From Seed to You

At the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University, we don’t just buy in herbs and spring bedding plants and then sell them to customers. Other garden stores may buy plants that are pre-rooted and established, meaning that they were grown at a different facility and shipped to the garden center to be sold. Rather, we complete the entire process of producing many of our plants, starting with the seed. Some of the seed we sow are called “trials”, which are brand new varieties of seed that have been recommended by professionals for their promising vigor and uniqueness. We test out these seeds by recording how well they grow for us, and also how well they sell to customers. Based on the outcomes of the trials, we may or may not decide to use that same seed again the following year.

We have lots and lots of seed to sow! So much so that the student workers start seeding in late January and don’t finish until early to mid-March. The seeds are planted in very small plug trays, the first step of their journey. These trays are watered and then placed in our germination chamber, which is kept warm and humid to encourage the seeds to sprout. Depending on the type of plant, seedlings need to be kept in the chamber anywhere from one day to one week or more.

Greenhouse Pics
(Student Workers sowing seed)
(Seed trays in Germination Chamber)

Once the seeds begin sprouting, the tray is removed promptly from the germination chamber. If left in too long after the seeds begin growing, the stems will elongate and the plant will be fragile and easily broken. The trays are taken into the greenhouse and watered once or twice a day, depending on the intensity of the sun, with a special wand that finely disperses the water.

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(Student Worker watering seedlings)
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(Seedling plug trays on our greenhouse bench

After the little seedlings grow and are deemed large and healthy enough, we transplant the plugs into larger trays, typically 806 or 804 trays. Again, most will outgrow these trays and need to be transplanted into larger 4-inch diameter pots. Some may even need to be transplanted into yet larger 6-inch pots. All of the transplanting and general care of the plants takes a lot of attention and team effort to keep up with the quality that we strive to achieve at the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse. Needless to say, the greenhouse workers are very busy in the late winter and spring seasons.

806 tray
(Example of an 806 tray)
Greenhouse filling up with all of the plants we are growing, photo taken mid-March
Greenhouse filling up, photo taken mid-March

Come mid-April, all of our herbs and bedding plants will be ready for sale! It is a long and fun process, and our favorite part of the plant growing journey is interacting with our customers. We love being able to help them choose the plants that will fit best in their landscaping or container gardens, and answering all of the questions that may pop up regarding growth and care. It feels great knowing that people find beauty and value in what we work so hard to produce for them!

Please follow the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse Facebook page to keep up to date on us and learn more about what we do! Below is a link to our page.

If you are interested in growing your own plants from seed at home, here is a more detailed link to help get you started.

Post By: Brianna Voelker


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