Most gardeners start their seeds in a greenhouse or indoors, then transplant them to their outdoor gardens after the sprouts have gotten their second set of leaves.
You can also plant seedlings in a hydroponic garden. Although it's a little different, it's not difficult to do. You start your seedlings like you would regularly do, but using rockwool or cubes, instead of soil. When your seedlings are ready for transplant, simply place them in your hydroponic box or room.
Hydroponics, where to Start:
Once you have set up your hydroponic system, it's time to purchase the seeds you want to grow. Working from seeds is a little cheaper, and the best way to start plants in a hydroponic environment. Seeds do not bring in bugs or other ailments that might attach to plants transported from outdoors.
From Nursery to Hydroponic Gardens:
Seedlings are too small to place directly into a hydroponic system. The hydro planting medium is too coarse, and the seeds can easily get washed away in the solution. So starting your seedlings in a protected nursery is the best way to make sure they will sprout from a safe rooted base.
Most vegetables do best sprouting in little starter pots or flats before, transplanting into the hydroponic system.
Start your seeds in cubes of inorganic material – stay away from soil. When your sprouts are ready, just take the entire plug and place it on the hydroponic medium bed.
You can purchase starter plugs in a 36 pack for large seeds or 100 pack for lettuces and herbs. The other method is using rockwool/cubes.
Also, stay away from peat pellets, potting soil and jiffy pots. These materials will break down and end out clogging up your pump.
Getting Your Plant Seeds Nursery Up and Running:
Setup a small seed nursery in a brightly lit place like a sunny kitchen window, or under fluorescent grow light. Don't place your seeds in direct sunlight or under hot lamps, it'll be too hot for your seeds won't grow. Seeds need between 70 to 80 degrees for ideal sprout growth. Do not go below 65 or go above 80 degrees.
Place your light close to the flat so the sprouts won't grow long and spindly. The proper distance should be between 1 to 2 inches. Keep in mind, a bright fluorescent grow light will give you stocky, healthy and well-proportioned seedlings.
There are domed starter systems that come with warming seed mats if you want a little convenience. They are not necessary and will probably cost more than using a tray similar to tupperware.
Planting Your Seeds:
You want to start off by moistening your cubes in water. The keyword is "moisten" - not "drench".
Insert your seeds into the cube holes. Place two seeds in each cube if you are growing peppers, tomatoes, basil, broccoli, cabbage and eggplants. Place 6 to 8 seeds, per cube, for herbs.
Place 6 to 8 herb seeds in each cube.
Place your cubes in the nursery tray, keeping the temperature between 70 and 80 degrees.
Water your seeds every day or every two days by adding a seedling solution. You add the solution to the drain pan, not directly onto the cubes. This solution should be a 1/2 strength mix. If you choose to use GH Flora Nutrients, mix up the solution in a one-gallon milk container or jug. Use 1/4 tsp of each of the three solutions to one-gallon of water.
Your seeds should start sprouting in a few days. Once they start taking off, cut off the extra plant, leaving only the best plant in the cube. You want to remove any weak or spindly plants.
Once your plants hit 2 to 3 inches in height, have 4 leaves and their roots start appearing through the sides of the cubes, they are ready to transplant! This will usually take anywhere from one to three weeks. Peppers and tomatoes will take approximately four weeks.
Time To Transplant Your Hydroponic Garden:
If you are not going to place your plants outdoors or in a greenhouse, you must acclimate your little sprouts to a more intense lighting and higher temperature environment that is found in hydroponic gardens. You're going to go about this by placing your grow lights a high distance above the plants. After a few days, start lowering the lights gradually. This process must be done gradually because if you go too quickly, you will burn your plants.
You will eventually have these grow lights situated 10 to 24 inches above your plants. Be Patient, do not rush this process, if you do, you will kill your plants.
Time To Transplant:
Place the cubes directly into your hydroponic system or unit. Don't Remove Them From The Starter Plugs. Make small holes in the hydro medium and place in the cubes. You do not want to disturb their delicate roots and they will grow directly through the medium.
During the first week, you want to top water your plants with the nutrient solution. Do this daily to prevent them from drying out before their roots are deep enough to reach the solution below. A turkey baster works great!
With hydroponic gardens, you don't have to use an entire packet of seeds. By storing them properly, you can keep a packet of seeds up to three to four years! To preserve these packets for future use, keep the packets tightly closed by folding the packet over a few times.
This might seem like a lot of work, but it's not and the results will pay off! Who doesn't want strong, healthy plants offering excellent crops of vegetables and herbs? Seeds do really well using hydroponic gardening and will produce healthy, pesticide-free, fresh food for your table.