9 Tips for Better Seed Germination Rates This Season

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9 Tips for Better Seed Germination Rates This Season: No matter if you plant seeds indoors, outdoors, or in the winter, every grower wants their seeds to germinate quickly. Logan Hailey, a gardening expert and former organic farmer, shares her best tips for getting your seeds to grow faster this season.

9 Tips for Better Seed Germination Rates This Season

  • If your seeds don’t germinate well, it can waste your time, effort, and money, and your spring gardening projects could be put off for weeks or even months.
  • Optimization of the three things that make seed germination possible is the best way to increase germination:

Don’t Let Your Soil Dry Out

Soggy soil and dry soil are two of the fastest ways to kill seeds that are trying to grow. These two extremes of moisture can be very bad for all kinds of seeds, but especially for veggie seeds that are starting to grow in seedling trays:

  • Too little water can halt the germination process.
  • This will cause the seeds to shrivel and die.
  • Too much water can lead to seed rotting.
  • It can also lead to compacted soil, hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions, and damping off disease.
  • Even though they are saved all winter, the seeds are strong enough to fly away in the wind. But seeds need everything like babies do when they wake up and start to grow.
  • Their roots aren’t big enough to find water in the ground yet, so they need water all the time. Do not forget:


Dry seeds hibernate

  • Moist seeds germinate
  • Soggy seeds rot

For outdoor germination, stick your finger 1-2” into the soil and use this test:

  1. If your skin comes out dry, the soil needs water ASAP.
  2. If a little bit of soil sticks to your skin, the soil is moist.
  3. If your finger comes out dirty like brownie batter, the soil is too wet.
  4. If the soil “ball” crumbles in your hand, it’s probably too dry and needs irrigating.
  5. If it drips water or turns to mush, it is overwatered and needs to dry out.

Provide Enough Light

  • Plants need light once they reach the top, even though the germination process starts in the dark soil. This is very likely to happen if your seedlings aren’t getting enough light,
  • either natural or manufactured. Most of the time, baby plants that are weak, long, or spindly are caused by not getting enough light.

Use a Soil Thermometer

  • Most people don’t know how useful soil temperatures are for starting seeds. It’s not nearly as important what temperature the air is at as what temperature the land is at. C
  • ertain factors underground affect how many seeds sprout and how fast they sprout.

Soil Temperature Cheat Sheet

  • This cheat sheet was made from reliable study done at the University of California. These numbers don’t necessarily mean that your seeds won’t germinate at warmer or cooler temperatures,
  • but they do show that the best range is the one that gives you the most reliable results. The most accurate way to figure out how likely it is that your seeds will grow is to use a soil probe thermometer.


Crop Minimum (°F) Maximum (°F) Optimum Range (°F)
Beet 40 95 65-85
Cabbage 40 95 60-85
Cauliflower 40 95 65-85
Celery 40 85 70°F night, 85° day
Chard 40 95 65-85
Corn 50 105 65-95
Cucumber 60 105 65-95
Eggplant 60 95 75-85
Lettuce 32 85 60-75
Melons 60 105 85-95
Onion 32 95 65-85
Parsley 40 95 65-85
Peas 40 85 65-75
Pepper 60 105 85-95
Pumpkin 60 105 85-95
Spinach 32 75 65-75
Squash 60 105 85-95
Tomato 50 95 65-85



Use a Heating Mat

  • Warm-weather plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash will sprout much faster if you can’t make a fully climate-controlled greenhouse. A heating mat is the easiest and cheapest way to do this.
  • These electric mats are waterproof and easy to set to a certain temperature. They can be put under seed-starting trays. Just plug it in and put your trays on top. Then sit back and watch it work its magic.

Also see

Zucchini, Goat Cheese, and Tomato Frittata Recipe


Sow at the Proper Depth

  • To stay warm, a baby needs to be swaddled and wrapped in just the right number of blankets. Similarly, seeds need to be tucked in at just the right level to sprout properly.
  • There are times when you don’t want to cover your seeds with too much dirt. Seeds might not be able to reach the light if you put them too deeply.

General Rule of Thumb: Sow seeds twice as deep as their size.

  • Large seeds like squash and beans can be sown up to an inch deep in the soil.
  • Medium seeds like tomatoes or brassicas can be planted in a small hole about twice their size.
  • Tiny seeds like lettuce and basil should be sprinkled with a thin layer of soil over the top.



Use a Well-drained Soil Mix

  • Drainage is important for healthy sprouting because it keeps seeds from going bad in the soil. The plant tray can have water move through it more quickly.
  • Well-drained dirt also has more oxygen between the particles, which helps the seeds “breathe.” Not all of your seeds may be germinating at the same rate. This could be because the dirt is too heavy or doesn’t drain well.
  • Try to find a dirt mix that is made just for seeds. If you want to grow plants in pots, these blends are better than potting mix or flower bed mix because they drain better.
  • The best things to put in a sprout mix that drains well are:
    Compost that has been sieved
  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Coco coir
  • Peat moss
  • Vermicomposting

Don’t Plant Old Seeds

  • Seeds are most likely to germinate if they are no more than 1-2 years old.
  • Throw away seeds that are more than 3-5 years old. For hybrid seeds, it is best to re-order new seeds every year.

Use Row Cover for Direct Sown Seeds

  • When you are direct seeding in the yard, it is harder to keep things the same when the weather changes outside. Row cover is a fabric used in farming that lets water and light pass through it.
  • Even better, row cover keeps pests away from seeds that are starting to grow! Instead of using chemicals or biological control, row cover stops pests from getting to seeds that have just started to grow. Some
  • plants that are especially likely to get flea bugs are radishes, turnips and rocket.
  • Cover outdoor seeds with row cover to keep the soil moist and the temperature even. Get a row fabric thickness that works best for your plants and environment.
  • It takes less light to germinate carrots, cucumbers, or greens in thicker cloth, but it keeps the seeds warmer. For cold-loving plants like spinach, thinner row fabric works best to keep pests away.
  • After planting the seeds, put row cover right on top of the dirt. Along the edges, secure the cloth with landscape staples, bricks, sandbags, or other weights to keep it from blowing away.


Don’t Sow Too Densely

  • It’s normal to plant extra seeds to ensure you have enough plants for the season. However, if you forget to thin your seedlings, they can quickly become overcrowded and prone to diseases. Dense sowing can also cause your plants to be stunted, weak, or spindly in their growth.
  • When growing in seed trays, plant just 2-3 seeds per cell. Most vegetables can be thinned to one seedling per cell. When growing outdoors, you will need to check the recommended spacing for the specific variety. If the seeds are very small, use a hand seeder to prevent dumping too many seeds in one area.

Final Thoughts

It’s not hard for seeds to sprout, but it may take a while to find the best conditions for different plants and locations. It might take some time to find the best way to plant seeds for you. Pay attention to these three things for the most constant success:





By sticking with the tips listed above, you’ll be well on your way to having successful seed germination rates this gardening season!


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