Inside every seed is the potential for a full-grown life - vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even more seeds. Nature gifted every seed with food enough to get its life started. Here is everything you need to know to germinate seeds.
Organic seeds vs conventional seeds
Not all seeds are nurtured and sold the same. Firstly, there is a differentiation of organic-produced seeds from conventional seeds. Organic seeds are harvested from crops that are grown with the organic farming method. They are hence believed to be more robust and suited for an organic home gardening environment. On the contrary, inorganic seeds might be genetically weaker in defending against pest and diseases since they are the offspring of crops dependent on chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Secondly, there is a differentiation of treated and non-treated seeds. Treated seeds are coated with a fungicide as a way to provide protection against seed-borne and soil-borne pathogens that can interfere with seed germination. Untreated seeds, on the other hand, are clean and not treated using any chemical method. There is no conclusive evidence that treated seeds will produce chemical-laced plants. Just be careful when you are handling them.
Test viability for old seeds to avoid futile germination
Seed viability refers to the ability of the seeds to germinate and grow. Seeds may fail to germinate for a few reasons such as premature harvesting, being the offspring of sterile plants, or improper storage. Seeds can also lose its viability over time. Especially when using a bag of saved seeds, you might want to start testing their viability before sowing them into the pots.
What do you need to get ready:
- Your old seeds
- Damp paper towels
- Ziplock bag
- Take 10 seeds and place them on the damp paper towel.
- Fold up the paper towel and seal it in the Ziplock bag.
- Label the Ziplock bag with the date
- Place the Ziplock at a warm corner without direct exposure to sunlight
- Check daily to ensure that the paper towel is moist (but not wet). Mist it if the paper towel is drying up.
- Most viable should sprout within 2-14 days depending on seed type.
- Observe how many seeds sprouted after 2 weeks and you arrive at the germination rate for your old seeds
Pre-soaking your seeds to quicken germination
Soaking your seeds in tap water before planting is a quick and easy trick to cut down the time for germination. Vegetable seeds are dry and some come with hard coats. What does soaking do to the seeds? Firstly, soaking gives the seeds a fast boost of moisture content. The high level of moisture is an alert for the seeds to start sprouting. Secondly, soaking leaches away germination inhibitors that reside in some of the seeds. These germination inhibitors initially designed to prevent the seeds from germination within the fruits.
How long do you need to soak your seeds? The general guideline is to soak them overnight and sow them the next day morning. You can take 12-24 hours as a gauge or take them out as long as you see that the seeds are swelled up. Reduce your soaking time accordingly if you are soaking them in lukewarm water. You do not want to overdo it. Oversoaking can lead to seed rot and decomposition.
Sowing your seeds step-by-step guide
- Pre-soaking your seeds overnight
- Get ready you peat pot with soil. You can directly transplant the entire peat pots into your bigger pots approximately in 2 weeks' time, depending on the type of seeds.
- Sow 1 seed per pot. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil which should be twice the depth of the seeds. Darkness, besides moisture, is another alert to trigger the seeds into sprouting. However, avoid smothering them with too much soil.
- Mist the surface soil and put away your pots in a shady corner to avoid exposure to direct sunlight
- Practice extra diligence to ensure the soil is always moist in the first few days during germination. This is so especially during sunny or windy days when the soil dries up much faster than usual.
- Once the shoots appear, start to expose them to sunlight to avoid leggy growth.
Proper seed storage extends your seeds shelf life
For your remaining seeds, ensure seeds are absolutely dry and store in a tight bag in the freezer. Yes! you read it right - a freezer. It can significantly extend the life shelf of your seeds. Properly stored seeds can remain viable from 2-5 years. For the average life expectancy of some common vegetable seeds, you can take a look at this chart.