All About Seeds Germination

All About Seeds Germination

Posted by Eli on 21st Aug 2019

The key to a successful growth of the plant all starts with germination of the seeds. Let's take a look of what do seeds need to begin a process of germination. All seeds are in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the right set of conditions to awaken and begin to sprout. Seeds contain chemical and physical inhibitors that keep them from germinating when the environment isn't suitable. Once the seed receives the proper ″conditioning″ that destroys these inhibitors, it ″knows″ that it's safe to start on the journey to becoming a plant. Understanding what conditioning particular seeds need sets us on the path to seed starting success.

Requirements for a successful seeds germination

All seeds need moisture to germinate. Some seeds have a very hard seed coat that in nature is broken in a variety of ways that assure that the seed germinates under the proper conditions. Alternate freezing and thawing temperatures, extreme heat from a fire, or passing through the digestive system of an animal are all ways in which a hard seed coat can be breached to allow moisture in. We can reproduce this conditioning with a procedure called scarification, which is simply nicking, scraping or cutting through the seed coat. For example, to get a hard-shelled morning glory seed ready for sprouting, you can cut off the pointed end of the seed with a sharp razor blade, nick it with a file, or scrape the seed across a piece of sand paper. To scarify a lot of seeds at a time, put them in a jar with some coarse sand and shake vigorously.

Sometimes soaking is enough to soften the seed coat to speed germination. Soaking can also speed germination by removing chemical inhibitors from the seed coat. Soaking parsley seeds for 24 to 48 hours before planting, pouring off the water and replacing it with fresh several times as the seeds soak, will leach out inhibitors and speed germination.

When we think of planting seeds, what usually springs to mind is tucking seeds into the soil. And while some seeds do need the darkness of a soil covering for germination, most will germinate in light or dark, though the covering of soil helps to keep them moist. But some do require exposure to light to break down inhibitors in the seed coat. Lobelia, impatiens, and ageratum are seeds that need light for germination; simply press them on to the surface of the germinating medium, rather than burying them.

Certain seeds, usually of perennials, trees, and shrubs from temperature climates, need to be exposed to cool temperatures before they're ready to germinate. This prevents them from sprouting prematurely when the weather is too cold for growth. In nature, these conditions are provided by normal seasonal changes. When gardeners mimic this process, it's called stratification. Seeds are given a period of moist cold (+4-7C) for about 6 weeks to duplicate going through a cold winter; a refrigerator easily provides the appropriate ″winter″ chill.

Warmth and Water
Once seeds have been conditioned, most need warmth in addition to moisture to germinate well. The majority of the seeds we start early inside appreciate bottom heat from a seedling heat mat or the top the refrigerator to keep the germinating mix between +21-26C. But be sure to check the instructions on individual varieties for the specific requirements of plants you're starting. Keep in mind that if you live in a tropical or year round warm climate, you do not need to use heat mat, keep the seeds on the top of refrigerator or to provide green house effect. Since the temp outside is warm enough, adding extra heat and humidity would simply cook the seeds.

Seed Starting Indoors and Out
If you live in temperate climates, where cold is a concern, seeds of many vegetable can be sown early indoors to produce seedlings that will be transplanted to the outdoor garden when weather conditions are suitable. These include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, kale, cabbage, onions, leeks, and parsley, as well as many annual flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds. Pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and squash are touchy to transplant and usually grow best when sown directly in the garden. But they can be started early indoors if they are grown in individual plantable (biodegradable) pots, like peat pots, to minimize root disturbance at transplanting time. Beans, peas, corn, and root crops like beets, radishes, and carrots don't tolerate transplanting well and their seeds are usually sown directly in the garden. Lettuce, basil, spinach, and chard can be started early indoors and transplanted and/or the seeds can be sown later directly out in the garden.

Moist Paper Tissue Method

Quite a number of seed varieties can be started using moist paper towel method, which will help their germination process by speeding it up. For using this method, just sprinkle some seeds on a moist (not soaking wet) paper towel (kitchen paper towel works very well), fold it nicely and put inside the ziplock bag, closing it well. Keep in a dark location from several days up to a week and check regularly to make sure the towel isn't dried, adding more moisture if needed. Once seeds germinate, transfer them to their permanent growing place. Keep in mind that this method is suitable not for all varieties, so if you are in doubt, please check first before starting.

Dormant Period

Some varieties like Perilla, Japanese Shiso have dormant period, during which the seeds stay dormant and do not germinate. Unfortunately, while harvesting the seeds it is not possible to know exactly which seeds are undergoing dormant period, so in case your perilla seeds are being non responsive for more than two weeks, it's a high chance they are in their dormant period and will sprout once it is over. So here, you will need patience and to make sure you do not over water the seeds.

So, providing suitable growing conditions for every variety is crucial to get good germination rates, which will later lead to a successful growth of the plants you are planting. If you have any questions or need an advice in regards to seeds germination, feel free to drop us an email at or message directly through FB.

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