How to Germinate Seeds

Posted by on Nov 15, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on How to Germinate Seeds

In this week’s episode, we’re going deep with how to germinate seeds, which can sometimes feel like a choose-your-own-adventure. Because all seeds are not created equal, we wanted to cover some basic practices, common misconceptions, and reliable resources for gardeners to turn to if they want to know more.

You can listen in here, or download for later:

Episode 24: Germination, Working With Different Plant Seeds

Why Start Your Plants From Seed At All?
Not All Seeds Behave Alike!
Back of the Seed Packet: Best Place for Info?
Plant Seeds Need: Time, Temperature, Agitation
Best Practices for Germination
Seeds Every Month Survey

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Why Start Your Plants From Seed At All?

You’re about to find out some news that might sour you here and there on planting from seed. So, you might begin to wonder why you should even bother.

Of course, it’s can be so tempting to just resort to buying a whole garden’s worth of plants from a retailer. (Pssst: check out Episode 2 how to Source Healthy Plants for a Healthy Garden for great tips on buying transplants).

But don’t act too fast! Before we even mention a downside, you should know that there are three major upsides to starting your plants from seed:

  • The selection of varieties is WAY, WAY BIGGER!
  • Seeds are much cheaper than plants
  • Many plants are easier to start from seed – cucumbers for example struggle when transplanted

Not All Seeds Behave Alike!

Here’s where I gave Liz a pop quiz, trying to get her to figure out which seeds are easy, which are a little bit tricky, and then which ones are downright crazy to attempt to start from seed.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to figure which fruits and veggies are tougher to start than others.

Peas, beans and radishes are all super simple. While lettuce is easy when you broadcast it, it can prove really difficult if you bury it too deep, as it needs light to germinate.

Peppers can take 2 weeks or longer to germinate, while tomatoes, which look so similar, sprout in closer to 5-10 days.

Both apples and potatoes are better started as ‘clones’, as their seeds rarely produce offspring that resemble the parent plant.

Florida Jack Pines and Giant Sequoia trees in the Redwood Forest both need exposure to fire in order to release their seeds from the tightly coiled pinecones.

Back of the Seed Packet, Best Place for Info?

Here’s where things get really tricky!

Of course, in many ways the back of your seed packet has some of the best info available, and that’s exactly what you should be consulting if you’re standing in the store shopping for seeds.

But there’s a catch: there’s only so much space available for the seed company to give you what they think is the best info, but all of that info is subject to some serious variables.

For example, if the packaging says that a seed may take from 7-21 days to sprout, what it might really mean is that it depends on how warm your soil is. OR, on how cold it is, depending on the seed’s temperature preference.

Because you’ll often need slightly more info than the packet can give you, it’s good to have a handy gardening book at the ready or to visit a couple of well-known websites to fill in the blanks. Here’s a favorite of ours:

Plant Seeds Need: Time, Temperature and Agitation

So, what do seeds want? What exactly are these variables that make for good germination (sprouting)?

Water: activates enzymes that begin the germination process and then water also delivers nutrition to the plant roots as they begin to develop. This downward growth actually occurs just before the teeny plant unravels itself and seeks out the sun. So, always make sure that you’re planting seeds in wet soil!
Time: all seeds have a different timeframe in mind, germination-wise. This is because some seeds have thicker, harder cases than others. They chose to put some energy into a longer-term storage plan, in hope that they might stay genetically viable for longer.
Temperature: really determines individuality: some seeds thrive in colder soil, like spinach and parsley. Others need warm soil temps, like peppers and tomatoes.
Agitation: what we’re really talking about here is how deep the seeds want to be planted. Do they need a quick route to the sun, or a longer time to be buried deep down, allowing their cases to be slowly softened by water?

So, you can see how much different variables matter when saying that a seed takes 7-21 days to germinate!

Germination IS the Goal

Our hope is that you use this info to craft a plan that improves your germination results.

With some good research on the seeds that you’re planting, you should be able to get veggies that sprout every time.

Here’s our favorite ‘recipe’ for getting seeds to germinate:

  • Always buy ‘fresh seed’; seed that was harvested within the past year
  • Always pre-moisten the soil before planting seeds
  • Soak your seeds in warm water for two hours
  • Cover freshly-planted seeds with germinating mix; a light and airy soil medium that works well with all seeds

Seeds Every Month Survey

Hey – we’re giving away free seed collections in exchange for 4 short answers from you!

We’re really excited to roll out our Seeds Every Month website shortly – think Seeds of the Month Club meets awesome online gardening classes (also delivered monthly!)

Each 6-seed collection will be paired with a short and sweet gardening class aimed at growing your knowledge – the fun way.

We would love for you to help us out by visiting our 4-question survey here – enter your email address and you could win free seeds!

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food. Remember to enter your first name and email address below to access the FREE Video series.

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