Peat pellets are compressed peat, a coarse wafer of crushed peat moss with nutrients added. Some types are enclosed in a mesh that eventually disintegrates. When water is added, the pellets swell into small cylinders of peat about 2 inches across and seven times the original height. The following steps outline the procedures for starting seeds in peat pellets.
- To prepare the pellets for planting, arrange them side by side in a shallow pan. Add enough warm water to cover the pellets, adding more water as needed until they are fully expanded.
- When the pellets have reached their full size, use a pencil point to make one to three shallow planting holes in the top of each pellet (one when the seed is large, three when using smaller seeds), spaced as far apart as possible. Poke the seeds into the planting holes about 1/4 inch, then press lightly with your thumb to cover the holes. Label each set of seeds.
- Tent the containers with plastic. Keep the pellets in a well-lighted area but out of direct sunlight. As soon as the seeds germinate, poke holes in the plastic tent to increase ventilation and prevent overheating.
- When the pellets begin to turn a lighter brown and dry out, add warm water to the container. Remember that at this stage they must stay moist but not soaking wet. After germination, reduce watering slightly, but do not let the seedlings dry out.
- When the seedlings show their second set of true leaves, remove the tent and reduce watering. Place the containers in a south-facing window where they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. At this stage seedlings do best in temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees during the day, dropping about 10 degrees at night. Turn the container daily to keep the stems growing straight. Plants are heliotropic, which means they bend toward the light.
- As the seedlings begin to crowd each other, use scissors to thin them to one per pot, snipping off the weak ones. If you pull out the extras, you may unintentionally pull up the one you want to keep, because the roots are tangled.
- Three to four weeks after the seeds have germinated, begin applying diluted liquid fertilizer.
- When the roots begin to grow through the bottoms of the pots, it’s time to transplant into the garden.