The New Year is here, and with it the excitement of planning your 2014 garden. Whether you’ve been gardening for years or have never sown a seed in your life, you’ll want to begin as many of your plants as possible from seed. The difference in price between seeds and plants is staggering (with many varieties simply not available to buy as plants), and the satisfaction of watching a seedling sprout and grow is one of the finest joys in all of gardening. So how can you start seeds easily and efficiently every time?
Well, the old-fashioned way involves trays of special seed-starting soil that you sow generously with seeds, then place on top of the refrigerator to germinate. (Refrigerators used to be warm on top, creating a nice little heat mat for germinating seeds!) When the seeds sprout, you thin them (“weeding out” all but a few well-spaced seedlings) and then, as the young plants grow larger, you transplant each one into a pot. Finally, when spring arrives, you transplant them again, this time into the garden. Whew!
There is a much easier way, and it involves no waste of seeds and no need to transplant indoors. It’s less costly than buying Jiffy peat pots for every single plant you start, and it can be re-used almost indefinitely. It’s called the Bio Dome Seed Starter, and ever since we introduced it about 15 years ago, it has been our bestselling seed starter, garnering rave reviews from hundreds of gardeners. The Bio Dome works because it offers everything that seeds need to germinate and seedlings need to thrive: a well-aerated, soilless growing medium; bottom-watering; a protected environment that can be adjusted from very humid to humidity-free; and adequate space for both top growth (leaves and stems) and root system development.
As you can see, the Bio Dome is a sturdy plastic unit with a wide, deep bottom tray; a planting block filled with nicely spaced, tapered cylindrical cells (they’re wider at the top than at the bottom); soilless bio sponges that fit into the cells; and a clear plastic dome with adjustable vents. To start your seeds in the dome, all you do is moisten the bio sponges and drop one seed into each one. Then pour enough water into the bottom of the tray that the planting block floats, and place the dome onto the tray. You’re done — with no mess, no wasted seeds, and no worrying about finding a warm, draft-free place in the cool winter house!
Here’s how the Bio Dome works: the bio sponge wicks up moisture from the bottom of the tray, so your seed (and eventually your seedling) is never over- or under-watered. As the seedling grows, its roots grow downward (seeking water) instead of spiraling around the stem. The bio sponge is so porous that the roots will grow through it and out into the surrounding soil once the plant is transplanted into your garden.
The bio sponges are spaced so that your seedlings can grow those all-important first sets of true leaves without becoming too crowded. You never have to thin them. If a seed does not sprout (which is inevitable, Mother Nature being the fickle genius she is!), simply drop another seed into that bio sponge. You never have to double-sow or waste a single seed.
The Bio Dome also has a clear plastic dome with adjustable vents to control the amount of humidity the seeds and seedlings receive. If you are starting seeds in a cold winter room, keep the dome on and the vents closed. As your seedlings grow, adjust the vents accordingly, propping the dome up to admit more air or removing it entirely. When it’s time to transplant your seedlings into the garden, the dome eases the transition: you can place the entire Bio Dome in a shaded, protected location outdoors for a day or two, keeping the dome on at first and then gradually removing it as your young plants become acclimatized to the outdoor world. Then just lift up the planting block and push the bio sponges out from the bottom, with no risk of injuring the young stems by pulling on them. They’re ready for their permanent home in your garden!
The original (and still the most popular) Bio Dome contains 60 cells, but we also offer one with 40 larger cells that has also become a bestseller. The larger cells enable you to grow bigger, stockier plants, which is useful especially in northern areas, where spring transplanting can be delayed for several weeks due to late frosts. We even have an 18-cell model for starting extra-large or fast-growing plants! The good thing is that all 3 of these sizes fit into the same Bio Dome tray, so you can experiment with each of them without buying a new tray or dome.
When we introduced the Bio Dome, not even a season had passed before our customers were asking for a “double dome.” Most folks who start from seed wind up starting LOTS of seeds, so the double dome made sense. We commissioned our supplier to design one, and the result is a tray and dome that holds 2 planting blocks! Again, you can use any combination of 60-cell, 40-cell, and 18-cell planting blocks in the double dome — one size fits all.
And this season, we have an exciting new addition to the Bio Dome family: the Bio Dome Pro! With 144 cells, this is our biggest dome yet, and it also offers a few refinements on the original Bio Dome, such as a higher, sloping dome; a capillary mat beneath the planting block for moisture wicking; and a deep reservoir in the tray. It boasts all the classic features of the Bio Dome, plus improvements!
Whichever model you select, the Bio Dome is a lifetime investment in the beauty of your garden. All you ever have to replace are the inexpensive bio sponges, which more than pay for themselves by saving seeds (only 1 per sponge!) and creating the perfect growth medium for seedlings. You already know that starting your garden from seed will save you tons of money. Now make the most of every seed — and enjoy the seed-starting process without the uncertainty and waste of messy flats and pots! — with the Bio Dome.