In recent weeks there has been a shortage of seed at the shop front. Suppliers have been working around the clock to ensure the seed reaches the shelves and now gradually stocks are building up again. If you have picked up a few different packets of seed and want to be guaranteed of success, follow these practical tips when germinating seeds in trays or pots:

Light – All seeds require light to germinate. One of the biggest mistakes made when germinating seed is to place them in a position that is too dark. This will result in the newly germinated seedling becoming stretched, which is the elongation of the cotyledon and two leaf stage. The success rate of transplanting stretched seedlings is low as they tend to be brittle and easily damaged.  Place seed in a bright light position, at least 4 hours of sun at this time of the year is ideal.

Soil – Using a premium seed raising mix for germinating in trays ensures seeds have the best start. Don’t use soil from the garden in trays as it tends to compact, is not sterile and contains soil borne and water borne pathogens that are potentially fatal for seeds.  A premium potting mix is sterile and formulated so it drains freely, reducing the chance of waterlogging.

Depth of Seed – Ensure seed is placed just under the soil surface and covered lightly. As a general guide sow as deep as twice the width of the seed. For very find seed sprinkle on the surface and then cover with a thin layer of seed raising mix.  Vermiculite is effective for covering seed, it allows light to the seed, assists in drainage and weighs almost nothing so seeds can push their way through the layer.

In Season – Remember to sow seeds in the correct season. There is nothing more disappointing to do all the work expecting a new crop of seedlings and become disappointed quickly when nothing appears. If seeds are purchased from a retailer, there are always clear instructions on the packet as to when to sow that variety. This will vary across the country depending where you live. If you have been gifted seeds from a friend, remember to write on the packet the variety and when the ideal sowing time is. It’s easy to forget by the time it comes to next year.

Seed Viability – As seed ages, viability is reduced. The result is less plants than expected. Most seeds are sealed, a clever way to extend their shelf life. If you have a packet of seeds and don’t use them all share them around or swap, they may as well go into the ground and be of some use, rather than being stored in a cupboard. If you have a packet of old seed, past its sowing date do a germination test before sowing. There is nothing wrong with the seed, just the % of what will grow is reduced.

Water – All seeds require moisture to germinate. They are close to the soil surface and will dry out easily. Keep damp, but not soggy.

Be Patient and Gentle – Seed can take days to germinate or it can take weeks. Be patient and gentle when transplanting seedlings.

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