Seed germination.... it's simple right!? Usually it is. But, sometimes problems do occur. The problem is easy to describe....... usually it's "my seeds didn't germinate". There are many causes of poor seed germination. Fortunately, most causes of poor germination are easily corrected.
Mother Nature produces a vast array of types of seeds. All seeds have a couple of things in common that is needed for germination. They all need moisture and warmth. The similarity stops here.
Successful seed starting begins by knowing the ideal germination conditions for the specific seed you are trying to sprout. Each seed has an ideal soil temperature and moisture requirements for successful germination. Some seeds like cool soils, while others need warm soil to spout. Some seeds like wet soil, while others need moist to slightly dry conditions. Seed planting depth varies from seed to seed. Some seeds need light to sprout, while others begin life under the dark soil.
Did You Know? Poor soil fertility IS NOT a cause of poor germination. Seeds will sprout, even in poor soils. However, as soon as they sprout, they need nutrients to grow and thrive.
Since we have no control over the seed germination conditions, all seed sales are final.
Here are the common seed germination problems:
Seeds are planted too deep - We list this problem first, because many seeds end up too deep in the soil, and never see the light of day. Before planting, check the seed packet. Make sure to plant the seeds no deeper than the depth indicated. For tiny or fine seeds, it may be better to sow them on top of the soil, and water them in. This is especially important in loose soils.
Seed viability, simply put: "is the seed capable of sprouting?" Old or improperly stored seed may no longer be good. This is a common problem if you harvest and save your own seeds. It can also occur if you save seeds in poor storage conditions. How do you know if the seed is viable? Do a seed germination test by sprouting some seeds indoors on a wet paper towel inside of a baggie.
Heavy, compacted soil makes it difficult for young seedlings to emerge into the spring air. If you have clay or other heavy soils, use a light soil or seed starting mix to cover your seeds.
Temperature is an important trigger to seeds. Nature causes each type of seed to awaken at a certain temperature, below which they will not sprout. As spring progresses towards summer, the soil warms. First, cool weather crops emerge. Then heat loving plants emerge, sprouting as the soil warms to the temperature needed for germination. Raising the soil temperature will increase seed germination rates and decrease germination times.
Everyone knows a seed needs moisture to sprout. Note, we said moisture not water. A little moisture is all that's needed. A lot of water, especially for prolonged periods, causes seeds to rot in the soil. Increase drainage by elevating the soil, or using raised beds. This is especially useful in rainy, spring weather.
Soil imbalance is usually associated with poorly growing crops. Soils with extremely high or low pH is detrimental to the growth of a new seedling. We recommend a soil test prior to planting each year.
Tips for Improving Seed Germination:
Pre soaking seeds prior to planting helps hard to sprout seeds. This works well for bigger seeds, and hard shelled seeds. It softens the seed coat, and helps moisture to reach the "nut" inside.
Nicking seeds is a common practice for peas and hard shelled seeds. It helps moisture to reach the "nut" inside.
Plastic mulch aids in raising the soil temperature to speed germination outdoors. Black plastic works best, but must be removed before the seeds sprout.
Germination mats a raise the soil temperature in your seed trays. They are the perfect indoor solution to improving seed germination. It can have amazing results.