Seed Starting

Getting the Best Germination

Getting the Best Germination

By buying from reputable suppliers, pre-testing all of our seed by an independent laboratory before packing, and only accepting seeds that exceed USDA standards, you can rest assured that we provide our customers with high-quality seed in every packet. However, some seeds require a few extra steps to get them to germinate, which is why we give detailed, easy-to-follow sowing recommendations on the back and inside of each seed packet. Below are some general tips to ensure you achieve the best germination from your Botanical Interests seeds.

Consistent moisture is key. After sowing seeds, cover containers with clear plastic or a clear tray until seedlings emerge. Take care to keep your soil moist, as germinating seeds are very sensitive to drying out, but avoid making the soil soggy. If possible, water from below by pouring water into a liner tray or use a flat with a wicking mat.

Sowing Depth. The recommended seed depth is listed on the back of the packet. Some seeds need to be covered by a generous amount of soil in order to germinate because they are large, and/or because darkness aids germination. Others shouldn't be covered at all or just lightly pressed into the soil because they are very small, and/or light aids germination.

Prevent pathogens. Have you ever experienced damping-off fungus? This common fungus can cause seeds to rot in the soil, or sprout thin, spindly seedlings that soon fall over and die. The disease can spread rapidly and wipe out an entire container in a short time. The first step in prevention is to use clean, sanitized pots and trays for sowing. If you are re-using containers, be sure to wash them well, then sanitize with a 10% bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach). Do not use soil from your yard to start seeds indoors; it can contain pests and diseases. The best option is sterile, seed-starting mix from your local garden center. If you want to create your own seed starting mix, sterilization is easy. Put soil in a shallow container (no deeper than 4”), cover tightly with foil, and bake in the oven at 180–200°F for 30 minutes. Indoors, air circulation is also an important tool in preventing fungus. Place a small fan on low setting near your seed pots pointed near the containers, but not blowing directly on them where it could dry out the soil quickly. Finally, if you have sown a lot of seeds in a small amount of space, thin out the seedlings when too many germinate, As closely-packed, tiny seedlings provide the perfect environment for fungal growth.

Light Requirements. Indoors, be sure to keep your fluorescent grow lights on for at least 14 hours a day. This is important, as artificial light is not as strong as sunlight, and sufficient light is important for growing strong, sturdy seedlings. Also, some seeds need light exposure to germinate. Conversely, some seeds will only sprout in darkness (as noted on packet). Be sure to cover them to the recommended depth, and turn your grow light on as soon as you see seedlings.

Temperature. Indoors, if your trays are close to a window, be sure to monitor them so they don't bake in the heat and dry out, or get too cool. Some seeds require a specific temperature range for germination to occur. For example, pepper and tomatoes, although easy to grow in most settings, will do better with a heat mat underneath until they sprout. Conversely, sweet peas will germinate better in a cooler room that is only 55°-65°F. Check your seed packet for specific requirements.

Hard Seed Coat. Some seeds have hard seed coats and require "scarification" for germination to occur (e.g., sweet peas and morning glories). In nature, the hard seed coat helps to keep them viable longer. The fluctuating weather conditions of winter and early spring help to break down this coat naturally. There are a few easy ways to mimic Mother Nature and "scarify" them yourself. You can soak them in water for 12–24 hours, nick them with a file, or clip the seed coat with a nail clipper to allow water to get inside the seed. See packet provides instructions for varieties requiring this extra step.

Stratification for Perennials. Some perennial seeds specifically require the fluctuating winter conditions of cold and moisture to germinate. You can often "trick" them into believing that they have gone through a winter by sowing them in pots with moist soil and placing them in the refrigerator for a few weeks. You may also have good luck by sowing them directly in the ground in the fall in the place you want them to grow, so they can go through natural winter conditions outside. Follow recommended planting depth and then tamp them in firmly. An occasional watering in that area throughout the winter may be beneficial in dry climates. You may also try sowing them in containers outdoors. Even in cold climates, this can be quite effective. Try using large pots filled with potting soil. Sow your seeds as noted on the packet, then cover with clear plastic and put them in a protected location. About once a month, or more frequently during warmer periods of winter, give them a sprinkle of water. Come spring, you may have a head start on your garden containers!

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