This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
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If you’re a gardening enthusiast, you know there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing the first tiny green shoots come up after you’ve planted seeds. To germinate seeds you will need to give them the correct type of soil and make sure they get the right amount of sun or shade, plus regulate the temperature so they don’t get too hot or cold. Read on to learn how to give seeds the right environment to germinate and grow.
Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.
Wondering whether your garden seeds will sprout? You can eliminate some of the wait time by pre-germinating seeds. Pre sprouting seeds germinates seeds before planting. This saves time, eliminates thinning, and conserves space.
Directions for Pre-Sprouting Seeds
Step 2: Label your containers. Use a water-resistant marker to label your containers or bags.
Step 8: Keep your seedlings warm and moist. Use your spray bottle to keep the soil surface moist and continue caring for your seedlings as described from step 5 on in this article: 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors.
Step 4: Add your seeds. Spread your seeds out on top of the damp paper towel. If you are using containers, simply close the cover. If you are using plastic bags, fold the paper towel over the seeds and place in the bag.
Most annuals, and perennials that bloom the first year from seed, are easy to grow from seed sown in place in the garden. They sprout fast and grow quickly, so that you don’t have to spend much time separating husky weed seedlings from puny flower seedlings. If plants can’t hold their own until I get around to pulling weeds, I plant them in pots.
Many seeds are simple to grow. Scratch up a patch of open soil, scatter the seeds, and there you go. But other seeds will do best under more controlled conditions, or with special treatment that mimics the conditions of their native habitats.
Rough and tumble treatment is just right for seeds with a tough coat. Put them in a jar lined with coarse sandpaper, cover, and shake.
Toughen up seedlings, then plant them in the garden
Gently remove seedlings from their pots to avoid disturbing the root system.
Good watering is gentle watering. If you’re watering from above, use a soft, misty spray.
When the pots are ready, I snip off a corner of the seed packet (or its interior glassine envelope of seeds) and carefully shake three or four seeds into each pot, allowing at least ½ inch between each of them. The tiniest seeds can slide out too quickly so, for better control, I fold a small piece of stiff white paper in half, pour the seeds into the strip, and dole them out by lightly tapping the paper strip. If the seeds are large enough to easily see, I use my fingertip (making sure it’s dry so seeds don’t adhere to it) to push each seed gently against the moist, soilless mix, so it makes good contact. Instead of burying the seeds, I use a sieve to cover them with a thin layer of the reserved seed-starting mix. If the seeds require light to germinate, I don’t cover them at all. I then make a label with the plant’s name and date, and push the marker into the pot so that it doesn’t protrude above the rim.
The other two techniques that are sometimes needed to break the dormancy of stubborn seeds have names so big that they frighten many gardeners off: stratification and scarification. But these are just fifty-dollar words that describe simple techniques.