Turbo Seeder - Sowing Tips

The Blackmore Turbo and Gear machines are capable of sowing such hard to handle seeds as raw begonia and marigolds. This section offers a few tips we’ve learned through the years about sowing these difficult seeds. Most begonias are now sown pelletized which makes them very easy to sow, but marigolds continue to offer challenges. The Blackmore Needle model has a different manifold action and will handle marigolds quite readily, but this precludes it from using the special counter-bore manifold used for begonia.
Sowing Raw Begonias with Counter-Bore Begonia Manifold (top)
>>(pelleted begonias are sown with needle tips)
Thoroughly clean the seed inventory tray with hot soapy water, and dry completely.

Use the seed wipe-off brush and the following settings:

To get the best results when sowing raw begonia, follow these procedures:
  1. Open seed packets only as needed so they will not attract moisture.
  2. Place a lamp close to the seed tray and leave it on over night. This warms the surfaces, driving off accumulated moisture which can cause seeds to stick together.
  3. Use a magnifying glass to inspect the seed pickup holes in the manifold. A hole without a seed should reflect more light.
  4. Clean the manifold regularly with rubbing alcohol or other oil-less solvent. Take the set screws out of the bottom and hold the manifold up to the light to check if holes are clear. Keep the manifold clean and dry. Return manifold to Blackmore for factory cleaning and inspection (no charge if you purchase Blackmore trays).
  5. If seed won’t float to the bottom of the tray, use a small amount of baby powder (talcum) on a small paint brush, (not enough that you can really see it) applying it across the seed inventory tray. This will reduce friction and keep seeds moving freely.
  6. Grounding strap -- this bleeds any electrical charge (static) away from the seed inventory tray. It is normally connected between a seed tray hold down clamp and other part of the machine.
  7. Avoid sowing begonias first thing in the morning when humidity levels in the greenhouse may be highest.
  8. Use a tissue-type fabric softener on the manifold, seed tray and drop tube assembly to eliminate static. Warning: use as a last resort as this sometimes creates a problem
  9. Sow pelleted begonias. They are much easier to deal with, and you can see where they go!

Good luck...

Sowing Marigolds -- Including How to Fill Trays (top)
Sowing marigolds involves special considerations and allowances. Because of the nature of the seed, sowing accuracy is not as high as with other more uniformly-shaped seed. Seed placement may be near 100% if multiple placement of 10-20% is permitted, which is often preferred as the seed is not a great germinator. By playing the averages using multiple seed placement, rather than single seed placement, better stands result, with little extra cost ultimately. Coated marigolds may be a bit easier to sow and may provide better singulation if you don’t mind the extra cost.
Seed must be acalyculated (de-tailed), to be effectively used with the seeder. A short, thick cultivar such as Apollo may be sown with excellent results. The French varieties, even if “teched”, may be difficult to sow. Experience will dictate what varieties are sown most effectively.

MARIGOLDS- preparing trays

Filling trays in preparation for sowing marigolds also involves special consideration. Choose one of these methods

1) Nest and compress

Fill the plug trays as you normally would, then nest them in stacks of 10-15 and push down, compressing the mix so the cells are only about half full when sown. The seeds will fall into the partly empty cells for better placement. Run the trays through a Blackmore TopCoater or other covering machine to cover the seed. Brushing the tops of the trays clean prevents lateral root growth, thus keeping the marigolds growing in the cells in which they were sown for more efficient transplanting. This method is effective but doesn’t lend itself to inline operation. For more efficient inline operation a Marigold Roller/Dibbler should be used.

2) Marigold Roller/Dibbler

Blackmore’s special roller/dibbler prepares trays for marigold or other large seeds. Rather than dibbling with an inverted pyramid shape as does the standard roller/dibbler, this dibbler has a blunt profile to dibble the entire cell, thus making more room for marigold or other large seed. Click here to go to the Marigold R/D page.

Marigold Kit The marigold kit consists of a special seed inventory tray with hump/dividers separating either 14 or 20 slots. Narrow slots (sometimes useful when sowing small quantities of seed) and high dividers in the tray help align the seeds for pickup, and a special clear plastic drop tube “funnels” them into the plug tray. Special socket head 1/4-20 x ½ holochrome screws, used to mount the drop tube, are included with the kit. The drop tube is also used for dahlias, zinnias and other oversize seed. The attachment is available for all trays. Some growers use the special seed inventory tray when sowing small quantities of seed.
A light application of baby powder to the seed tray will help the seeds slide down for pickup. If a high tilt setting and use of powder do not get the seeds to the bottom of the tray, it may be necessary to place a 2 x 4 piece of wood beneath the output end of the seeder (thus tilting the entire machine), to provide enough incline to the seed tray.

To make sure the seeds are exhausted from the tips rather than knocked off by the back edge of the drop tube, the low pressure blow-off timing may be advanced, forcing the seed to hit the front slanted edge of the drop tube and slide down to the seed tray. Click here to go to section about adjusting blow-off timing. The low-pressure blow-off switch is located on the control panel in back of the vacuum gauge. Turn the screw clockwise to advance the timing.

Don’t forget to return the screw to the original position after the marigolds are sown.

Blue or purple needles are most commonly used to sow marigolds, although the orange needle may be used on the slimmer varieties or when sowing at a slower speed.

The following settings are recommended for sowing marigolds:
2 - 3
4 - 10
4 - 5
30 - 50

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