9 tips to help your seeds turn into real plants

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cardboard palms line up in a window planter box to hatch

Cardboard palms, one per pot, line up to hatch

Even the most experienced gardener can still get a thrill when a seed germinates. Since I’m new to gardening and very easily awestruck, I’m jazzed every time something sprouts or sends up shoots or shows the least bit of green.

I’ve also dug up some solid advice that’ll help improve the odds of that seed turning into a plant.

  1. Plant seeds at the proper depth. No instructions? Google the plant name plus “seed+germination” and see what depth is recommended. No luck with the search engines? A good rule of thumb is bury to the seed’s diameter. But that isn’t true for everything – some seeds actually need light to germinate! Grab a seed planting guide to make sure.
  2. If your garden soil is heavy, cover with potting soil. A clay-filled soil will not encourage germination as well as a properly prepared seeding mix or potting soil. For indoor seed starting, use seeding mix.
  3. Start your seed in the temperature that will encourage it the most. Cool weather plants need a lower temperature than warm weather plants and crops. Read the seed’s instructions for light and heat.
  4. Controlled moisture is far better than standing water. Read the seed’s instructions for the amount of moisture it will find ideal. Many will want you to check for moisture at specific depths.
  5. Test your soil pH before planting. A soil’s acidity or alkalinity can change dramatically over time. Be sure to test before each season’s planting.
  6. Raise your soil temperature to speed sprouting. If you’re not getting a good encouraging soil temperature, cover the ground with a black plastic sheet or mulch. Be sure to remove this at the first sign of sprout!
  7. Soak or nick your seeds. Sometimes seeds need help in breaking through the protective outer shell. Soaking softens this natural shell, and nicking can give just enough of an opening for moisture to enter.
  8. Start like-minded seeds in the same area. Do several of your newly seeded future plants want bright light and high humidity? Keep them together in your growing area, but place the ones that will become the tallest in the back.
  9. Grab a germination mat or sheet for indoor planting. A germination mat helps growth medium reach and keep the temperature and moisture level the seeds need in order to germinate.

Bottom Line: Knowing a few basic precautions – and taking a few minutes to research what your seed wants – can go a long way toward assuring your seeding -and seedling- success.

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