Have you ever wondered how a seed gets its start? The process is called germination. And when it begins, life within the seed begins, too. Germination depends on the seed’s being planted at the proper depth and having in the soil the right combination of water, air, and temperature.
Some seeds are as large as pebbles; others are of dustlike smallness. Within a protective coat, each seed contains an embryo plant and a supply of stored food to start the young plant on its way. It is these stored foods that we eat in grains, peas, beans, and nuts.
When germination occurs, the seed coat splits, a rootlet starts downward, and a sprout carrying the seed leaves makes its way toward the soil surface. Seed leaves usually differ in appearance from the plant’s mature leaves. As soon as the true leaves expand, usually in a day or so, the young plant can function on its own.
The preferred temperature for planting seeds is about 70๐ F. A few species such as freesias and cyclamen require a lower temperature for prompt germination. A lightweight, sterile soil is best for starting seeds; delicate root tips can readily penetrate a light potting mix, and sterilization of the soil prevents weed growth and eliminates a fungus that causes damping off. Damping off attacks the tender stalks of seedlings just above the soil level, causing them to topple.
Depth of planting seeds is related to seed size. Except for very small ones that are scattered over the soil surface, seeds are generally planted at a depth 2-4 times their diameter. Be careful not to plant too deep; most failures result from the seed’s being buried alive. Also avoid sowing too thickly, as this creates such problems as weak seedlings and difficulty in transplanting. After you have planted the seeds, water them well. The soil should never be allowed to dry out totally during the germination period.
Tips on Planting Seeds
– Sterilize your containers by scrubbing the insides with a mixture of bleach and water and leave containers in the sun for several days to kill any fungus spores that may lurk in tiny openings before you plant in them.
– After planting seeds in furrows, place the containers in a warm spot away from direct sunlight and drafts.
– Water the soil gently with a rain-type watering can or a fine mist from a hose. Always keep the planting mixture moist, but not soaking wet.
– Once the first seedlings appear, put the containers in full light; but not in direct sunlight.
– Transplant the seedlings to individual pots or to their permanent spots in the garden as soon as 2 sets of leaves show. If not transplant promptly, the seedlings may get spindly and be stunted.
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