Sowing is a wonderful activity; for some, it is rewarding, for others even mystical, because we partake of giving birth and regenerating life… But for many amateur gardeners, it can also have its challenges… Seeds that don’t germinate, seeds that are hard to plant because they are small, seedlings that grow leggy and plants that, for example, should grow leaves and instead go straight into bolting (it runs to seed to fast)…
But don’t worry… expert gardeners have their own tricks to get the best results from your seeds. Some come from ancient knowledge and others are new and very ingenuous. And this is exactly what I’ll be sharing with you: 10 of the best tips to make sure you will get as many healthy plants as possible!
Tip 1 – Look at the Moon
Did you sow your lettuce and instead of giving you large flesh leaves it bolted straight away? No wonder… You must have put the seeds in the ground during a waxing Moon phase. You see, leaf vegetables will tend to go into the reproductive phase (when they produce seeds) faster if when they are sowed when the moon is waxing.
So, always seed your leaf vegetables when the Moon is waning.
Tip 2 – Cheat long germination time seeds
The seeds of some plants, like parsnips for example, can take weeks to germinate… Thus can be a major problem because it means leaving them in the soil for a very long time. So… just get them to believe they are in the ground, and germinate first, and only then actually sow them.
But how can you do this?
- Take a sandwich box.
- Put two paper towels at the bottom.
- Wet the through.
- Put the seeds on top.
- Put two more wet layers of paper.
- Close the box and put it where it’s warm, possibly between 18 to 20o
Once you see the first little roots, they are ready to plant.
Tip 3- Seed indoors to lengthen the crop season
With soft plants like tomatoes and peppers you have a little problem. You cannot grow them outdoors when the weather is not warm enough. Yet, from the time you plant them to the first fruit, weeks go by and you are using land with now crops.
So, seed them indoors, in seeding trays or pots, and let them grow until they are small adult plants. This will mean that by the time the weather is fine to plant them, they will be almost ready to flower… And your crops will get longer.
Tip 4 – Careful with how deep you sow seeds
One of the most common mistakes you can make is to plant the seeds to deep. A seed only has a limited energy for the little plant, and, if it does not manage to reach the air in time, it will simply die. That accounts for many seeds that never grow a single leaf.
The average depth for a seed is twice the size of the seed itself. Basically, from the bottom of the hole or trench to the surface, there should be about twice the height of the seed you are planting.
This may vary a bit, but it is far safer to sow a seed in a shallow place than in one that is too deep.
Tip 5 – Moisten the skins of hard seeds
There are seeds like beans, peas, etc. that have a very hard skin over them. These will not germinate very easily if you put them straight into the ground. The little root will find it hard to pierce it, so, give it a helping hand by softening it for him. How?
Put the seeds in a bowl (bucket, glass etc.) of lukewarm water for about 24 hours before sowing them.
Tip 6 – Mix very small seeds with sand
If you have tried sowing very small seeds, you will know that there’s a big problem: you just can’t see the so you can’t space them out… Here’s a little old trick then.
- Put two teaspoons of sand in a container (a glass, a cup…)
- Add a pinch of seeds.
- Mix them very well.
- Then “sow the sand”; this way you will see the different color of the sand on the ground and you can space out your seeds more evenly.
Tip 7 – Don’t put seeding trays next to windows
I know, it’s natural to think that the best place for a seeding tray is by the window. But nothing could be more wrong. There are two problems with it:
- The light might be too strong and it will burn the new tender leaves as soon as they pop out.
- The seedling will come out leggy and not straight.
The best place for your seeds to germinate properly has plenty but diffuse light.
Tip 8 – Use seeding tapes to space small seeds out
Have you tried spacing out small seeds in a trench? You will soon lose track of where you put the one before… Of course, as soon as you drop them they disappear… And then you get a line of plants that is uneven. So, here is a very ingenuous solution!
- Take a jar and mix water and flour till you get a sticky paste.
- Take a toilet roll and cut it in two lengthways.
- Put a dot of the sticky paste for every seed (or groups of seeds), then the next at the right spacing distance etc.
- Put the seeds in the paste.
- Put the other half of the cut toilet paper on top. The paste will keep them together.
- Now, you can roll it up and then unroll it in the seeding trench.
Tip 9 – Use potting soil to fill in sowing trenches
Avoid using the soil of your flower bed or vegetable garden to fill in the sowing trenches after seeding. Why? You will soon lose sight of the trench itself. So you will not know where your rows of vegetables (or flowers) are and many of us have ended up sowing where we had already sown etc.
Instead, if you use potting soil, you will see the darker line of your trench, or row, long after you have finished with it.
Tip 10 – Soil and moisture are the key to germination
A final double tip for you… The key factors with getting your seeds to germinate well are, apart from the right temperature, the dynamics of soil and moisture.
You need to choose your soil well and keep the moisture levels steady. So…
Good seeding soil is rich in nutrients but also light and well drained.Seeds find it hard to break through clay soil, for example. So, choose a mix of loam and sand, and remember, good drainage also means that the plant can easily send its first bud to the surface.
After you sow, water thoroughly but with do notwater log the soil. If you do, the seeds will not get enough oxygen and they will literally suffocate.
If you use seeding trays, cover them with a plastic bag or sheet to keep the moisture in. Well drained soil also dries up fast.
Don’t forget to leave or pierce holes in the plastic bag or sheet, so that your plants can also breathe with their leaves once they germinate.
Seeding and Germination: Getting off with a Good Start
So, as you see, there are many little problems when planting seeds. We’ve all had our disappointments… But with a few tricks of the trade like these, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get the best out of your seeding, which is, of course, just the start (but a good one!) of having a successful garden…