Getting Seeds to Germinate for Your Fall Garden
Make sowing time cool.
Here are ten best practices for successfully starting seed outdoors— even when the weather is really warm. Employing multiple strategies will increase your chances of success.
Pick a cool planting time.
When the weather is hot, you can increase the likelihood of seed germination by sowing at the coolest, dampest times of the day.
Although the workshop was on fall and winter vegetable gardening, Bezilla touched upon a topic that's important to me in the spring and summer, too: getting seeds to germinate in warm weather.
During the workshop, Bezilla recommended that gardeners employ a variety of seed-starting strategies, such as chilling, planting at night, watering well with cold water and covering the soil until germination occurs.
Plant in the evening.
Sow seeds in the evening, when it's cooler. Afterwards, water the soil well.
Plant before it rains.
It's also a good idea to sow seeds before rain is predicted in your area. That way, Mother Nature can do the watering for you.
Plant in a well-watered garden.
Another way to give seeds a fighting chance during times of drought or exceedingly hot weather is to make sure the ground is moist before you sow, not just at the surface, but down below as well.
To increase the likelihood of this, water the patch where you intend to sow seeds every day several days prior to planting. Then water again at sowing time.
Cool seeds off before you sow.
Other ways to beat the heat? Try chilling seeds before planting time using water and/or refrigeration.
Soak seeds before sowing.
Soak seed in cool water 30 minutes to an hour before sowing.
Refrigerate seeds before sowing.
You can also prep seed for planting in hot weather by chilling it in the refrigerator before planting it. Like a cold-water soak, chilling the seed increases the likelihood that it will germinate in hot weather.
Try moist chilling.
If it's really hot outside, try soaking the seed first in cool water and then "moist chilling" it (placing the soaked seed in the refrigerator) afterwards to spur germination.
Overview of Strategies for Germinating Seeds in Hot Weather
Water the area where seeds will be sown each day several days before sowing.
Soak seeds in cold water prior to sowing.
Cover seeds after sowing with burlap.
Water seeds well immediately after sowing.
Chill seeds in the refrigerator.
Cover seeds with boards or sheets of wood.
Water seeds daily after sowing (even those under cover).
Sow seeds in the evening when it's cooler outside.
Sow seeds before rain is predicted in your area.
Soak seeds in cool water, drain them & then chill them in the refrigerator.
When the weather is very warm, it can be difficult to keep soil moist. Doing so, however, is imperative for germination and seedling survival.
To ensure that the soil doesn't dry out too much, water germinating seeds and seedlings daily, either by hand, with a soaker hose or through drip irrigation.
Cover the soil to retain moisture.
Once you have planted seed, what else can you do to increase the likelihood of germination in hot weather? Try covering them until they germinate.
Covering sown seeds provides them protection from the drying heat, decreasing the rate at which the soil loses moisture.
Cover seeds with burlap.
Burlap, boards or sheets of wood are often used for this.
I prefer burlap to boards and sheets of wood for several reasons.
The main reason I prefer burlap is because it's porous, so I can water seeds simply by spraying the burlap.
Burlap is also lightweight, so it's easy to handle. And it's reusable and inexpensive.
Burlap doesn't just protect the soil from moisture loss in hot weather. It also keeps seed in place, preventing it from being washed away in hard rain or dislodged by strong winds.
Burlap also protects seed from birds.
Have you tried starting seed in hot weather?
A single layer of damp burlap will prevent the soil from drying out quickly in hot weather, allowing seed to germinate.
- First, cover the planting area with a layer of damp burlap after sowing and watering seed. Alternatively, mist a dry layer of burlap with water after spreading it over the ground.
- Then spray the burlap with water daily.
- Remove the burlap once germination occurs. Keep track of the number of days that pass after sowing. When it nears the number your seeds need to germinate, begin checking under the burlap. Once seeds sprout, remove the burlap.
It's important to remove the burlap quickly after seeds germinate.
Sometimes, grasshoppers and other pests hide under it and devour seedlings before they have a chance to grow.
Removing burlap will also allow seedlings to get sunshine and air. And, of course, they will also need moisture in order to survive.
Because it's hot, you will have to water the seedlings once a day, maybe more, depending upon how warm it is.
Germination (Time Lapse)
Is it just too hot?
If it's simply too hot where you live to direct sow, you can always start seeds indoors as you would in winter.
Whether it's hot or cold, there's always a way to make your garden grow!
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.
© 2014 Jill Spencer