Growing Plants from Seeds
The practice of planting seeds is a widely used and relatively simple way to propagate plants. It has many advantages and can be very rewarding, but nonetheless in order for germination to be successful a number of factors that influence the outcome have to be taken into account. The key to growing plants from seeds is preparation, and anyone who does things right from the very start will reap the rewards later on.
Preparing the Seeds
Even before planting the seeds, there are certain steps that should be taken. These steps are necessary to activate the seed, because before being planted they are dormant so that germination will not occur in adverse conditions. All seeds are dependent upon several factors for activation, such as light and temperature, and by providing ideal conditions there is a much great chance of germination. Although some plants are easy to grow from seeds, knowing how to prepare seeds can be of utmost importance when dealing with rare, exotic and difficult plants.
First of all, the temperatures at which seeds germinate have to be known since this determines when to plant. There are four main categories and they range from plants that need cool weather to ones that need alternating temperatures in order to overcome dormancy and grow. Once that is determined, factors like oxygen and light come into play. Seeds need to be kept in conditions that are well aerated, and some need light exposure, whereas others need to be kept in dark environments or they will not germinate. These factors are different for each plant, so it is necessary to do some homework on each species before planning a garden.
Another way to increase the chances of germination is to treat the seeds before planting. Priming is one method, but it is usually only applied to commercial packages or amounts of seeds since it involves the addition of salts to speed up the germination process. However, everyone can take advantage of a simple method known as soaking. This seed treatment requires soaking the seeds in water until they have absorbed it, or are fully imbibed. Once the seeds have been soaked, they can be planted a few hours later.
Sowing the seeds is easy enough, but they need to be placed in the proper substrate. Preparing the substrate, which is almost always soil, is essential in order to achieve any amount of success. Testing should be conducted on the soil in the area chosen of a garden, because knowing the pH, moisture levels and nutrient breakdowns is important so that any deficiencies can be taken care of in advance.
The soil in the area intended for the seeds, whether in a pot or out in a garden, should also be as level on the surface as possible. There are several reasons for this, but most importantly a level surface makes it easier for the soil to accept water and fertilizers. Level surfaces also reduce the risk of soil erosion in outdoor areas.
Finally, the texture of the soil is an important factor to keep in mind. As a general rule, smaller seeds require a finer texture since that allows for sufficient air to circulate and keeps the moisture fluctuation at a minimum. If moisture loss is a problem in a soil, then mulching is recommended.
Planting the Seeds
Once the preparations to the seeds and soil are complete, the seeds can be planted. There are two methods of planting seeds to choose from; indoor sowing and direct seeding. Directly planting in the final location is easy, but only successful if the environmental conditions and season are right. People living in colder climates can start growing plants from seeds indoors, and then transplant the seedlings after the final frost for the year.