Growing Plants from seed
Growing plants from seed is not as hard as you might think. Many of us have tried and failed – (even the experts have failures for no apparent reason). So. what is the cause of most germination failures? The main culprit is sowing the seed too deeply. When seeds are planted too deeply they germinate but do not reach the surface before they run out of the seed’s stored food reserves.
It is a good idea to search the internet for articles on the seed you are going to attempt to germinate. Simply put in the plant’s name (botanical or common) and add ‘germination’ after it. You should see at least two articles if not dozens.
The rule of thumb for planting depth is that the seed should be no deeper than half the seed’s width. If you think about it, very fine seed should be sown on the surface and held in place with a light sprinkling of fine sand. Fine seed usually needs light to germinate, if you cover it too deeply the light is excluded and the seed will do nothing.
Larger seed should be lightly covered to a depth of half the seed’s width, that is, the seed is not visible. Don’t bury the seed, you are attempting to bring forth life, not hold a funeral.
There are several other things that you can do which will give a better chance of success.
a. Wash dirty pots and trays in 10% bleach solution to remove germs, viruses, fungi, and insects that love to make a meal out of fresh young seedlings.
b. Use a good commercial seedling mix suitable for the seed you are using. Quality mixes are pasteurised before they are packaged and any nasties have been taken care of. They are also produced to a recommended formula. Beware, I know of several brands that are not formulated and I’ve never successfully grown anything in them.
c. Place the pot or tray in high light but not sunlight, the idea is to have the seedling mix at a higher temperature than the ambient temperature. That’s why some people use heat mats.
d. Water the pot or tray daily and never let the mix dry out. Germinating seeds and seedlings need constant water to sustain them. If you can’t water daily then place a clear cover over them. This will permit entry to the required light and reduce watering frequency. Lack of condensation on the inside of the clear cover will tell you when watering is required.
e. Have patience, seeds are living things, not mechanical things where you throw a switch and it works.
I sell seed with instructions and the lack of plant knowledge is astounding. I’ve had people comment that the seed is no good one month (includes postage time) after purchase when the seed requires an 8 week period for germination. Another requested that he dig the seed up and return it for a refund because it hadn’t germinated after 2 weeks but the seed had a germination requirement of 3 months. These are silly mistakes, you don’t build flat-pack furniture without closely following the instructions or own a pet without providing it with food and water and having some knowledge as to its care.
Why treat plants and seed differently?