If you’re a gardening enthusiast, then you probably know that seeds are magic to gardens. Tuck them in soil, add a little water, and you’re on the way to a beautiful bloom or a tasty harvest. But what if your seeds aren’t sprouting or germinating? It’s a common issue that even the most experienced gardeners can face. Fortunately, in this post, we will cover seven fatal mistakes that you may be making while germinating seeds and provide solutions to help you achieve nearly 100% success in seed germination.
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1. Using Non-Viable or Old Seeds
If your seeds have not sprouted within the appropriate number of days, then most likely, the most common reason could be that the seeds are not viable. Always check the expiry date or best before date on the seed packet and purchase seeds from reliable sources. Seed viability issues can also occur due to improper storage of seeds in moisture, which can cause them to rot or mold.
Two simple hacks to test whether your seed is viable are:
a. Pour the seeds in a container of water. If the seeds are floating, they are not viable. Discard them and choose only those that have sunk to the bottom.
b. Check seed viability using a wet toilet paper method. Pour some seeds on a wet toilet paper and keep it in a ziplock bag for 24 to 48 hours and see if they sprout to check viability.
Additionally, remember that seed pod maturity, especially if you are growing from seeds from a fruit or vegetable, is essential. A fruit or vegetable develops from a flower after the pollination and fertilization process and is nothing but a seed pod.
2. Wrong Planting Technique
Planting your seeds too deep can cause problems with sprouting. So, what is the ideal depth for sowing seeds? The rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth equal to two times or max three times their width. It’s better to plant seeds too shallow than too deep. You should also avoid pressing down on top of your seeds after you plant them.
3. Bad Seed Starting Potting Mix or Soil
This is a critical factor for success rate. Starting seeds in garden soil alone is not recommended because this soil is too compacted, and the seeds cannot sprout. If it contains large pieces of stones, wood, and stuff like that, it can prevent the seeds from sprouting freely. Moreover, this soil is full of harmful pathogens that can affect seed germination and also the health of the seedling.
Many gardeners suggest baking this soil in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes to kill most weeds and pathogens. But this will also kill beneficial microorganisms like mycorrhizae and pseudomonas from the soil. So, it’s always better to prepare your seed starting mix without using garden soil.
One such recipe you can follow is:
a. Cocopeat or peat moss – 70% + Compost like decomposed cow dung or Vermicompost 30%. This is more than sufficient and the best seed starting mix. You can optionally add stuff like perlite and fine-grade vermiculite into this mixture.
b. Alternatively, you can also use seed starting coco peat pellets that can be directly transplanted into soil when the seedlings are ready for transplant.
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4. Wrong Temperature and Wrong Season
This is another common mistake most of us commit. Planting by the season, depending on the zone you live in, is really important because the temperature is a critical factor for seed germination. Temperatures that are too high or too low can cause problems with germinating seeds. So, try to follow the planting calendar of the zone you live in.
5. Improper Watering
Seed germination is highly dependent on watering. If it’s too dry, the seeds fail to sprout, and if it’s too wet, they will rot in the dirt. Seeds need to be moderately moist to sprout, which is difficult to assess. Additionally, very young seedlings are even more tender and can die due to improper watering. The best trick to water these is using a bottom tray method. Just keep the bottom tray filled with water and do not water from the top. If the potting medium is dry, it starts to absorb water through the drainage holes, and this process goes on, which is a completely safe method of watering seeds and tender seedlings.
6. Dirty or Unsterile Containers or Seed Trays
For a better success rate in seed germination, it’s always wise to use a fresh new container or thoroughly clean the old containers before adding the potting mix. Fungal and mold infections are the most common infection from dirty containers. If an infection occurs, you will notice fuzzy growth on the top of the planting medium. You may also see that a seed sprouts, but then rots at its base and falls over. This is called damping off and is caused by a fungal infection in your soil.
To clean your old containers, you can use hydrogen peroxide or even use your kitchen baking soda – like 1 tablespoon per liter of water – and clean the containers with this solution. Or simply clean it with soap and water or even diluted bleaching powder.
7. Role of Sunlight
For most seeds, sunlight is not required for sprouting. Dark, damp, and warm conditions are best for the sprouting stage of germination. But once the seeds germinate and two new tiny leaves are out, they need sunlight. You must follow the “Hardening Off” Method, which means a gradual exposure to sunlight, like 1 hour for the first day, 2 hours for the second, 3 hrs for the third, and so on, to provide full sun exposure.
Germinating seeds is a simple process, but when seeds do not sprout, it can be disheartening and even lead to a loss of interest in gardening. Therefore, it’s essential to take the time to diagnose the problem. By avoiding these seven common errors, you can improve your success rate in seed germination and take your vegetable gardening to the next level.