Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Poor Germination?

I planted some seeds and only a few came up.  
Several elements are essential for seeds to germinate.  Water is, of course, number one.  But seeds must also have an adequate supply of light, oxygen and the proper temperature range. In a few cases seed need darkness to germinate. Seeds can be buried too deep, or too close to the surface where birds or wind may carry them away. This is often true of carrot seeds.  Furthermore, the possibility of disease, fungi and bacteria, in the ground can rot the newly planted seeds.  

Some seeds need special care. Certain ones have seed coats which are extremely thick. Particular care must be taken with these in order for the water to penetrate that coat. Soaking in warm water is one means. Seeds such as lupine, locust (Robinia) and others need to be scarified, which means they need to be mechanically scratched in order for the water to penetrate. This may be done with common instruments like sandpaper or a file. Soaking in hot water is another means of scarification. Still other seeds will not germinate, or break dormancy, unless they are exposed to a period of low temperatures and moist conditions. Certain seeds germinate only after a fire. Not all seeds are created equal.

Storing Seed
Store dry, clean seeds in an airtight container marked with their name and date saved.  Store around 40 degrees F with low humidity.  The refrigerator is a good place for this. Seeds of many plants remain viable for up to 5 years, if properly stored. Some plants like delphinium, onion and parsley, produce seeds that must germinate immediately after they ripen or they lose their viability.
If you have old seeds, or seeds of questionable viability, place some of them between a paper towel that is kept constantly moist and between 65 and 70 degrees F.  Check daily for germination.  If the rate is poor, consider buying new seeds.