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This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
If you’re a gardening enthusiast, you know there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing the first tiny green shoots come up after you’ve planted seeds. To germinate seeds you will need to give them the correct type of soil and make sure they get the right amount of sun or shade, plus regulate the temperature so they don’t get too hot or cold. Read on to learn how to give seeds the right environment to germinate and grow.
We suggest covering your container lightly with plastic sheeting/damp newspaper. This will act as a way to regulate and trap moisture and temperature. This is important as if your seeds dry out they will not germinate properly.
Some seeds may require soaking before you plant them, whereas others do not. Make sure to check all the information on the packet as previously mentioned. If your seeds do require soaking, you will need to do so for several hours before adding to your growing medium.
Normally, you should plant your seeds between 4-6 weeks prior to moving them outside, however, species do vary. Also, you may be required to plant your seeds indoors earlier than predicted or indeed later, all dependant on the weather at the time.
7) Keep The Growing Medium Moist
One of the great perks of growing your own plants and vegetables from seed is the fact that you’ll have so many choices to choose from – and you’ll be able to find the perfect seeds to suit you and your garden online or at your local garden centre. Remember to take note of your environment and pick seeds wisely, keeping in mind the environment you have on offer. You will need to pay particular attention to the requirements of the seed –lookout for water requirements, soil temperature, nutritional requirements, and desirable lighting for each species you consider.
You can purchase propagators which are designed for growing multiple fruit or vegetables from seed. These containers are perfect for the task at hand.
Once you see the first shoot poking through, you will need to move the container into a sunny area. Ensure that the room temperature is above 70°F (21°C) and in bright light so that your plants can grow. You can now remove the plastic/paper covering, but ensure you keep the seedling moist by watering throughout the day. We advise you to water in the early morning and in the afternoon, but not any later in the day – as doing so can mean the water sits on top of the growing medium and can cause problems such as mould that are best avoided. At this point, it is also important to feed your seedlings with the correct fertiliser once they’ve gotten a few inches tall.
You will need a container that is two to three inches deep and features holes at the bottom, for drainage purposes. The width of the container can vary – it all depends on how many seeds you wish to plant. However, remember to ensure you leave enough room for the seeds to germinate. You can buy trays from your local garden centre or online, or you can even use an egg carton. Now that you have your container ready, you will need to line your seeds with your growing medium. Do not fill your container right to the top with this combination, instead leave approximately half an inch at the top. Lightly wet with water to provide a good environment for the seeds to grow in. However, do note that soil-less mixture contains zero nutritional value so it may be a good idea to use seed and cutting compost.
This chart lists the optimal soil temperature for each vegetable.
The vegetables we often think of in spring, like onions, lettuce, and kale, like cooler soil temperatures for germination. Their optimal temperature is 65-70 degrees F.
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Tips for How to Germinate Seeds for Seed Starting
It’s usually not a problem to provide seeds with cooler temperatures during the seed starting process since most of our homes will be on the chillier side in late winter.
It’s the other end of the spectrum where you’re more likely to experience problems. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant can be the most tricky seeds to coax into germination because they like it hot!
It’s pretty fancy… it’s a plastic bag! After seeding and watering my containers or pots, I slide them into a plastic bag and seal it shut.
#5 – Provide consistent moisture.