This also means that you will want to keep your seeds in a place that is naturally warm and well-lit. In the early days of your seedlings, they may not need much direct light — but they will still need some sunlight. You can also invest in UV lamps, which will have a dual purpose of both providing additional light for your seedlings and also making them warmer. Most seedlings prefer temperatures that are between 60 to 70 degrees. If you purchased a seed packet, it may state the ideal temperatures for the seed on the packet. Otherwise, you can check an online soil temperature chart for the seeds you are planting.
Among the most critical stages in the growth of garden vegetables is seed germination. Germination is the process in which a seed grows into a new plant. There are a lot of variables that can come into play during seed germination, and in turn, a lot of things that can go wrong. Therefore, educating yourself on the important factors affecting this process can help ensure a successful garden.
Whether you’re using your own heirloom seeds or purchasing seeds from a garden store, germination is going to be highly dependent on environmental conditions. If you haven’t had luck germinating many of your seeds in the past, it could be due to light, warmth, moisture, or a variety of other issues. Here are some simple gardening tips for getting better, faster germination for all types of seeds.
3. Monitor Your Seed’s Environment
On the other hand, if seeds from multiple sources are failing to germinate, you may need to look into either your soil or your water. Your potting soil may not have sufficient moisture absorption or drainage, or your water may need to be filtered. You may also be in an environment that is too cold for seeds to properly germinate, in which case you may need to invest in something to warm the soil.
If your seeds have failed to germinate, even given the above tips, it is fully possible the seeds themselves were duds. If seeds weren’t stored properly — they could have been left in a hot mailbox, for instance — they may simply not be able to germinate. If seeds were stored in a very cold area, they may be taking some time to “wake” up. And there are some seeds that simply cannot germinate; many seeds that are culled from grocery store vegetables and herbs, for instance, are never going to be able to germinate.
If you’re failing to germinate seeds outside, starting them inside can help. Purchase a seed tray and plant a few seeds in each one. After your seedlings have grown, you can then move them outside to continue to develop. This protects your plants during their most vulnerable period, and lets you completely control the amount of water they get. In the early stages of growth, a single storm could wipe out your new plants!
Once your seeds have been placed and you’ve started monitoring garden temperatures, you simply need to keep them well-watered until they germinate. Too little moisture and the seeds won’t germinate; too much moisture and they could actually begin to rot instead of developing. Some seeds simply take a long time to germinate to begin with. Lavender, for instance, can take anywhere from four to six weeks to germinate. During this time, resist the urge to try to check on the seeds or disturb the oil. Instead, just continue watering as needed and monitoring your sensors.
Pre-sprouting lets you germinate the seeds first, and then you can place the sprouted seed with the root into a seedling container to grow. You can see the seed and don’t have to wonder if it is doing anything under the soil. Other advantages of pre-sprouting your seeds include:
Step 1: Line your container with paper towels. I like several layers of paper towels, so I fold them in half and cut to fit. If you are using plastic bags, fold and cut your paper towels to fit.
How to Pre-Sprout Seeds
This article was originally published on March 5, 2014. It has been updated with additional information, photos, and video.
Step 3: Dampen your paper towels. Spray the paper towels with your spray bottle. You are aiming for the paper towels to be damp, not dripping. If you notice the water pooled in your container, dump out the extra.
Step 6: Check seeds daily. Examine your seeds each day for germination and to make sure the towel stays damp. Spray the towel if needed.
For the first 1-2 weeks after planting them in pots, mist the seedlings or gently water them, and keep the soil moist. They are fragile and can fall over easily!
In a pot filled with soil, sprinkle some seed, add a thin layer of soil, water thoroughly. And wait.
Sounds familiar? Once you try the paper towel method to start seeds, you will rarely go back to the soil method. Here’s why.
Cons of germinating seed on paper towel:
For most types of seeds, this is our go-to gardening secret! 🙂 Germinating seeds in 1/3 time with 3X more success, yes, you have to try this!
This is very important, because a closed container can get super hot, and all the germinating seeds would die from the heat.
Start checking on them the next day. If the seeds are really fresh, some will germinate in as little as 1 day! The fastest germinating seeds include everything in the cabbage family – bok choi, broccoli, kale, cauliflower etc, and lettuce.
It is important to have pots and soil ready to go.