plenty of plastic containers as I save most of them (sour cream, yogurt, etc) so I'll use those instead. But I am curious why egg cartons are not recommended.

Not that I doubt the veracity of anyone's statements, but I am not the kind of person that blindly follows advice just because it's widely accepted or "standard". I like to know factual, scientific reasons for things. That way, if the "standard" is not available to me, I can more easily find the next best substitute. I hope that makes sense.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:12AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

No didn't miss it and completely understand it. But nothing says you have to have a fancy seed starting mix. A big bag of plain old Jiffy Mix costs $4. A small bag that is plenty for starting seed of plain Miracle Grow is $4.95 at Walmart. Are those prices out of line?

While neither are ideal at least both are sterile and that eliminates all the soil bacteria and fungus problems that cause the loss of so many seedlings when you use dirt.

It is a balancing act between cost and production of viable seedlings and if you avoid any upfront costs but end up with no viable seedlings or only seedlings that have disease problems to begin with what have you gained?

Egg cartons are simply too shallow. You can germinate in them but then have to immediately transplant them to larger containers with more soil. Plus they are difficult to maintain proper water levels in.

If these seeds were meant to be sown outside in the garden in the first place, but I'm doing the baggie method to ensure I only plant viable seeds, why is using dirt from my garden so bad?

You never mentioned exactly what seeds you were doing. If these are seeds that are supposed to be direct seeded anyway then you are just wasting time and money and the seeds with the baggie/egg carton method. Just plant them. Things that should be direct seeded won't appreciate being transplanted.

I like to know factual, scientific reasons for things.

I would agree with using caution when reading anecdotal opinions, especially when dealing with controversial issues. But when the issues under discussion, as in your post, are hardly new ones or ones that are not contested, I would suggest you keep in mind that standard practices are the standards for very good reasons. They are not anecdotal.

These issues may be new to you but not to this forum or to many other gardening forums and gardening websites. So do some research since there is ample scientific research and testing info available on all this. Use Google, use the search here to read about the problems with 'egg cartons', the reasons why using dirt or soil or compost to start seeds is never recommended, check out the many detailed FAQs here (blue button on the forum front page where it says "before posting a question..." You'll find many discussions about all those issues. Most importantly, learn to distinguish between what is offered as random personal opinion and what is provided by informed sources. EX: YouTube and eHow are notorious for uninformed personal opinions, state university ag extension sites are respected sources. So use the local source available to us all, your local county AG extension off and website.


Here is a link that might be useful: Illinois Extension

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 12:33PM
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purple1701(5B Chicago)


You certainly seem to be the most active and well-informed person on this forum! I think youâÂÂve responded to every single one of my posts at least once, IâÂÂm not sure if I should feel flattered, or stalked ;) IâÂÂm just kidding, I appreciate your input very much.

I think what is happening is that I have spent the last 2 years researching how to start my first garden, and thought I had it all under control⦠when I come across this forum and see that there is still so much I donâÂÂt know! I have my local extension page bookmarked, and trust me I frequent it, but there is so much more knowledge here than anywhere else IâÂÂve found and IâÂÂm trying to soak it all up as quickly as possible⦠especially since IâÂÂll be planting actual plants in a few weeks, and that is a bit scary as up to now IâÂÂve only done potatoes, onions, and relatively low-maintenance seeds like beets, kohlrabi and a couple varieties of lettuce.

Anyhow, I apologize if it seems like IâÂÂm not taking advantage of the âÂÂsearchâ feature, I promise you I am! It just seems that I canâÂÂt easily find answers to the questions I have without spending several hours going through 25 pages of semi-relevant threads.

You're right, I didnâÂÂt mention the type of seeds - they are actually all flowers and herbs. I did post this in the herb forum as well, but thought that different eyes might garner more responses. I guess I cheated a little there. *ashamed blush*

Perhaps this will help, these are what I have in baggies so far:
Basil - Genovese I think?
Parsley - flat leaf
Lavender - Lady I think ... again, not sure of this one
Marigold - Crackerjack mix
Marigold - Petite mix
Daisies - Shasta

The main reason I decided to go with the baggie method is because these are mostly very old seeds, they were found by my husband in his preschool classroom, and some of the expiration dates are from 1-4 years ago. I did the baggies before just to test viability, and at least half sprouted, but when I tried direct sowing a few of them (not the ones I tested in the baggies, but from the seed packet), so few came up that I thought it might be a worthwhile endeavor to try the baggie method for germination and then plant those that were genuinely viable.

