It’s that time of the year when gardeners can’t wait to get sowing. Starting off seeds is perhaps the most critical step when starting a garden. Failing to grow seeds means you will lose valuable time and buy expensive plants instead. To make sure everything goes as planned there are a few ways to improve seed germination you can look into.
Most gardeners ignore seeds that are hard to germinate and they don’t bother giving a second try. Rather than looking for ways to improve seed germination, they will look for easier growing crops. There are three different ways you can help break dormancy in a seed. I’ve been using these tips for years to improve seed germination and avoid crop failure.
Methods to improve seed germination
Cutting the seeds
This is also known as scarification by most gardeners. The method is quite simple and it requires cutting the seed coat. The process is needed to loosen the tough seed coat that could inhibit germination. The operation itself can be quite delicate and one needs a little bit of practice to master it.
For example, in the case of sweat peas, you would need to gently nick the seed coat on the other side from the eye. This requires a sharp knife and a steady hand, but most importantly, good eyesight. To improve seed germination in this case, it is important that the eye remains undamaged.
The main role of scarification is to abrade the seed coat as to permit water absorption. Other manual scarification methods to improve seed germination are: piercing, nicking, chipping or rubbing the seed on file or sandpaper.
Soaking the seeds
This is a method I remember from my childhood. It was used by my grandfather to improve seed germination and make sure his seeds are growing. It is a good method to encourage germination and it doesn’t involve harming the seeds.
All you need to do is soak the seeds in lukewarm water overnight. This will allow for the seed coat to soften before germination. Once the seeds have been dampened, don’t let them dry out again. You don’t have to keep the seeds soggy. To improve seed germination, try to sow them before they are totally deprived of water.
Related reading: Eight efficient food crops to grow
Soaking the seeds in water is not a vital process before sowing them. However, I’ve noticed that it can speed things up and it’s a process worth doing.
Freezing and thawing
This method is known as stratification and it can be considered a more modern method used to improve seed germination. Some say it is method invented by the modern pioneers to help them grow plants faster. Stratification means “placing in layers” and it involves placing seeds in alternate layers of sand or sandy compost. Then place them where they can be repeatedly frozen and thawed. This process triggers seeds into germination since it mimics the natural process that would happen during winter. There are seeds that need temperatures to fluctuate in order to grow and stratification would be then required.
A few tips to make sure your seeds come up
Decide when to start sowing based on what you plan to grow. Most hardly vegetables can germinate at relatively low soil temperatures (41°F), but germination is slow in cold soils. Even more, the seeds and seedlings can be affected by rot or pests long before they make it.
To make sure you provide a good start to your seeds, make sure you sow them when the soil temperature is 50°F or more. You can use a soil thermometer to check the temperature and cover the seeds with clear polythene sheeting. This will increase soil temperature and improve seed germination.
Another aspect that is important and will decide how you can improve seed germination is the type of seeds you are using. If you are using harvested seeds make sure they are no more than one year old. If you are using store bought seeds, you shouldn’t worry about seed quality as these usually last longer.
Make sure that your soil keeps a good balance between moisture retentive and free-draining. If you sow the seeds in soil that is too sandy, they will eventually dry out. If you sow them in soil that is too heavy, your seeds are susceptible to rot.
Suggested article: Understanding Garden Seeds for Self-sufficiency
Remember that not all seeds will come up at the same time. Make sure you prick out and transplant individual seedlings as they germinate. Do this to improve seed germination for the remaining seeds and avoid waiting for the whole batch to be ready. There is no exact science behind seed growing and germination can sometimes be erratic.
To improve seed germination you should avoid sowing the seeds too deep. If you do so, the shots from small seeds won’t make it to the surface. Check the sowing requirements for both small and larger seeds before planting them.
As a general rule, make sure you do a research about the seed requirements of each plant you plan on growing. If you want to improve seed germination you should pay attention to the special conditions of certain seeds. For example, celery seeds germinate best in the light. As a helping hand, I’m covering the pots with a thin sprinkling of vermiculite instead of compost. Always check what the seed packet says.
As a beginner, you will need all the help you can get when starting your garden. Learning how to improve seed germination will help you avoid failure when growing plants. It will also help you deal with crops that are difficult to grow and give your morale a boost. By using the methods listed above you can quick-start your garden and improve seed germination.
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