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Getting Seeds to Germinate for Your Fall Garden

Updated on August 1, 2014

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.

At Monticello's Heritage Harvest Festival last year, my husband and I attended a workshop led by Ken Bezilla of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

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.
Use more than one strategy to improve the odds of germination.

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.

Once seeds sprout, remove the burlap quickly. Pictured: a pea seedling.
Once seeds sprout, remove the burlap quickly. Pictured: a pea seedling. | Source

Have you tried starting seed in hot weather?

See results

A single layer of damp burlap will prevent the soil from drying out quickly in hot weather, allowing seed to germinate.

  1. 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.
  2. Then spray the burlap with water daily.
  3. 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


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    • profile image

      Tricia Deed 

      4 years ago

      You offered some very good advice. I will be trying 2 ideas that you presented.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Yes, Billy, it's that time again!

      Thanks for the stopping by, Bobby. Appreciate the comments. All the best, Jill

    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 

      4 years ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ

      Great hub. I learned my seed sprouting techniques from my years with Dr. Ann Wigmore Institutes. We alway soak our seeds, so they are ready to sprout. Thank you so much for your gardening articles. I enjoy them. Blessings, Bobby

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's that time, isn't it? Very helpful suggestions and I thank you. We are building a greenhouse for next year and construction begins soon. :)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Well, that can be fun, too. (:

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I wish I can garden now. I will have to wait for spring. Just planning now.

    • Michael-Milec profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks The Dirt Farmer, it enables me to do right things right for the rest of my life.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Michael-Milec --Thanks for taking the time to read & comment. Appreciate your stopping by. Good luck w/your garden! All the best, Jill

    • Michael-Milec profile image


      5 years ago

      Very instructive. Described what has been done intuitively by our parents and grandparents; it always was amazing observing in reality -as per- "your video "( in slow motion day by day (!) . ( We didn't have other technology beside the nature, and other programs beside working - learning with our parents.

      Voted useful and interesting.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Appreciate your comments, Dave. Thanks so much!

      Marie, you might want to start your seed inside and then transplant after hardening them off. Otherwise, it sounds like taking care of your very young seedlings is extremely labor intensive. Wishing you (and your garden) all the best, Jill

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      What an outstanding hub. A must read for all gardeners. Very informative and well written. A tool or guide for new gardeners!!!!

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 

      5 years ago from Tawas City, Michigan USA

      Getting the seeds to germinate isn't the problem for me; it's afterwards. The sun gets so hot after a rain that it literally burns the plants. Perhaps some meshed material to screen the sun a little is a necessity during hot Florida summer days.

      It's my first year here in working with the soil, which is really poor. After a rain, the soil dries quickly. I mulch, but I still have to check the moisture content of the soil on a daily basis.

      First plantings weren't too fruitful, but I'm hoping the cooler winter months here will give me better results.

      So, it's back to the compost pile to prepare the soil for a fall planting. Hopefully, I'll get the knack of it.

      Voted Useful and shared on Facebook. Blessings!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hope your 4th of July fun, too, Glimmer Twin Fan. It's supposed to cool off here. Hoping it will! All the best, Jill

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      I'm saving this but I'm not really a vegetable gardener. I don't usually grow things from seed, but this will be helpful if I ever do. Have a lovely 4th!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi Deb. I like the burlap, too. The only problem we have with it is that squirrels like to peel it back. I guess they're just nosy! All the best, Jill

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are fabulous suggestions. I like the burlap idea, too, both as protection from the sun and a way to retain moisture.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Fun title! To me the most important function of the burlap is the protection from birds and other critters. Great hub, Jill!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi MsDora! Hope the tips help you out when you're starting your fall flowers and vegetables this summer. Thanks for commenting! Take care, Jill

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      I love to learn about gardening although I'm not a very active one. Your tips are ll very helpful. I especially appreciate the section on cooling off the seeds. Thank you and voted up!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi Thelma. Thanks for commenting! My grandfather passed of love of plants onto me. Did your mom inspire you to garden?

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      5 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      My mother always soaked her seeds overnight before planting. She had beautiful plants in her garden. Thanks for an informative post.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stopping by, purl3agony. Wishing you lots of success with your garden this year. Things are really beautiful here, as the weather is so mild right now. Hope it lasts for a good while! All the best, Jill

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      5 years ago from USA

      Hi Jill - Once again, a wonderful hub! I didn't know about covering my seeds, but will begin to do this with burlap. Your gardening articles are so helpful as I start to tackle my yard and garden. Keep them coming :) Voted up and pinned!!


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