Have that feeling like you could mess up a good thing when you have it? Like seeds. Some thrive while others die. So, how do you increase their chance of thriving? Here are 6 things to remember when planting seeds:
One. Inside each seed is a baby plant waiting for just the right conditions to grow.
Two. Seed size and planting depth are inseparable. Many say seeds should be buried as deep or no deeper than their diameter. Others say no deeper than twice the diameter. I error on the former, no deeper than the diameter (if I can help it), except with radishes. Remember those baby plants waiting to grow, they need enough energy to push up through the soil. Seeds planted too deeply often don’t make it.
Read more on growing your garden from seed.
Three. Optimal soil temperature is key. That’s why your seed packet says something like, plant indoors 3 weeks before the last frost or outdoors 3 weeks after the last chance of frost. A good seed packet will tell you a specific temperature range. Go with it.
Four. Seeds can be started indoors or out. Start seeds indoors to optimize the growing season. Particularly warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. However, other seeds, like wildflowers, sunflowers, radishes and carrots can be chucked straight into the soil. My favorite are volunteer sunflowers. Finding them is the best. They’re always ahead of the game, having started themselves, and produce the hardiest, lovely blooms.
Five. Soaking seeds can speed up the germination process, particularly handy for slow or fussy germinators like carrots. However, I haven’t had that same luck with beans. They pre-sprout wonderfully but don’t always grow as healthy as seeds directly sown.
Six. Nature has it figured out. It’s the ultimate guide, telling us what seeds need to be scarified (weatherized) before planting, like with lupines. Their thick seed coats preserve them through rough winters and those same, rough winters prep the seed coat for growing. Other seeds need light to germinate while others need darkness. Annuals are prolific seeds, growing with ease simply by casting themselves about. And many perennials need the help of animals, to bury them, move them or eat them and poop them out.
Read more on taking queues from nature.
Thank you for your informative and inspiring blog. How moist do you keep the soil in a seeding tray – or how often do you water a seedling tray? And how do you water them? – some seeds like basil are so small (and therefore planted so shallowly) that is seems a watering can shower would wash them away so I have been using a spray bottle which involves a lot of spraying and I’m not sure that the soil is really saturated by the end of it
Hi James, I would suggest watering tiny seeds like basil from the bottom to avoid overwatering or risk them washing away. Simply place the containers your seedlings are growing in in a solid tray (or even a cooking sheet or casserole pan) and fill with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch water.
Can you explain this no deeper than the diameter rule? The sunflower seed for instance has three measurements, all different. Which one is considered the diameter?
Great question! If you consider a seed in terms of length and diameter, we’re looking at the distance through the center of the seed (essentially the width but it’s a 3 dimensional object — so diameter or distance from one side to the other through the middle). A Russian Mammoth Sunflower is longer than wide, so it’s easy to figure out the center/width/diameter but I know it can be more confusing with a poppy seed or calendula, etc. Then you also want to consider the overall size of seed as well as observe what these plants do in nature, without our help.
Great tips on starting from seeds.