Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Start Cabbage Seedlings

Addendum - March 18, 2011 - Cabbages like it cool and will stop growing when the weather gets hot. Also Cabbages require 2 inches of rainfall or equivalent watering a week.  Using shade cloth could lower the temperatures and also save you on water. If you can't find it locally, there are several gardening catalogs where you may acquire it. Check your local gardening outlets first. If that doesn't work, do a search on "Shade Cloth" I found Home Depot as a source when I did a search.
How to start Cabbage Seedlings

Today here in the South Central Midwest (zone 6) I started new Cabbage seedlings. Follow along and I will show you how to start your own cabbage plants. When we are finished, we should have about 50 plants for your garden, farmers Market or just to give away to family and friends.
List of Materials:
 A Small bag of Perlite
 A Small bag of Vermiculite 
A Small bag of Cheap Potting Soil
A bucket or plastic dish pan etc
About one half quart of warm water
2 Dollar Store Metal Cake Pans with Plastic Lids
(I spray paint mine to prevent rust)


1.     Sift or pick-out the sticks, stones, and other large matter  out of the Potting Soil, that might hurt the roots of a new plant. This can be easily done with my Hand Sifter. See Blog Article on how to build it.
2.     Dump about a half coffee can of Sifted Potting Soil into a bucket or other tray.
3.     Add  a half  coffee can of Vermiculite.
4.     Last of all, Add a half coffee can of Perlite.
5.     Mix thoroughly and wet down the mixture with warm water.

NOTE: Vermiculite is usually fairly dry and doesn't like to take on water readily. That's why we use warm water which vermiculite absorbs faster. The final mixture should make a ball in your fist but start breaking apart in large chunks. If it holds its form, add more dry vermiculite to absorb the extra water. Otherwise, you new plants may drown or the roots could very well rot in a soppy mess. \

6.     Divide the seeding mixture you just made between the two cake pans and level off evenly. Each tray should be about an inch deep. No more is necessary because when these plants come up and have their first true leaves, you will transplant them into pots are much deeper trays until you set them out in the garden.  Firm lightly with the flat of your hand and poke around the edges with your fingers to tighten the soil. This prevents edge separation of soil and cracks around the edges of the pans. Causing the soil to dry out faster.

7.     With your little finger poke a hole about 1/4  inch deep with your finger. The recommended depth to plant  Cabbage Seeds

8.      Yes, they are small.

9.     Gently fold soil over onto each seed and lightly press it down with  the fingers.  When all the holes are filled and pressed, use your palm and  lightly firm the whole tray with your fingers

10.             Set the plastic cover of the cake pan on.  The lid actually helps to keep cold drafts from reaching the new plants and keeps them warm. The biggest and fastest killer of newly hatched plants is "dampening off". Sometimes overnight! The little plants literally keel over at ground lever. If the soil is the least bit soggy, take the top off until it dries out a little. About a quarter inch air space should do. In fact, you should open the lid a little for an hour every day to allow fresh air in. Fresh air kills fungus. Leave a slight air space for an hour, then snap the lid down again on the cake pan .

11.             Put the seedling trays in a warm place to sprout. I set them in a small closet warmed constantly by a 100 Watt Incandescent  light bulb.  Do not use Florescent bulbs! You want heat. Florescent bulbs give off hardly any heat at all. You want the room kept at about 75 degrees or better so the seeds will sprout. If the room is cool for a long length of time, the seeds won't sprout and will just rot in the ground.  Do not use a loose hanging bulb on an extension cord that might start a fire in a closet.  Use the regular light socket provided. Make sure it is not close to anything. Make sure the Bulb you use is not to close to anything noncombustible and the socket is rated for that wattage.  Check out your procedure carefully several times during your first day or two to be safe and not start a fire.

 The biggest and fastest killer of newly hatched plants. Sometimes overnight! The little plants literally keel over at ground lever. If the soil is the least bit soggy, take the top off until it dries out a little.I built a simple little cabinet big enough to fit in a small space and hold several Cake Pan trays easily. It sits at one end of the closet.

                   And don't forget a cheap 2 dollar Thermometer. 

Check the temperatures regularly - do not allow the surface of the soil to become completely dry. Us a mister to apply a fine spray on the soil whenever necessary. A Dollar Store $1 sprayer should work fine.

3 Days Later


Give them Air!
As soon as a few pop out of the ground, remove the lid for good unless you anticipate cold drafts that can harm your baby plants until they grow  sturdier. Put you plants under plant lights right away. A good average to start with most plants is 12 hours a day.

Give them Light!
Put you plants under plant lights right away. A good average to start with most plants is 12 hours a day. Do not let them on constantly 24/7 because like all babies, they need there rest and and they need time to make food for themselves after the lights are turned out.

 Set your lights on a timer for convenience. The hardware store has an ordinary timer that works just as well as one from an expensive nursery for about $10. Used ones can be found in Thrift Stores for $1. 

Growing your own seedlings (transplants) can be very rewarding as you will see when the seedling start popping out in the trays. As soon as the seedlings have true leaves, transplant them into pots or deeper trays with more space and fertilize lightly. Gradually, accustom these plants to full 8 hours of light. When it is about  8 to 10 days before you can actually set them out in your garden and it is warm enough, with no danger of frost;  gradually allow them to get more and more sun every succeeding day. Start in total day shade for a couple of days to start and gradually move your seedlings out into the sun starting with only one hour a day. Then increase the exposure to the sun a little every day. Warning. To much sun at the start will burn them to krispy critters.  

When to Transplant
The first leaves to appear are the "Cotyledons". These actually feed the tiny plant until the real leaves can make food for the plant. These Catyledons  (sometimes called "false leaves") often wither, die, and fall off the stalk shortly after the "true" leaves come in. It is then time to transplant  if you wish. Also they will need real light - real soon. 
Florescent Lights
 The new Florescent Spiral bulbs really work well for temporary light. They do not get so hot as to burn the leaves or cook  the plants as do old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. One 100 watt Florescent spiral bulb at 2 inches away from the top of the center plant, will be light enough for plants in a 12'' diameter circle. As the plants grow keep the 2 inch distance from the nearest leaves. Remember. If you Halve the distance to the plant with a light bulb, you Double the amount of light it receives.  Inversely, If you Double the distance, you get Half the light. A simple formula to keep in mind when figuring out how much light you plant needs. If it looks spindly and seems to be stretching toward the light, it probably neeeds more light. Transplants can do with 12 to 16 hours of light a day. 
Cheap Workshop lights
Cheap 2 tube florescent shop lights work fine too. Daylight is best. For flowering plants, One blue tube (daylight) and one yellow (indoor) tube will do.

Have fun folks!

Visit me at: http://GrandBobsGarden.Blogspot.Com for many more garden articles for Practical Gardeners and Beginners how to's. You also may wish to try my Mailing List -
- especially if you live in the South Central Kansas area or North Central  Oklahoma. To check out other articles along this line, just click on a keyword in the column to the right. Thank You. See you again real soon!
Bob Mader

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