Summer Seed Starting

Megan Venturella
Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

I know this is a very un-seasonal question, but last summer I was unable to successfully start seeds during the hot months. I usually do lots of succession planting so it was really a drag. My climate is very hot in the summer, so I’d start the seedlings on the porch, but I’d have to move them back to direct sun or they’d get leggy within a few days. They wouldn’t even last one day without watering. I tried putting the seedlings in the shade of other plants, but something sliced them all off at dirt level. My final thought was to either try moving them to the east side of the house or to buy shade cloth. Has anyone else had this problem and found any solutions?

It would be nice to be able to start plants from seed in the summer!

Comments

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

    I don't have the climate to do succession planting for anything that needs to be started inside.

    However, I do plant lettuce in succession and as lettuce prefers a cooler soil to germinate, it is often too hot by mid summer. So my solution is to freeze large blocks of ice, about 4-5" square and as long as I can find containers for. Then I place the blocks of ice directly over the rows of newly planted lettuce seed. The evening is best for this. The blocks melt and cool the soil enough for the seeds to germinate. I've done experiments with a row of unchilled seeds a few feet away from the chilled row and there is definitely a difference in the germination rate. Almost none in the unchilled row and very good in the chilled row.

    I think shade cloth is the answer in your situation.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey Thank you! I’ll try the shade cloth like you said, but the ice was a fascinating idea I may use at some point.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,991 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What type of crop are you planting? I start new plants all through the heat of the summer, with highs reaching into the 90s, and I always start them from seed directly in the outside ground, in the sun. Of course, the solar power north of 40 degrees latitude is weaker than farther south.

    You do need to keep your starter plants watered, and that can mean watering them every day. Planting the seeds a little deeper in hot weather may help them remain at a more moderate temperature and stay better hydrated.

    Consider a lightweight row cover to reduce the amount of evaporation.

    I successfully start lettuce and spinach, definitely not hot-weather crops, in late summer for fall growth and harvest.

    Selecting the right varieties can also matter. For example, some types of lettuce are more heat-tolerant than others.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,542 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Shade cloth for sure. If you have local greenhouses nearby sometimes they replace their cloth and you can get their old for free or dirt cheap.

    @torey I love the ice idea. It won't be needed her but down south I can see it would be very beneficial.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    Mostly it was tomatoes I couldn’t start! But those are all great suggestions. I’m at latitude 36, but it was so hot I had to water sometimes twice a day if I recall. I like the idea of starting the seeds right in the ground with shade cloth over them. I had never thought of that, so it gives me another tool in my arsenal to try this year. Thank you!

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie What a good idea! I’ll be on the lookout for old used shade cloth now.

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella I get very hot & dry during the summer as well. It can be a real challenge to keep things damp enough. I would strongly recommend shade cloth or filtered sun, like under a tree. I have my tomatoes started already inside under a grow light. For me the best time to start seeds is Jan 1. Many tomatoes will not pollinate over 90* so they will not set fruit during the heat of the summer, but will ripen anything that has set. I have better luck with smaller tomatoes germinating during warmer months. What I really struggle to do succession planting with is lettuce. It seems to take forever for the seeds to germinate. I saved some seeds from a few years ago to take this year, but thats it. I also bought new seeds this year to see if that helps. Maybe mine are just to old. I tried everything last year to get carrots and lettuce to grow including leaving them in the fridge in takeout containers for 2 weeks. Nothing.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,542 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @gardneto76

    Do you start your lettuce directly in the garden or start seedlings? I have found that by using seedling I have a better success rate.

    Try freezing your lettuce seeds that seem to be slow to germinate. One week should do fine. sometimes it kick starts them in to germinating.

    Carrots need constant moisture to germinate evenly and successfully. If they dry out, even a little is makes a huge difference in their germination.

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie I had done both direct seeding in the dirt garden, aquaponics, and starting the seeds in the house in seed blocks. I have left my seeds in the freezer from 1-2 weeks or in the fridge for up to a year (I forgot those ones) prior to putting them into dirt. After getting nothing in my starting trays I read to have them in dirt in the fridge for a few weeks, so that tray went back into the fridge. Still nothing. As I said I think I was working with way old seed as this year I tried seeds that are only a year or 2 old and they seem to be doing pretty well so far. One of the down sides of having a seed addiction is that some times you try to grow with seeds that are no longer viable. Upon looking at the dates on the lettuce seeds they were packaged for 2014- 2015. Whoops good thing I got new ones.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,542 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @gardneto76 Those were slightly aged seeds :)

    What new lettuce seed varieties did you get?

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie I ordered from Johnny’s and I got Tango, Spritzer, & Bauer. I sadly have not tried any yet as I got my crimson seeds I saved to grow well this year. That’s hubby’s favorite lettuce.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭✭

    Where I live gets really hot and humid during the summer. In some of the seed catalogs there is a section of heat tolerant choices and I find those do better for me in the hot months.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    Using ice blocks sounds very good. If we have another hot summer like the last couple, I'll definitely try it.