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Seed Flats

Even seed rice will fail if it is germinated incorrectly. Rather than provide options, I'll tell you exactly what I did.

Fortunately for me, a farmer friend had been working on a good way to germinate small batches of rice seedlings. He gave me two styrofoam flats with dozens of little cells for the seedlings. Kind of like a flat honeycomb. The seed flats float in water and the bottom of each cell has a small hole. You can find the floating flats at agricultural outlets.

For the starter soil, I used an 8 quart bag of Country Cottage Seed Starter. Containing Sphagnum Peat Moss, Vermiculite and Limestone (pH adjuster). I placed the soil in the styrofoam cells; filling each cell until it was level at the top. I had trouble with the starter mix falling through the holes in the bottom. You should fill the cells on a flat surface, like a driveway or sidewalk.

I had to add the starter on a flat surface, then immediately add some water, to make the starter a little sticky. It still didn�t work perfectly. When I put the first flat in the water, some of the cells didn�t absorb the water because there was no starter in the very bottom of the flat. I had to push the floating flats down a little, into the water, to get all of the cells moist.

(Later, when the soil was moist, it stuck to the cells. In the end, plenty of soil remained.)

For my water container, I used a large, 48" long x 24" wide x 18" high plastic equipment box that I usually carry in the back of my pickup truck. It has a lid to keep out the rain. It also has handles, which proved to be very useful.

I filled the box with 8 inches of luke warm water and placed the flats on the water. Here's a cross-section of the contraption:

growing rice

Ideally, the weather will be warm enough to keep the container outside. But, the handles enabled us to lug it inside when it was cold. I used the lid only when it was raining or on cool nights.

This year (2002) I'm using the same contraption. But, I'm also testing the little heated, covered seed flats* that you can find in any garden center. They have an electric base mat that provides warmth and peat "pill" starting pots.

* UPDATE:
The heated seed flats (Jiffy Pots) didn't work out. But, regular starter pots, with a 50% - 50% mix of peat and vermiculite, on an open tray of water, worked very well. See the 2002 updates for more information.

Synthetic containers and styrofoam flats? Maybe I'm missing the point! After all, the goal of this project is to grow natural, organic rice that isn't spliced, diced or exposed to toxins. So, why the mini-laboratory?

Even if you live near a rice paddy, you're still going to have to figure out a way to germinate the seeds. Traditional methods involve soaking the seeds, then wrapping them in a moist sack and transferring the very tiny germinating plants into a bed of soft soil, at just the right time. Then you transfer them again, into the paddy.

This can be done in warmer locations. If you go this route, read up and please let us know of your success. I agree with you. Our method can produce 98% germination, but there is room for improvement.