Plants growing towards the light in a propagator
Spring has arrived! Have you decided what food you are going to grow this coming year yet?

I started sowing the seeds using my propagator 3 weeks ago. There are many propagators in the market, ranging from £3 to £70. The one I use is self-watering and only cost around £7 from Homebase. This means that I do not need to water everyday- more time for myself! The most expensive range is usually self-heating. I do not see much point splashing out on one though as I found the seeds germinate just happily if I keep the propagator somewhere warm. Here is what the propagator looks like:

Self-watering propagator

(diagram by Homebase)

The propagator is very easy to use. I started by putting water in the hole so that the mat is touching the water properly. This draws water up to feed the cells.

Putting water in the self-watering propagator
This propagator has 40 cells, which means it can germinate 40 seeds at the same time. To ensure each cell is fully utilised, I usually put two seeds in one cell when their size is small. (Note: Make sure they are as far away from each other as possible, with equal amount of compost around) This is because sometimes only one of them germinates. Of course there are times when both do. In theory, the weaker (ie. shorter or thinner) seedlings should be removed so that stronger one could grow even better. However, I usually go against this ‘rule of thumb’. Being petite in build myself, I get all philosphical and believe the short and weak should be given an equal chance to live. So I tend to separate their roots and plant the seedlings into bigger pots once they are more developed. And they usually grow just as well!

Sowing seed in a propagator cell
Depending on the species, seeds generally take 7-10 days to germinate when the propagator is kept in the dark. Once the plants start to touch the top of the transparent plastic cover (called greenhouse cover in the diagram), I remove the cover and put the propagator in a nice, warm and sunny place indoor. Seedlings tend to grow towards the light source. This is how they look like after a day of ‘sun bathing’ by the sliding door of my room- they all ‘pointed’ towards the garden side.
 
Plants growing towards the light in a propagator
I highly recommend rotating the propagator daily early in the morning or in the evening by 180 degrees to keep the plants growing straight.

plant schedule
2 important tips :
1. The propagator has cooridnates which is definitely good to use. It is hard to identify which one is which as the seedlings do not look like the adult plants! I usually write the plant names down on a grid (see above)
2. The best compost to use is John Innes seed compost. It has the right formula to keep the seedlings developing healthily. If the compost is too rich in nutrients, the seedlings would grow too tall to fast. They become tall and weak. Of course, if it does not have the right balance of nutrients, the seeds simply do not germinate.

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