Seedstarting Tips
from Rebecca Kolls

Rebecca Kolls
Rebecca Kolls, and avid gardener and television personality, uses APS for seedstarting.

When spring rolls around and it's time to start seeds, avid gardener and television personality Rebecca Kolls fires up her indoor light garden and pulls out a stack of our Accelerated Propagation Systems (APS). "I started using APS about five years ago," she says, "and I still think they're the best seedstarting trays around. I re-use mine each year, soaking the trays and capillary matting in a bleach solution—1 part bleach mixed into 9 parts water—before getting started in the spring. Sometimes I do a little scrubbing with a toothbrush, but generally it's not needed."

When we asked her what type of seedstarting mix she uses, she said, "I believe that using a sterile, soilless mix is critical. If you've ever lost seedlings to damping off, as I have, it's heartbreaking and definitely not worth the risk. The Professional Germinating Mix offered by Gardener's Supply, has a very fine texture and works very well in the APS. I cut off the top of the bags and put warm water inside to pre-moisten the mix, and then fill each of the growing cells."

Keeping your seedlings well watered can be a challenge for busy gardeners like Rebecca, who is often on the road and away from home for many days at a time. "The fact that the APS has its own water reservoir is one of the features I like best," she said. "You can fill the reservoir up with water and the capillary matting will make sure every one of the growing cells stays moist. That's very important for good germination and strong root growth. I also like the water-level indicators. They're very accurate and save time since there's no need to lift up the growing tray to see whether or not there's water inside the reservoir."

We asked Rebecca if she had any other good tips for getting her flower and vegetable seeds to germinate under lights.

  • Make sure you use the clear plastic top that comes with the APS. Keep it on until the second you see green poking above the soil surface and then take it right off.
  • If you're growing under lights, adjust them frequently so they are always as close to the plant leaves as possible, without touching.
  • Once the seedlings have a set or two of true leaves, start fertilizing them weekly with a half-strength liquid fertilizer. Rebecca has had good success with PHC for Seedlings, which contains beneficial organic nutrients such as kelp and humic acids.

As a well-known radio and television personality, Rebecca is frequently on the road. With her free time at a premium, we wondered why she takes the time to start her own plants from seed.

"By January, my seed catalogs always have lots of corners turned down, with new varieties that I'm eager to try," said Rebecca. "Since I know most nurseries only carry the common varieties, I make a point to start the unusual ones myself. Heirloom tomatoes and herbs are some of my favorites. I also start flowers that I know I need a lot of, such as lobelia and alyssum. It's great to have more than enough flowers to go around."

The seedlings Rebecca starts indoors get planted into the gardens around her home in Wisconsin. For pictures of her garden, visit Rebecca's website at:

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