What Happened to My Germination?
Challenges and Rewards
Part 1 of 4
Seed germination issues happen every spring and challenge many new and experienced gardeners and growers. Over the years we have found a lot of commonality in why our customers have problems with seed germination. The four biggest issues are soil temperature, moisture levels, knowledge or experience, and patience. We’ve put this guide together to help everyone learn where the problems lie and make changes to become more successful.
We have a vested interest in you being successful both in starting seeds and in your gardening efforts. After all, we put our name and reputation on each and every one of the seed packets we send out. If you fail, we also fail; so we really want to help you succeed!
Seeds are amazing; they have everything needed to continue their species stored right inside their seed coats. From their accumulated travels they have all the adaptations, the environmental and seasonal conditions they have encountered and grown through encoded into their DNA. Everything they need to sprout when the time is right is built right inside their shells. Within that hard seed coat is enough food energy to help them break dormancy and carry them into their first several days as seedlings. All the enzymes they need to convert the stored energy into food are there as well; they have the fats, carbohydrates, protein, enzymes, and hormones needed to get the seed off to a great start. As home gardeners and small-scale growers, our job is to provide the proper conditions, ensuring maximum germination into strong and healthy seedlings ready to be transplanted into the garden when the conditions are right.
Seed Germination Basics – What You Need To Know
Not all seeds are alike; likewise, many of them need somewhat different conditions to germinate. Some seeds are simply more difficult to germinate and require patience, attention to detail, and time to be successful. Pay attention to the seed packet directions – if it says, “Outdoor sowing recommended,” there is a reason! You will have a much harder time getting them to start inside, regardless of the professional greenhouse setup you might have. Corn, melons, and cucumbers are great examples.
Other seeds really need to be planted in the fall, lightly covered with soil and left alone – like most herbs and flowers. Duplicate the natural systems of seeds scattering in the fall and overwintering in the soil, then sprouting in the spring, and you will have less work and worry with a better, more vibrant garden.
Very few varieties of seed will have 100% germination. Under carefully controlled conditions, we might see a 97% germination rate for tomatoes, but you might see 90% in your home. This doesn’t mean the seeds you get are weaker, just that your conditions are most likely different than what we used in our germination tests. We always beat the Federal Germination Standards!
This is why we pack more seeds in a packet for some varieties; it reflects the Federal germination rate. For instance, the standard germination rate for Okra is 50% – which is why we give you around 100 seeds – there is plenty of seed to ensure an abundant harvest. The minimum germination rate for peppers is 55% – we will stop selling it long before it drops to 70% in our tests. This is one of the reasons we pack 40 seeds per packet for peppers, as not all will germinate. We pack our seeds to give you the best germination rate possible, combined with our knowledge of how that variety grows to ensure a great crop in your garden; another reason to wonder what results you will get with 10 seeds per packet from other companies.
An excerpt from “What Happened to my Seed Germination?“, courtesy of Terroir Seeds.