What you need to know on how to plant seeds for the best germination rates!
Healthy plants begin at the planting stage, which is why proper planting is so important. Learning how to plant seeds can also be a fun process to watch new life start, knowing one day the seeds will produce food for you! Gardening really is an amazing reminder of how beautiful the outdoors can be!
Topics covered in this article:
- How to plant seeds Indoor- grow lights and hardening seedlings off
- How to plant seeds Outdoor – seed tape, tunnels, and greenhouse
- Why proper planting is important- healthy plants start at germination
- How to plant seeds for herbs
- How to plant vegetables seeds
Gardening is pretty simple, but there are still some practices to planting seeds that everyone can benefit from. The most experienced gardener knows that sharing tips is something anyone can do, not just the garden pros. Because what once worked, may not always work again.
For example: a rainy season is common in the south. Many gardener’s prepare by making trenches so rain runs off plants, thus avoiding root rot. But the next season may bring in an early cold spell. An area northern gardeners are well versed in with assembling greenhouses on any size scale on the fly.
Both gardeners may be experts in their field, but both can learn from the other.
Gardening tips are for everyone!
Why proper planting is important
Planting seeds correctly will lead to better germination rates, healthier plants and less disease to fight later. Don’t feel like you have have to get it right the first time, there is room to make mistakes and learn from them!
Even the most experienced gardeners will have some fails for reasons outside your hand. But giving seeds the best possible start will increase your chances for a successful harvest later.
Here is an article on How to Improve Garden Soil you may enjoy while preparing your spring planting.
Pro tip: garden soil will tell you the health state of your plot because it is home to nutrients, bugs, water level and disease. Knowing where your soil falls short is how you can nip any problems early one. So test your soil and regularly apply composted material!
Starting seeds indoors
Seeds can be started inside then transplanted outside once strong enough to withstand the conditions. If space is limited you can always grow on a balcony, porch, windowsill or under artificial light inside.
For those starting seeds indoors to eventually plant out, this is where the magic happens to get seedlings strong enough to survive harsh rains, wind and temperature fluctuations.
Preparing to plant seeds is done in three phases, preparation, planting and care. Preparing to plant seeds shouldn’t be expensive or elaborate because they all require the same soil, water and sunlight.
Don’t feel like you have to spend gobs of money on fancy grow lights, green houses or raised beds. Rather look around for what is on hand that can serve a new purpose. Reusing milk jugs for a mini greenhouse is a great place to start.
Once you know what a plant needs, you can be sure to supply that. Preparing for seeds is as simple as soil, light, water and seeds.
Soil should be lighter than your typical garden soil to allow tender roots an easier way to grow and spread. Potting soil, seed starting mix or sphagnum moss are a few different soil types to use. You are free to choose whichever, or experiment with making your own combination!
A lot of gardener’s swear by a mixture of peat moss, perlite and composted manure as the best recipe. You can even add sand, shredded paper, and coffee ground.
Lighting is the next element to provide for young seeds. To give seeds the best start to life many gardener’s purchase a grow light because seedlings need 15-18 hours of sunlight. Now, on a typical winter day you will at best have 8-10 hours. Lack of sufficient light is where a lot of seedlings get leggy, tall stems that are light colored and wobbly. Exposure to enough sun is crucial for healthy seedlings.
If $20-$150 dollars for a grow light is just in the budget, plenty of alternatives are out there! You can make your own set-up with a strand of Christmas light, a lamp or combination of window time and artificial lighting.
Many big time seed starters suspend the lights above trays so plants grow up, not over to absorb the sun. So where possible, string your lights. This can be done with a PVC frame, greenhouse made of picture frames or a shelf with lights above.
Just remember to rotate seed trays because seeds will reach for the sun (or light source) resulting in leaning plants.
Watering young seedlings is the hardest to master because it requires a steady supply, but not standing water. Dirt should be moist, not soggy. Dry enough, but not to the point soil is separating from the side of the tray.
One way to balance watering is with a spray bottle, so tender roots aren’t disturbed or given too much to drink. The best method is watering from the bottom up with a saucer, pie plate or container to catch run off water, but allowing plants to slowly drink water at their pace.
Or you can use a drip water system where water is slowly absorbed as needed, but kept far enough away from roots to avoid sitting and causing rot. This is done with soaker hoses, small piping with holes, or globe/wine bottles that have a long neck and slowly leak water.
Remember-plants soak water up by their roots, not leaves. If using a spray bottle be sure to spray the dirt around seedlings, avoiding water staying on leaves and causing mildew to form.
Seeds are the final but most important planting habit where you must ALWAYS start with healthy seeds. What does that mean exactly? Seeds should be free of mildew, harvested from disease-free plants and stored properly. Healthy seeds can be bought or harvested from last years plants.
Buy from growers that are reputable. They can be organic, non-GMO, certified organic, heirloom or modified to be disease-free. Organic or heirloom seed companies are growing in popularity because seeds are pure which allows for seed saving. A seed from an heirloom plant will grow the same plant. But a seed from a modified plant is not always able to reproduce a healthy plant because it was adapted to be disease-free from several plants components.
