Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spinach Germination Problems

Fig.1: Spinach and Lettuce Germination
A = Newly planted spinach
B = Original spinach (3 of 10 sprouted)
C = Lettuce (all sprouted)
Originally, I tried to germinate 10 spinach seeds and 20 lettuce seeds for my new hydroponic DWC units. All of the lettuce sprouted without difficulty (C in Fig. 1), but only three of the ten spinach seeds sprouted (B in Fig.1). My research indicates that spinach likes cooler temperatures, and I've maintained a temperature range between 63F and 68F (17C to 20C).

After reading discussion forums and websites, I discovered that it is common to have trouble germinating spinach. Considerable research has gone into improving the success rate of spinach seed germination. I read an article by the American Society for Horticultural Science that recommended decoating the seeds with a diluted solution of bleach, soaking the seeds in filtered water and then planting in a medium that has some diluted hydrogen peroxide in it. I will also keep the seeds at the recommended temperature.
Here's a link to the article: Seed Enhancements to Improve Spinach Germination

To do this on a small scale, I used Cleave Books Concentration Calculator to determine how much of bleach and hydrogen peroxide to use on my small-scale production. I came up with the following amounts:

23 drops of bleach per cup

14 drops of hydrogen peroxide per cup

For this experiment, I soaked 10 spinach seeds in the diluted bleach for 4 hours. Then, for 15 hours, I soaked the seeds in filtered water that was ph leveled to 6.0. Next, I planted the seeds in moistened rapid rooters (compressed tree bark) and used an eyedropper to to fill each hole with the diluted hydrogen peroxide mixture. I planted them into the rapid rooters today (Nov. 27, 2011) at 2:40 pm. Let's see if I have better luck getting these seeds to germinate.

I have the rapid rooters in a humidity dome with two 4-foot 6500K florescent tubes on a 15-hour timer. As a side note, I'm not sure, but it seems it might be significant that all of the spinach that sprouted was in the first row. It seems to get the same strength of light and moisture as the rest. Any ideas?

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