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Home > Types of Gardening > Soiless Gardening > Starting Seeds in Sand
Starting Seeds in Sand
Starting Seeds in SandThe Bulletin on Sand Culture of Seedlings, issued in 1936 by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station described the method of starting flowers and vegetables in washed sand in flats or other boxes, instead of in the soil or peat moss-soil mixture commonly used. Advantages claimed for it were, first, that it greatly lessened the chance of seedling losses from the damping-off disease; and, second, that the root growth was generally superior in sand to that in soil. Having used the method with marked success, we are glad to recommend it to any gardener wanting to get a jump on the spring season by starting his seeds indoors, whether in a sunny window, a hotbed, or a simple greenhouse or conservatory. The summarized directions as given in the Bulletin are as follows:

1. Secure the desired amount of sand (as free from silt and loam as possible) from a sand pit, lake, river, seashore, or dealer in masons` supplies.

2. Wash the sand in several changes of hot water (160 degrees F. or above) until it remains practically clean after stirring.

3. Place the sand in clean wooden boxes or flats, or any sort of container that will allow a little drainage. Level off the surface to about 2 inches or more in depth.

4. For each square foot of sand surface, dissolve about one-half teaspoonful of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) in about one-quarter pint of water and sprinkle over the sand. For a flat of ordinary size, this amounts to about one teaspoonful of saltpeter dissolved in a cup of water. For larger surfaces (as in a hotbed) add one ounce of saltpeter to three pints of water for each ten square feet.

5. Drill or broadcast the seeds and cover lightly with more of the washed sand.

6. Keep surface of sand moist by occasional watering (with a fine, gentle spray) until the seedlings are grown." (To conserve moisture, avoid the necessity for frequent sprinkling, and prevent the resulting leaching away of the nutrient materials, it is well to cover the surface of the sand with newspaper or cheesecloth and the box with a sheet of glass, until the seeds have germinated.)

7. Avoid contamination of the sand by using clean water in watering. Do not add soil to the culture under any conditions. If seeds need more covering after they have sprouted, use only clean, washed sand for this purpose.

The one application of saltpeter in solution will usually suffice to support the seedlings until they are pricked off and transplanted to pots, other flats, a cold frame or elsewhere. However, if it is necessary to keep them in the sand longer than this, it would be advisable to give a second application of the solution. Of course, this is not a "complete" or "balanced" plant food solution and if the little plants are to be carried on in sand, gravel or any other soilless culture medium, they should receive one more suited to supplying all the needs of growing plants.
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