As a gardener in 2024, there is no shortage of ways to start or expand your garden. You might propagate plants from cuttings or pop into your local hardware store for one that’s established. If you’re feeling especially ambitious (or there’s a specific plant you can’t get any other way), you might start a plant from seed. If you’re growing from seed, you must take the care needed to ensure those plants make it to see the light of day (literally). With that in mind, here are a few things we’re doing to ensure any crop we grow from seed makes it from the grow house into our bellies. 

After 35 years of growing in hydroponics, tearing open a new packet of seeds never gets old. 

It’s the same every time. 

Excitement for a new challenge in the garden mixed with nerves that the seed won’t take. After all, we spend a pretty penny on rare and unusual varieties; it would be heartbreaking to think we’d thrown that money down the drain. 

Luckily, we’ve been starting plants from seed for a long time, and the instances where we are unsuccessful are few and far between. 

The most important thing to remember when you’re growing something new is that the quality of your seed is make or break. We bring this up for a few reasons. 

Firstly, we’re seeing gardeners take seeds from their local grocery store produce. The problem is that these crops have often been cross-bred to produce a plant with a specific trait, such as flavour or colour. When you plant a seed from these crops, the resulting fruit/veg won’t always be consistent with its parent crop. 

Think of it this way: just because two people share the same parents doesn’t mean they will look the same. Each person will get a different combination of genes from mum and dad, making them unique. 

Farmers may be able to cultivate their initial crop for a specific trait; however, future crops may become less predictable. This is because the crop may present any combination of traits from its ‘parents’ – good or bad. 

The second reason we bring up seed quality is that there is no shortage of online sellers who overpromise and underdeliver. Whether they’re selling seeds months past expiry (that’s right, seeds can expire) or lying about the variety on offer, we’ve seen it all. 

When buying new seeds, always source them from a well-reviewed and reputable supplier. Once they’re in your hot little hands, store them in the fridge until they’re ready to plant. 

Our next tip is to use a grow media made for seed starting. At Hydroponic Xpress and Aquaponics WA, we almost exclusively use Grodan Rockwool Propagation Cubes. We love them because they allow us to quickly bottom water our seeds and seedlings without risking seed displacement. 

When seed starting, there’s no need to add any nutrients (in fact, this risks burning your plant); just keep the cubes moist with clean water. 

Most seeds prefer to be kept in the dark until they have become seedlings, at which point light becomes non-negotiable. We recommend storing seeds in a cool, dry place until they germinate. When this happens, you should bring them out in partial-full sun. 

At this point, you’re already successful. You’ve taken your plants from itty-bitty seeds to full-fledged seedlings. Now, it’s time to take them all the way. 

Your seedling is ready to plant when it has its second set of true leaves, meaning the leaves your plant develops after its first set, which will look different to the others. At this point, your plant will need some backup, meaning it’s time to add nutrients. We recommend our custom-formulated blend, Ag-Grow Grow and Bloom.

This is the same nutrient we use for every plant we care for in our display centre. It’s affordable, easy to use and, most importantly, effective. 

Whatever nutrient you choose, use a low dose to avoid burning your crop. The manufacturer’s instructions on the back of the bottle should provide specific dosage strength for seedlings. 

Few things are more important when adding new crops to your regular rotation than proper propagation. It may require high levels of care and attention to detail, but by taking your time, you’ll avoid common mistakes, and in the end, your plants will thank you for it. 

As always, you’ll find links to the products mentioned below. Thanks again for tuning in to another edition of our regular newsletter, and until next time, happy growing!