Most plants primary means for reproduction is the seed. The seed is formed inside the female flower after pollination by the male plant. All seeds begin as an egg within the carpel of a female flower. After male pollen is introduced to the female flower by wind or insect, the egg becomes an embryo and forms a hard coating around itself. When development finally stops, the seed is released and carried by wind, rain, bird or bug to its final resting place and if all conditions are right, it will become a new plant and repeat the process. If you plan to grow indoors, you will need to "play bee" and manually pollinate your flowers for them to bear fruit or seed. With peppers and tomatoes I simply "tickle" the open flowers with a soft artists brush to spread the pollen.
To start your seeds and/or cuttings, we recommend using a 10" x 10" or 10" x 20" flat with insert trays to seperate each plant. Keep the humidity high by using a 6" Clear Dome Cover - (not shown). A little ingenuity, some tupperware and clear plastic wrap will work too. You'll also need to select a starting medium and a growing medium. The starting medium is what you will plant your seeds or cuttings in until they grow large enough to transplant into the system. The growing medium is what you will transplant them into. The systems in this book all use GroRox as a growing medium and only the hydroponic planter design uses a significant quantity. We have had excellent results with both 1" rockwool cubes and loose cocofiber as a starting medium, vermiculite and pearlite work very well too. Just recently, a new starting medium was introduced that is being called soil free sponges (I'm sure a neato trade name will be soon to follow!) - we've been testing them here for FutureGarden.com and have found them to be a real winner. The sponges are made from organic compost that is molded into small squares and cone shapes using a biodegradable binder. The advantage to using these sponges are that they allow the hydroponic grower to utilize an organic medium for starting seeds and rooting cuttings without the risk of it breaking apart and falling into the reservoir like cocopeat and perlite will do. See the chapeter on hydroponic mediums for more info. Avoid using soil as it is not sterile and may contain diseases and/or pests that will infect your system. Water your medium with a 1/2 strength nutrient solution (see instructions that come with your choice of nutrient) and keep it moist but not soaked while your seeds or cuttings root. If you are using cocopeat, it comes in dehydrated bricks that will have to be soaked for a while in the 1/2 strength nutrient solution for them to re-hydrate and loosen up. One brick usually makes about two gallons of loose cocopeat, so you may not want to use the entire brick at once. Through my experience, I have developed a simple and very successful method of germination. First, mix up a batch of 1/2 strength nutrient solution with a pH of 6.5 and soak the rockwool cubes, or water your loose medium until thoroughly moistened. This provides the seedling with a little extra food for once it germinates -until it is transplanted into your system.
Next, lay the seeded cubes into a 10"x20" flat with a clear dome cover. A 20 watt overhead fluorescent bulb will provide sufficient light - be sure to maintain 68-78 degrees. After germination, wait about a week or two until roots appear at the bottom of the cubes or loose medium and the first set of true leaves are open before transplanting to the baskets which will fit into your system.
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