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It requires a lot of patience, care and attention to all the details relating to germinating and growing your plants. There is an actual science to all of this! Just putting seeds in dirt does not automatically mean they will magically appear as a fully grown, well-developed plants. Also, keep in mind the seeds sold at places like Home Depot and garden centers are usually a breeze to grow, so consumers have gotten used to those basic, easy-to-grow varieties and think all seeds are like that.
Here are some ideas to ensure your seeds have the best shot at growing to their full potential!
•Confirm the temperature your specific seeds need to properly germinate with a simple Google search. Within a range there is a minimum temperature, a sweet spot, and a maximum temperature. Too cold or too hot and the seed either cannot sprout (cold) or may sprout and die (hot).
•Plants must be able to germinate and develop in your local growing zone. For example, plants that grow well in cool climates will struggle with the heat of warmer climates. If a certain type of plant grows well in your area, find unique varieties that you love. It’s an uphill battle trying to grow plants that are not suited for your conditions. And possibly a losing battle.
•Try planting just a portion of your seeds to confirm they are germinating under your conditions. If there is a problem, you can then adjust and plant the remaining seeds.
•Fully research the type of plants you want to grow to make sure you are providing them all of the conditions they require. Some may need stratification (varying the temperature), such as pre-chilling seeds in the fridge, or introduction to warmer soil. Some need to be scarified (a small nick in the seed coating to allow better germination).
•Some plants need a lot of water. And some don’t. You need the correct balance of water. When you water your garden, it may seem like the plants are getting a “deep” watering. But the water might only be soaking down 3 inches when a strong root system needs enough water for their root system to grow much deeper. You can check this by digging out a section of soil after watering to see how far the water really goes down.
On the other spectrum, if you are over-watering, some seeds will fail to germinate, get moldy, or even be unable to grow. Too little moisture and the seeds won’t germinate; too much moisture and they could actually begin to rot instead of developing.
•Germinate your seeds indoors with warming mats. Peat pots and seed starter trays allow you to control the germination. You can buy warming mats on Amazon. These heat up your seeds to dramatically improve germination rates. Just make sure to remove those seeds from the heat source after germination. Otherwise the seedlings could be dried out or “burned.” You may need more than one warming mat if you’re planting a lot of seeds. You can also relocate seed trays to a warmer location in your home to get them started.
•Presoak your seeds before planting.
•Seeds can be damaged by sitting in a hot mailbox. If the post office leaves packages exposed to heat, this can destroy their viability. To make sure this doesn’t happen, check your weather before placing a seed order to make sure it’s not too hot in the delivery range.
•Having a lot of problems? It might be your soil. Test your soil and find out any deficiencies. It’s also possible you’ve gone in the other direction and the soil is over-fertilized! If you are having problems with multiple types of seeds, this could be the issue. For those with bad soil conditions, I recommend mixing fresh bagged soil or rich compost into your existing soil. Or outright replacing it in some cases.
•Make sure you plant your seeds at the right time. Otherwise they might germinate...next year, or possibly not at all.
•Seeds “decide” to germinate when conditions are suitable for plant growth. That means the most important thing throughout the germination process is consistency, in both temperature and moisture. By investing in a few simple garden tools and managing and monitoring the environment, you should be able to vastly improve your germination rates – and grow healthier plants overall.
•Some seeds should be covered with soil, some seeds should not. A seed that shouldn’t be covered might need light in order to germinate.
•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 warming mats.
Check your soil temperature with a thermometer to be sure it’s in the optimum range for your seeds. In general, warmth-loving plants favor warmer soils, and cold-loving plants like it a bit cooler but the key is always to have soil temperature in mid-range for successful seed sowing.
•If planting in a pot, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. If it rains, you might unintentionally drown your plants.
Got more questions?