Trial by Seed: A new series! – Pinetree Garden Seeds


Here at Pinetree, we trial all the seed that we carry before selling it to our customers. We have decided to chronicle these seed trials this year so any beginner gardeners (or anyone who is interested in seeing the process in general) can watch via photos and video as we bring our seeds to life!

To start things off, we have several different varieties of flowers, peppers and onions to germinate. The first step is to make sure all your seedling rows will be properly marked. We offer several different types of row markers that you can use.

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Some seeds are very, very small (see the begonia seeds below), so it’s good to do research into pelleted seed for that reason. Some seeds that we carry do come pelleted, but this is specific to the grower that would be supplying the seed. Some growers do not offer pelleted seed, so unfortunately in some cases you may have to deal with planting your extra small seeds very carefully.

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You’ll find it very helpful to keep notes about your seedlings. When did you plant them? How much of the packet did you plant? What seeds needed to be soaked before being planted? …and so on.

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Some seed takes longer to germinate than others, so you’ll want to plant those separately. The least amount of times handled or transplanted, the better. You can use peat pots, which can be easily removed from around the roots of your seedling before being planted.

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When your seeds are all in the flats, be sure to check the outside of your seed packet for instructions on whether to cover your seeds or not. Some seeds do not require being covered, just gently pressed into the soil, and some seeds require that a thin layer of soil be placed over top.

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Make sure that your soil mix is pre-moistened before use, as it is easier to use and ensures that you are planting your seed into the moist atmosphere that it needs to grow.

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After covering the seeds with their final thin layer of seedling mix, give them a spray of water to keep the moisture level up. You’ll then want to cover the flat with a plastic dome and set the flat on a seedling heat mat. It is very important to keep your seedling flats well watered, as the heat mats tend to dry the soil out very quickly. Be sure to check the moisture levels frequently.

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There are many ways to start onions, and this is the way that we do it. We fill our peat flats with a mixture of our Black Gold potting soil and worm castings. We then spread a thin layer of seed on the top of the soil, enough so that we’ll have a good seedling production, but not so much that the seedlings crowd each other detrimentally. We do this so the onions are only transplanted once; out into the garden in the spring.

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Repeat the same finishing process as your other seedlings by adding a final thin layer of the soil mix on top and giving them a good spray of water.

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Cold Treating

Some seeds, like the strawberry seeds you’ll see below, need to be cold-treated before they can germinate. Cold treating is essentially tricking the seeds into thinking that they have gone through a winter by storing them in a cold area like a freezer or fridge, forcing them to germinate when the temperature is brought back to normal.

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When you’ve readied your peat pot full of soil mix and seed, wrap the pot in a plastic bag and tie off to trap the moisture inside.

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This specific type of strawberry will need to be in the freezer for 2 weeks before taking the pot out and allowing the seeds to germinate. It will say on the seed packet or in our catalog how long your seeds will need to remain in the fridge or freezer for, so be sure to verify that information.

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The Finished Product

Once you’ve got all your seeds planted, you’ll need to set all the flats up with plastic domes and seedling heat mats to germinate.

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Again, be sure to maintain good moisture levels with your seedlings! They’ll need the appropriate amount of moisture and heat to sprout.


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