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Old 04-20-2010, 10:12 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 5,255
Burpee Seed Starter - crap, what do I do now?

I am not a gardener. I never have been. I find myself suddenly suffering from an abundance of yard so I decided to plant some flowers.

Probably 1/5 of our land gets a lot of sun and I love sunflowers so I decided to start some seeds in a Burpee seed starter. I have 5-7' seeds in half and 24" seeds in the other half.

Well, I only sowed the seeds 5 days ago and already the 5-7' seeds have sprouted (literally over 12 hours, I filled the water tray this morning and I had no sprouts). About half the sprouts are tall and almost touch the lid. The other half are about 1/4" to 1/2" tall.

But, the 24" seeds haven't sprouted at all.

The instructions say to remove the lid and put the tray in the sun after the sprouts emerge.

Should I wait until more of the seeds have sprouted? Should I take it off now?

Also, supposedly the sprouts weren't supposed to come up for another week and a half. It's not even May. How tall is safe to grow sunflowers in those little trays before transplanting? If I transplant them in the next 2 weeks, I can pretty much guarantee that we'll get snow (Massachusetts).

So far, I'm pretty happy with how this Burpee thing is working. I'm tempted to get another one to plant some other flowers or food.
Old 04-20-2010, 10:20 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 12,056
the lid is to help keep it from drying out so quickly. if you need to remove the lid to accommodate some plants you just need to keep the other ones moist, once a day watering should be OK.

those starters don't leave a lot of room for roots, if you let too many roots grow you will likely damage them when transplanting.

even if it is early plant then and start another set of seeds for replacements if those die in the snow or as additional plants.
Old 04-21-2010, 03:19 AM
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Wisconsin USA
Posts: 16,843
I've already planted sunflowers directly in the ground that I want. I've been pulling ones that are inches tall that dropped from the bird feeder in winter. They are very hardy started outdoors and grown outdoors. A little snow or frost will not kill ones sprouting from the ground. I'm in Wisconsin.

Those plastic hot house covers are for starting seeds that require high humidity and heat to germinate properly. Think tomatoes and peppers. Sunflowers will quickly get to big of a root system and need to be potted to an appropriate sized pot. Remove the plastic cover.

Plant some seeds outside directly in the ground where you want the plants and see how well they do. I'm sure in the end you will be happier with them than the plants you started indoors when you can compare them later. Seeds are usually cheap so experiment.
Old 04-21-2010, 09:22 AM
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: West Des Moines, Iowa
Posts: 5,928
Can you put plastic wrap over the ones that haven't sprouted? I don't use a seed starter box, I just use peat cups and cover them with clingfilm. This seems to work fine for me but I didn't grow sunflowers. (I did this for tomatoes, lettuce, nasturtiums, parsley, bush beans and basil with no apparently ill-effect.)
Old 04-21-2010, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: I'm right behind you!
Posts: 7,176
It sounds like they were in a warm place (good) but lacked a nearby, intense light source (bad). Meaning they sprouted quickly but some got 'leggy' reaching for the light. You can learn how to prevent that here. If the tall ones look really thin, you may just have to ditch them. You can also try re-potting them deeper than you normally would (with soil further up around their stems).

Someone in Cafe Society may have better advice.

ETA I agree that starting them indoors isn't really needed – they're pretty hearty. Same with green beans, though they are cool to watch grow. I've had quite a bit of luck starting my own herbs in seed starters then planting them in containers rather than the ground. Don't forget to slowly acclimate your seedlings to the outdoors before transferring them.

Last edited by Cat Fight; 04-21-2010 at 10:22 AM.
Old 04-21-2010, 10:53 AM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas, USA
Posts: 9,203
I'm a Texas gardener, so the idea of you still having to worry about snow is kind of mind-boggling. Around here it's getting into the 80s, so cool-season veggies like spinach, peas, etc. had better already be on their way to being mature, and I've already put tomatoes and peppers into the ground.

Anyway ....

Sunflowers are sturdy, as others have said, and are also a major cash crop in parts of Russia. If they can take Russian weather, they can take Massachusetts weather. I also vote for burying some of the seeds in the ground where you want the plants to ultimately be growing (minimum 6 hrs direct sun for sunflowers). Sunflowers are kind of a pain to start indoors, for reasons others have mentioned. Don't scatter them on top of the soil - they'll sprout, but the birds will likely get most/all first.

If you want instant color while you're waiting, you might consider going to one of the big-box home improvement stores and getting a flat of cheap annuals. Pansies come in a zillion colors, are unbothered by snow or frost (around here they're considered winter color ) and are really cheap. They'll keep going till the weather gets hot, and you can always plant your sunflower seedlings around them.

Welcome to gardening!
Old 04-21-2010, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 5,255
Well thank you everyone!

The seedlings don't feel too thin. Actually, they feel nice and dense. The other seeds sprouted over night but they're not as tall yet. They're just peeking through the soil.

The weather has been quite nice the last few weeks. Spring actually came very early (I spent Easter outside in a t-shirt instead of sledding).

It'll be a few days before I can get some more seeds to plant directly outside but I definitely will try that.

The spot I have in mind for the sunflowers is at the end of my driveway, around our lightpost. It's one of the few places in the yard that is nearly always in direct sunlight.

I definitely want to start growing veggies and fruit and I have so much space to do it but unless I plant them right in the middle of my front yard, sunlight may be an issue.
Old 04-21-2010, 11:57 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Lethbridge, AB.
Posts: 48,816
How are your beds? People new to gardening get all excited about the seeds and the flowers and stuff, but you have to start with good beds, or you might not be very happy with the results (and the time to make good beds is before you get plants in them). I'm in the same boat as you are, chomping at the bit waiting for the frosts to end so I can start planting (although I think I could put seeds in very soon now), but I'm using this time to turn over my beds and add peat and compost (we have a yard that is new to us, and it needs more beds and for the old beds to get rejuvenated).
Old 04-21-2010, 12:11 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 5,255
There is no bed around the lamppost. There is only one bed and I have no clue how it is.

I need to take a soil sample to the gardening people but I haven't had the car since they told me to bring one in. They said they'd tell me what my soil needs for whatever I'm planning on planting. I'm hoping to take some soil down tomorrow.

They're having a free gardening clinic soon, which I plan to go to since I am completely clueless. I don't have a clue how to start a bed.

My sister randomly planted some sunflowers last year and they grew beautifully. I was hoping to have the same luck. I just wanted to play with the Burpee thing, which is why I started the sunflowers already.
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