Success with Seeds
It’s around this time of year when millions of Canadians are leafing through seed catalogues or browsing through seed racks in garden centres. They are imagining all sorts of wonderful colour schemes for their garden and anticipating baskets of fresh produce, most of which are going to come from seeds. And while it all seems fairly easy, in reality, I would guess that less than 50% of all the seeds purchased actually grow to maturity. This is not because the seeds are defective, even though we like to blame them for our bad luck. It’s most often because we need a little more information on how to have success with seeds.
Seed Struggles: Common Mistakes
When to Start Seeds
As the old saying goes, timing is everything, and this principle is especially true when starting seeds indoors. There has to be a natural progression from seed germination to planting outside, and unless you have a perfectly controlled environment or heated greenhouse in which to keep young seedlings, you must time the sowing of your seeds to correspond with the readiness of your garden outside. In other words, don’t start outdoor tomatoes until early April.
As a rule of thumb, a later start is better as our springs have been rather cool and wet the past few years. When the weather warms up to consistent day temperatures of 10°C, many seeds, like peas, broad beans, radishes and onions, can be sown directly outdoors into your garden.
I’m also convinced that you need a cool, well-lit area in which to place your young seedlings during the early stages of growth. Adjustable Power Smart lighting, adjustable heat and circulating fans (to help prevent fungal issues) are also important.
How to Germinate Seeds
Many seed catalogues indicate the best temperature each variety needs for maximum germination, and the easiest way to achieve that temperature is with a heating mat. They may not be cheap, but they are a worthwhile investment if you are planning to continue sowing indoors in the future.
Germination time will vary with the type of seed, but as soon as they sprout, immediately remove the covers, cool them down, provide lots of light and keep the humidity up. A drenching with an organic fungicide, like Safer’s ‘Defender’, will help prevent disease. Maintain the soil on the dry side once the seeds are up and away.
Your greatest challenge will be to keep all your seedlings short and compact before they go into the garden. High light, moderate watering and cooler temperatures will help you achieve just that.
There is a lot of satisfaction in growing your own plants from seed, but germination takes a good deal of care and attention. Seeds contain a little magic, and like a good magician, we must learn our craft well to help them perform to our expectations. For additional information on starting from seed, visit West Coast Seeds for tips, videos and more!
*Growing organic? Organic starter soil mix does not have a wetting agent in it, so when you add water, the water will likely float to the top of the soil. You will have to pre-moisten and mix it and watch the consistency of moisture levels throughout germination. While this is definitely doable, regular starter mix is a bit easier to work with.