Since IâÂÂm at this point now, would you mind explaining why I have seen some pictures of the baggie method where people have left the seeds in the baggie until there is a cotyledon? Is this more of a personal preference, or does it have something to do with the particular plant they were working with?

Thanks again, and sorry for being so ignorant.

This post was edited by purple1701 on Wed, Apr 24, 13 at 17:01

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 4:57PM
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purple1701(5B Chicago)

Oh, and while $4 or $4.95 is definitely not "out of line", it is still actually "out of budget" for me. In future years I hope to have an expanded budget for gardening, but if I got everything that I "should" get this year, I would have to choose between gardening and feeding my kids lol. OBVIOUSLY I'll be feeding my kids from the garden later, but there's nothing edible due for a few months yet.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 5:21PM
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purple1701(5B Chicago)

Lastly, (sorry I didn't think of this sooner) maybe it would be best if, after I see the seeds sprouting, I just plant them outside... weather permitting!!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 6:00PM
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kathyb912_in (5a/5b, Central IN)(5a/5b)

An idea on the budget -- how about joining your local Freecycle list and asking if anyone has extra planting or seed starting mix/supplies? You might get lucky and find either an experienced gardener who would be happy to help you get started or a former gardener who would be happy to donate the leftover odds and ends taking up space in their garage.

Re: the baggie method -- the only times I've let my seeds get to the cotyledon stage was by accident. You know, the old "Hey, let me start these seeds before we go away for a long weekend; they'll take days to germinate!" And then, "Ack, they sprouted so fast!!!" ;)

Incidentally, I have tried planting some of those "advanced" sprouts and sometimes they've done better than the mini-sprouts. Especially spinach. I used to think peppers were the hardest veggie to germinate until I tried spinach.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:43PM
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If you are using egg cartons, be sure to poke drainage holes prior to adding the dirt. If you save the top of the cartons, that can be used underneath to catch the water. (walmart actually sells eggs that come in these great 3-piece plastic cartons--so you get starter pots, drip catcher, and cover dome all at once!) I actually like egg cartons for seeds that I am not sure about, since they don't take up much space -- but they do require more attention and care.

I don't see a problem with starting certain surface sown seeds in the cartons, but be ready to move them quickly. I usually use egg cartons for starting small types of flowers. Anything that grows with a taproot is going to do badly in the cartons, since they are too shallow.

You should have larger pots ready with egg carton sized potholes on the top - then you can carefully scoop out your new plants and their dirt from the egg carton with a soup spoon, and place them into the waiting space of the bigger pot.

I wouldn't do that bag start, myself. I've had bad luck with planting those sprouts since the root and plant can't grow in the proper directions very well in the bag. Then when I plant it, there seems to be a growth delay as the plant sorts itself out.

What I do for questionable seeds is just plant several per pot. Then, you can always thin them later. I expect your basil and lavender will be fine. Parsley tends to get fussy after a few years. I'm not sure about the marigolds.

Walmart actually has a seed starting mix for only $2 a bag that I've had good luck with. If you want/need to use your own dirt, at least try to sterilize it first. There are some easy instructions on line (I have linked to one).

Here is a link that might be useful: How to sterilize dirt

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 6:36PM
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runswithscissors(MT 4/5)

Purple - I like your idea of pre-starting them and then just planting them outside. I would dig the area so that it super nice and fluffy and smooth, you can even mix in a little shredded newspaper to attract worms. Once the roots poke out of the seed hull, make a shallow trench and put the seeds in. Cover and pat down. Water well. If it's going to be cold, you could even use more shredded newspaper as a mulch. Keep moist and soon you'll see things popping up. In my experience, parsley takes it's sweet time germinating. And of course, Lavender likes it more dryish than the other's you mentioned. Many say marigolds like to dry out between waterings, but mine have always did well with daily watering. Do you have an old tarp, or sheet of plastic, or even an old sheet or blanket for that matter. You could lay this over the bed if frost threatens, and then pick it back up in the morning.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 9:23PM
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