Germination rates are the amount of seeds planted versus what sprouted. So if you plant 100 seeds but only 10 sprout, your germination rate is very low. The cause for low germination is usually light deficiencies or too much water causing the seeds to rot.
Starting seeds indoors provide the opportunity to closely monitor water, light and soil conditions to ensure the best germination and sprouting rates.
Hardening off seedlings that are almost ready to be transplanted to their permanent home will need to undergo the hardening off process. This means slowly introducing tender seedlings to the outdoors.
Start a week or two before the last spring frost by setting seed trays outside in the sun for a few hours, increasing time outside with each session. Allow some windy days, some sunny and a few light rainy days to give a well rounded preview of the outside conditions.
Seeds will grow stronger from the windy, sunny days during their outside time which will decrease the shock once permanently set out.
Pro tip: point a fan on newly sprouted seeds to mimic the wind. This will help strengthen seedlings and make transplanting outside less of a shock.
Starting seeds outdoor
Direct planting is the process of planting seeds that are less tender, in their permanent home to sprout and grow. Direct seeding is done around the last spring frost date. Most gardeners will use their planting zone to find the average last frost date. If you need help you can read this article on finding your planting zone.
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Seeding in place is a great way to avoid shock and disturbing tender roots systems, if not done properly transplanting can shock plants to death. Literally.
Plantings seeds in the ground require the same considerations of soil, light, water and seeds but with slight variation. One big difference however, is that seeds can be washed away quiet easily in harsh rains.
A simple way to combat straight lines becoming scattered, or seeds being washed away is to make a trench according to seed packet depth. Then add a layer of paper such as paper towels or toilet paper the length of the row. Sprinkle lightly with water, and add seeds. The seeds will stick to the paper and before the paper disintegrates they should be sprouted and growing their own roots to anchor them in place.
Soil should be tested, improved and free from competition like weeds or roots. Plants will get enough light outdoors since spring days are longer. But if you are using greenhouses or planting bed covers, adding a string of lights to keep the bed warm on freezing nights can always be a good idea. Simply add a string of Christmas lights or glass picture frames to warm cold boxes. Need some ideas to extend your season?
Watering seeds that have been directly planted will be less frequent at first since they can absorb rain water and dew. You will still need to check the soil because a windy or sunny day can dry out soil and your seeds will not sprout.
Seeds will usually have a good germination rate when planted outside since the water and sunlight are in ample supply for the most part. Just make sure your seeds are in tip-top shape as previously mentioned!
Pro tip: cover directly sown seeds with a plastic milk jug or pop bottle. This will keep temperatures warm, water retained and offer protection from wind. Seeds again should be free of disease or mildew.
Tips for how to plant seeds for herbs
Growing your own fresh herbs can be a rather tricky business. Some herbs grow well from seeds, like basil and cilantro. While others grow best from a root transplant such as lavender. You can certainly grow lavender from seed; it will just take a few years before you will have a strong plant to produce a lot of flowers.
For the most part all herbs can be started from seed and grown indoors in your kitchen window for easy harvesting. In some areas herbs like thyme and rosemary are hardy enough to survive the cold winter, and come back in the spring. If you are in a harsher winter conditions try snipping a cutting roughly 6-8 inches and stripping the bottom leaves before adding to a cup of water. Roots will form after a week or two and you can keep your herbs indoors for the winter or gift a few cuttings for the holidays!
Pro tip: to start cuttings another way, you can use a rooting hormone like this one to dip cuttings into before adding directly to a pot with soil. Water and give the cutting a tug after a few weeks and you will feel the roots keeping the cutting in place.
Tips for how to plant vegetable seeds
Planting vegetables is by far the most rewarding experience, one that many households hope for each season. Planting vegetables from is the most common garden type as well, whether a raised bed, container or large plot.
Vegetables tend to do best in deeper soil because the root system is looking for extra nutrients to grow produce. Root crops like potatoes, beets or carrots need a good 12-18 inches of soft soil in order to grow a good size for harvesting.
Some plants do prefer to stay more shallow like vining vegetables such as squash, watermelon, beans and pumpkin. They prefer to grow a long vine with shallow roots every few inches attaching to the soil. On the other hand, you have heavy feeders like tomatoes that require a lot of nutrient rich soil. Because there are 3 major categories of vegetable plants, heavy feeders, neutral and heavy takers, crop rotation is good practice.
Pro tip: crop rotation will also help to reduce infestation since the food supply was removed. Read more on crop rotation according to the Farmer’s Almanac website.
You shouldn’t be afraid to get started planting seeds indoors or outside as long as you start with healthy seeds, good lighting and a balanced watering routine. While proper planting is important, sometimes you gotta just dive in and learn along the way. The best lessons are often learned through trial and error, so don’t let failure stop you! Go start your seeds and see what method works best for you!
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