How to Successfully Germinate Seeds
Most of us start our gardening journey with plants and when we feel we know enough (which is never enough) we move towards gardening with seeds. The first step of gardening with seeds is enough to test any gardener’s patience and that step is germination.
Germination is as much an exact science as it is just fate. Sometimes we do everything right and by the book and it still doesn’t work out and the seeds don’t germinate and we have been getting a lot of queries about seed germination rates falling in the winters.
So here it is a detailed guide to help you in the process of germination, so that you have more hits than misses and more sprouts than duds.
Seed germination – what is it?
Every seed today is a plant of tomorrow. The beauty of a seed is that its neither dead nor alive and given the right care but given the right care it will turn into a plant. Seeds germination refers to the sprouting of the seed into a new plant. When the right environmental conditions of temperature, light, and moisture are provided, the seeds start their metabolic activities that first give rise to the shoot development and then the root development.
Let’s take a look at the process or steps of seed germination.
Select the seeds as per season. Summer seeds need a higher temperature to sprout, as compared to winter seeds.
Fill small seedling pots, paper cups, plastic cups or any such small planter with a well-draining potting mix. Make sure the planter has good drainage holes
- Moisten the soil and let all the water drain out from the drainage hole at the bottom.
- Sow the seeds at a depth of not more than twice or thrice the diameter of the seed itself. Don’t press the seed in too deep.
- It is always better to start your seeds indoors where it is easier to control light and temperature of the soil. Seeds germinate the best between 20 to 30 degree Celsius. It is also important to remember that the moist soil temperature is always a few degrees lower than the ambient temperature.
- For the first two day your can cover the seedling tray or your germination setup with a jute rag or a corrugated carboard to trap the moisture and heat and also provide darkness. Seeds germinate quicker in the dark.
- After two days, when you can see tiny sprouts come up, remove the cover on top if you have used one and place the setup in a well-lit area indoors.
- Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, by watering it regularly with either a spray or bottom watering. Watering carefully with teaspoons also works fine, take care to not move the soil or drown the seedling.
- Once the first two sets of cotyledon leaves (round leaves) come up. Place the seedling setup in a much brightly lit area like windowsill or shaded balconies where it doesn’t get direct harsh sun.
- Once the first 2 pairs of true leaves appear and the sapling is now more than a couple of inches tall, you can transplant it to your final planter with a good potting mix.
Factors that play an important role in Seed Germination
Temperature is extremely important for a successful seed germination. For example summer seeds such as sunflowers germinate at comparatively low temperature, while winter seeds need a comparatively higher temperature. The success of seed germination is the highest between 20 to 30 degree Celsius.
Moisture is the key factor In any germination process, it is what signals the seed to start germinating in the first place. The seeds absorb water and that is when the dormant metabolic activity starts, thus signalling the seeds to start growing.
So, keep you soil uniformly moist at all times. Use a misting spray, teaspoon, or bottom watering method to water the setup so as to avoid damaging the baby shoots or displacing the soil.
Just like plant roots, any germinating seeds also require air to successfully develop a root and shoot system. After the seed absorbs water, the seeds require oxygen to turn the stored food source into energy for the embryos to sprout.
Hence it is important for the soil to stay moist but not soggy and the potting mix to be loose and well-draining so air can flow through easily.
The soil for any germination process can neither be too clayey nor too loose. The main requirements are rich in nutrients, well-draining, and good anchorage. The soil has to be loose and light enough for air to move freely and for the seedling to push through the soil surface and come out.
Specialised seedling mix is a good choice, but unnecessary one. An equal mix of vermicompost or any other good quality compost, garden soil, coco peat and 10% perlite works well. I personally just germinate my seeds in a mix of 60% cow manure and any indoor potting mix.
Depth of Sowing
While some seeds like to be sown deep, there are some that need to be sown at the surface, while some need light to germinate and need to be simply sprinkled on top of the moist soil. Another factor that plays an important role in the depth of sowing is how heavy or compacted the soil is, with clayey soil it becomes difficult for small seeds to break through the surface on germination.
The general rule of thumb is to not sow the seeds at a depth more than twice to thrice the diameter of the seeds. Always cover the seeds wit a lose sprinkling of soil and not compact it by hand.
Pro tips for successful seeds germination
- Store your seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place.
- To further improve the chances of germinating and reduce the time span of the cycle, soak your seeds in water overnight before planting.
- Germinate you seeds in a moist potting mix. Moist but not soggy.
- Don’t let the soil stay dry for wo long keep wetting the topsoil in a controlled manner.