The seedbed is a good system to optimize the garden space and be able to anticipate sowing, making the seeds germinate on their own in a simple way and without any expense. Growing the seedlings in trays with earthen bread kept in shelter is convenient for many species, which will then be transplanted into the field with already a month of life.
However, it is not always convenient to germinate the seeds directly in the jar, especially for those crops that have very small seeds. In fact, we can make a seed tray, with a simple plastic tray, in which to put the earth or the paper towel. Today let's see just how to do it the scottex method, often used for tomatoes and chillies.
The great advantage of the scottex method over traditional soil is that the seeds always remain in sight and you can know how germination is going without having to wait to see if the sprout comes out of the earth.
The plastic box to use
To make the seeds germinate in the paper towel, you first need to a clear plastic box, which is the best environment for our small seedbed. The box will have to have a lid with some holes to circulate the air, without exaggerating in order to keep optimal humidity and temperature inside. Many small holes are better than a few large ones.
The box should ideally be square or rectangular, this facilitates the arrangement of small rows of seeds. Excellent boxes are the transparent ones like Ikea or those of Haribo gummy candies.
Which blotting paper to use
Exist different types of paper towels, the forethought is not to use one that is too thick and resistant. Otherwise the rootlets get entangled making transplantation difficult.
Colored or patterned paper towels should also be avoided: to make organic horticulture, chemical compounds must be avoided. Any inks in the kitchen paper come into contact with our seeds as they germinate.
How to sow in the paper towel
For carry out sowing a dozen sheets must be used, cut according to the size of the seedbed box. The sheets of paper towels, moistened with a few drops of water, must cover the bottom of the container while lying flat.
The water to use for wet the paper towel it must be small but sufficient to soak all the sheets, the paper must be soaked and not soaked, it must therefore be wet by drop or by spraying it. The water must be slightly calcareous and at room temperature. If stagnant water remains, it must be removed with another paper towel which will then be thrown away after use, stagnation facilitates the development of molds and fungi.
After putting on the sheets of paper, all that remains is arrange our seeds leaving them the space they need for future growth. If the seeds are placed too close together it will be difficult to transplant because the rootlets will get stuck and moving them would risk damaging the newly born seedlings.
Where to keep the paper towel seedbed
Our germinator with paper towels can be kept in warm areas of the house, perhaps near a radiator or other heat source. This system is excellent for varieties that want the heat to ripen, such as hot peppers: it allows you to put ready-made seedlings in the garden, thus lengthening the summer period and approaching more tropical climatic conditions.
You will need to find a heat source near which to put our Scottex Box, for example, you can use the upper part of a PC in the power supply area or the heat produced by a radiator. During the germination period, i.e. from sowing to the moment in which the seedling emits the cotyledons, the predominant environmental factor is heat. Fast germination is usually achieved with temperatures around 28-30 degrees, which must remain stable 24 hours a day. The light is needed to give the seed the direction of the surface, since there are no green parts (leaves), there is no need for lighting for photosynthesis. Therefore there need not be a large light exposure: the normal ambient light will be enough to give birth to the plant, later on, once the sprouts have been born and the leaves have developed, it will be transplanted into the ground and here it will be necessary to give the seedlings the correct lighting.
For this reason, in this phase, no specific lamps or other are needed, which instead will be used to grow the plant in a seedbed, if we decide to keep indoor cultivation for a long period we should buy or build a suitable grow box. This can be useful for example if we are germinating tropical chilli varieties early.
There condensation on the cap of the box it is correct that it forms, it is a good indicator of the right presence of water in our germinator. If you see the condensation effect decreasing, you can understand that it is drying up and in order not to let the seed die, it is necessary to intervene by wetting the paper towel.
The germination phase
The humidity softens the rind of the seed and over time allows the sprout to come out. It may happen that the seedling is unable to break the seed shell and develops internally, also generating the two leaflets (cotyledons), the seedling in this case is destined to die, if you do not try to free the sprout, a very delicate operation. The seed bath in chamomile tea reduces this problem considerably.
A small drawback of the Scottex Method is represented by the fact that the very thin roots tend to penetrate the texture of the paper then you will notice some resistance while trying to remove the seedling. Rather than ruining the roots, which are very important at this stage, it is better to cut the piece of absorbent paper and transplant the seedling, roots and paper all together in the soil. Being biodegradable the paper towel will disappear in a very short time, degrading as an organic substance.
Re-labeling the germinated seeds
The paper towel support allows the birth of the plant, but does not allow its growth: as soon as the plant emits the first two leaves it must be planted in the ground. It is therefore the cotyledons, namely those first two embryonic leaflets, the signal that it is time to move the seedlings to put them in the soil. This operation is called repatching.
The roots are very delicate and tend to get stuck in the paper towel: be careful not to damage the root system by transplanting. Generally, from germination, it is repotted in a jar and not directly in the garden, the horticultural plants will be planted in the open field only when the stem is more developed.
The transplant of the vegetable seedling must take place in a jar full of very fine sowing soil (better sift it) and with a good content of peat, placing the seedling in a hole one or two cm deep (depending on the type of vegetable the size varies slightly). It is then covered with a little soil and a drop of water is added. Now you just have to wait for the plant to grow strong and then put it in the garden bed and bring the fruits to ripeness. You can check the right period on the calendar of transplants for the garden.
Some useful tips in pills:
- Use a square box rather than a round one: it is easier to insert the paper towel without having to cut it too much.
- Do not use colored or drawn sheets of absorbent paper to prevent the ink from contaminating the seeds.
- Check the temperature (the ideal temperature depends on the vegetable but is generally still hot, around 20 degrees).
- Use seeds from the previous year, or in any case not too old.
- Use lightly calcareous water.
- Treat the seeds with chamomile (see how to take a chamomile bath with seeds).
- If possible, keep the seeds a little distant from each other (just one centimeter) to be able to move them without risking damaging the rootlets.