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What You Need to Grow by Seed

Updated on November 5, 2020
Sprouting seedling requires light
Sprouting seedling requires light

I am always fascinated whenever I can get a seed to sprout. What might seem like a small accomplishment to some is a small miracle to me. Giving new life to one which was once dormant. Nature does the rest. Maybe I am little strange but give it a try and see if it has the same effect on you.

There are so many different ways to germinate seeds. The method that you choose to sprout a seed has a lot to do with the type of seed itself. Some seeds will germinate easily with a little water. However, other seeds require a little more care in order to germinate.

Factors which can affect seed germination are water, oxygen, temperature and sometimes light or darkness. Some seeds will germinate in full light, while others require darkness.

Seeds remain dormant or inactive until conditions are right for germination. When a seed is exposed to the right combination of these factors, water and oxygen are absorbed into the seed. The seed will then begin to swell causing the seed coat to break open allowing for an initial root to emerge. Eventually a stem and leaves will sprout as well.

The right conditions improve seed germination
The right conditions improve seed germination

As with many things in life, balance is essential when trying to sprout seeds. Poor germination can occur due to overwatering which can cause the seed not to have enough oxygen. Likewise, without enough moisture the seed will either not germinate, or eventually dry out. Another error can occur if the seed is planted too deep because it will use all of it's stored energy to try and reach the soil surface.

Some seeds require a little more care in germinating. For instance, some seed coats are so hard that water and oxygen cannot get through. In this case, the seed coat needs to be broken down a little. Scratching the seed is one way to break down the seed coat, this is called scarification.

Some seeds need to be exposed to the right temperatures. For example, keeping the seed at a cold temperature for a period of time and then warmer temperatures afterwards. Similar to the change in seasons like winter to spring.

Usually, most seed packets will come with clear instructions on how to germinate the seed, however, if not then the internet is a great resource.

Here are a couple of easy ways to germinate most common seed types;

  • soak in shallow dish of water
  • soak in damp folded paper towel, place into a plastic sandwich bag and seal

Here are a couple of ways to germinate more difficult seed types;

  • shake seeds in a jar lined with sandpaper (scarification)
  • apply warmth beneath newly planted seeds, for example, on top of refrigerator

I remember many years ago picking up this book The New Seed Starter's Handbook by Nancy Bubel. It is an excellent resource that I have been using for quite some time.

Here is a brief summary of the main points of this article for a quick reference:

  • Factors affecting seed germination: water, oxygen, temperature, light or darkness
  • Balance above factors to improve germination
  • Scarification - scratch seed coat
  • Period of cold temperature followed by warmth may improve seed germination

All of the above information will get you started in the right direction. I wrote another article if you need more information on what type of seeds to start with. However, the main factor to sprouting seeds correctly that makes all of the difference is you. Your time and attention are the key to successfully sprout seeds. If you don't have any luck at first then don't despair, with a little persistence and attention to detail you can most likely achieve success sprouting seeds!

Seed germination results can be seen daily
Seed germination results can be seen daily

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