If you’ve planted seeds in the past and haven’t had very good luck, here are some things to consider if you’ve had seeds that just don’t want to germinate. I call them sleepy seeds.
If you are using seed that you’ve saved from your own garden, or collected from friends, it might be that the seed was immature when it was harvested and those seeds are too young to germinate. If you’ve had the seed for years, it could be that the seed is too old to germinate. Possibly the seed wasn’t stored correctly. If you do store seeds, make sure they are stored in a cool, dry location and try to use them as soon as possible.
Seeds have certain temperature requirements to germinate. Early spring plants like spinach, lettuce and pansies germinate best when it’s lower than 60 degrees. Other plants like peppers and squash need temperatures around 75 degrees to germinate. Stratification is a term used to describe the cold period (about 6 weeks at around 30 degrees) that some seeds need to wake up.
Soak or File Seeds
Scarification is another way to start seeds that have a tough, hard, almost water proof seed coat. This process helps water reach the seed more quickly causing faster germination. Scarification can be as simple as soaking seeds in water overnight before planting or using a file to file away a small section of the seed coat. Seeds like morning glory and sweet peas are a few plants with hard seed coats that would benefit from scarification.
Were you patient enough? Some seeds are up and growing in a couple of days but others can take a few weeks. Some tropical plants can take an entire year. Don’t give up too soon.
Don’t Over Water
Because there aren’t any roots to absorb moisture, it’s easy to overwater. Did you by chance drown the poor things? The seedbed only needs to be kept moist, not wet. A cover keeps them from drying out but must be removed as soon as the plant gets leaves. As the plant develops roots and leaves it will need deeper water, but it’s still very important not to overwater. Good air circulation is essential to keep fungus from developing. Use a small fan, several times a day, to move the air and inhibit fungus growth. It also encourages a stronger stem.
Pay attention to the light requirement of the seed. Some seed, like impatiens need light to germinate. Others, like sweet peas, won’t germinate unless they are covered and in the dark.
Read Your Packaging
Read your seed packets before planting because any special requirements will be listed on the seed packet. I know that sometimes we can hardly wait to get that seed growing but I caution you about planting too early. Overgrown plants tend to stall and without adequate light, get leggy. Count back from our last average frost date, which is May 10th, and plant accordingly.