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Hydroponics Seed Germination Insider Secrets

Germinating hydroponics seeds is serious business. Germinating hydroponics seeds is serious business.

A lot of hydroponics growers who formerly relied only on cloning are coming to the realization that growing from seeds is necessary and rewarding. They may retain hydroponics cloning as their primary method for getting new plants into rotation… but they integrate seed-grown plants into their rotation at least once a year. They also engage in breeding programs to combine male pollen with favorite females (either motherplants or seed-grown new females) to create specialty hydroponics strains.

We’ve talked previously about selecting hydroponics seeds. You can breed your own seeds and/or purchase them from highly-regarded seed breeders or resellers who market specialty strains. If one of your grower friends bred seeds and is willing to share them with you, it’s great that you can evaluate his plants and his harvest quality before you decide if his seeds are good enough for you to grow.

Growing from seeds requires expertise and the right materials. Of course, you also need great seeds. You want seeds that are deeply colored, not shiny/pale/grey/green, harvested within the last 1-2 years, stored in the top half of a refrigerator or a similarly cool environment. After you procure desirable seeds with powerful genetics, you have two more hurdles to get past. One is sprouting, and the other is transplanting sprouted seeds.

There are many methods for sprouting seeds and if you have exceptionally vigorous seeds, almost all of those methods will work.

But the two most reliable methods are to sprout seeds in a propagation puck (or the material and container that you will grow your hydroponics plants in), or to sprout them first on a wet paper towel and then carefully transfer the sprouted seed to a propagation puck or the grow container.

In either case, temperature, cleanliness and moisture are factors you want to tightly control. Your seeds sprout best in 69-76F. Too cold, and they won’t sprout at all. See if you can determine the part of the world that the seeds’ genetics come from and you’ll have a better read on the temperature conditions that contribute to sprouting…a seed from a native Jamaican plant is likely to need slightly warmer temperatures than a seed native to British Columbia outdoor grow conditions.

To germinate hydroponics seeds in a paper towel, get yourself paper towels from a natural foods store- the kind that aren’t laden with chemicals, dyes, etc. Likewise for your water. Use reverse osmosis water or pH 6.3 rainwater. Don’t use tap water. It contains stuff that can kill your seeds.

Soak the towels but not so much that they turn into a sopping wet mass of goo. Thoroughly damp is what you want, not soaking wet.

Put the bottom paper towel on a clean plate. Put the seeds on top of that paper towel, giving at least an inch diameter around each seed. Then put the other paper towel on top of the seeds. You want to keep this arrangement in a darkened place with less than 60% humidity and in the 69-76F temperature range. Check to ensure that the towels don’t dry out. If your hydroponics seeds are potent and eager to live, they’ll sprout within 24-72 hours, although some may take a day or two more than that.

Check your seeds every ten hours to look for the splitting of the seeds and emergence of the white primitive root tendril. Also look for molds or other signs that the seeds have been victimized by pathogens. Prepare your pucks or whatever media you’re going to plant the seeds in by ensuring moistness but not soaking wet conditions, and by ensuring that your media is cured to 5.8-6.3 pH.

Handle your sprouted seeds with the utmost of care- it’s easy to break the primitive root. Plant your seeds with the roots down and the pointed end of the seed up, placing the seed about one quarter to one half inch below the surface of your root zone media. Use rooting media to cover the small hole that you used to implant the seed into its root zone.

Give your planted sprouts 18 hours per day of high-output fluorescent light, but don’t get any hot bulb too close to the sprouts. Be sure to maintain ideal temperature and humidity conditions, and avoid overwatering.

After your sprouts have developed their unserrated first leaves, you can put a tiny amount of organic nutrients into their water. I’m talking about kelp, vitamin B complex, organic compost tea and similarly mild materials. You may also consider treating your root zone material with liquid hydroponics beneficial microbe formulas that work against pathogens and help your plants develop roots.

And I highly recommend that you use House & Garden Roots Excelurator whenever you sprout or clone. It’s expensive, but a little goes a long way, and root growth definitely increases because of this premium effective hydroponics tonic.

After your seedlings have developed a healthy root mass that's visible on the edges of the puck or cube you have them in, transplant them to a larger container- preferably the container that they will grow in until harvest day.

Remember: the biggest cause of germination failure is overwatering. It drowns your hydroponics seeds and roots, and it also encourages the growth of “damping off” pathogens that attack and kill seeds.

If you want don't want to do the paper towel method and instead want to sprout your seeds in pucks or in the material and container that your plants will grow in, you put them one quarter to one half inch into the material, ensuring that the material is properly pH-adjusted and damp but not soaking wet.

Until the Jiffy Preforma rooting pucks came along, most hydroponics growers saw approximately 20% higher success rate using the paper towel method than sprouting in a puck. In my own experience, and in experiences told me by other hydroponics growers, sprouting in peat pots, rockwool, coco coir, soil and other media sometimes had mixed results.

Check out this variety of hydroponics seed and cuttings strategies


Jiffy Preforma pucks are engineered for hydroponics seeds and cuttings with proprietary structure and materials that increase germination and cuttings success. I may still use the wet paper towel method, but it’s true that sprouting directly in a puck or in the container that the plant will grow to maturing in eliminates the extra step of handling the hydroponics seed after it has sprouted.

As with many hydroponics procedures, you want to test the methods in this article and see how they work for you. Lots of people have their own favorite germination method. As always, we’re looking for what gives you the fastest growth and largest hydroponics yields and the highest success rate. 

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Last modified on Monday, 15 October 2012 13:47

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