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How to Germinate Seed

November 21st, 1999:

GUEST ARTICLE:

How to Germinate Seed

by Shelley Awad

March 28, 2001

Seeds require oxygen and water in order to germinate, making free flow of water and air a must. The first step to follow in raising successful plants from seed is to follow the directions given on the package. There are seeds that make exception to the tips given below, however, these tips will apply in many cases.

  • Seed can be covered with 2-4 times their thickness in soil (unless light is required for germination).
  • Sow seeds shallowly in a cold, wet season (spring).
  • Sow seeds deeper in a warm, dry season (summer).
  • Some seeds can be soaked overnight to aid germination (generally large seed).
  • Small seeds should be sprinkled on the soil and barely covered.
  • Water by misting is ideal for smaller seeds.
  • Keep soil moist, never soggy or dried out.
  • Average temperature is 70 degrees F unless stated otherwise.
  • Hardy annuals can withstand some frost and can be sown direct into the garden in early spring.
  • Half-hardy annuals will be killed by frost and should only be planted after danger of frost has passed. For earlier blooms, start seeds indoors or in a greenhouse.
  • Tender annuals require warmth and shelter and are best started in pots or flats indoors or in a greenhouse.
  • Hardy perennials can be sown direct in the garden, or started early in cold frames and greenhouses. Blooms the first year are advantages of starting them early. Some, like poppies, are best germinated at cooler temperatures, and may be started in spring or fall.
  • Tropicals and subtropicals need warm temperatures, with bottom heat and constant moisture beneficial. Use the top of your refrigerator, or electrical heated grow mats.
  • Aquatic plants are best started in pots, pans or shallow dishes and submerged so that the soil is under " of water.
  • Use a lighter, looser soil. To make a good seed starting soil at home, use 1/3 garden loam, 1/3 peat or compost, and 1/3 gritty sand.
  • Nick or crack hard-shelled seed to allow water to have direct contact with the seed.
  • Create a mini greenhouse effect with a plastic bag. This is very effective for slow germinating seeds and tiny seeds that should not dry out. As soon as the seedlings appear, begin hardening off.

I planted several types of seeds last November in my greenhouse, and much to my surprise, they sprouted in February. These include Himalayan Blue Poppies, Red Horn of the Bull Peppers, Angel's Trumpet Tree, Acacias and Mimosa. Our winter was extremely harsh and sunless! Luckily, I didn't give up on those November plantings! Our spring has also been colder this year, and I decided to wait until the last week of March to sow my annuals and perennials in the greenhouse. Sowing seed is economical, can be challenging and is very rewarding, and I am looking forward to experimenting with many seeds this year that I have never grown before.

 
 
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Written By: Shelley Awad
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