Success with Seeds
Seeds donít live forever
you have planted seeds in the past and they did not grow it is probably
Some seeds require special treatments to encourage them to germinate
Seeds donít live forever
A seed with
potential to germinate is said to be viable. Some seeds
remain viable for many years. Seeds of some tropical
plants only stay viable for a few weeks. Corn retains
good viability for just one year, beans for 10 years and
tomatoes last even longer.
When buying seeds look at where and how the seed is
stored and packed Ė cool, dry positions are best. Foiled
lined packs prolong seed storage life. Check the use by
date. When collecting seeds directly from plants, make
sure they have reached the correct stage of ripening.
Make sure what you are collecting is actually the seed
of the plant! Some plants are surprisingly deceptive.
If it didnít grow it is probably your fault
While it is possible to sometimes get a poor batch of
seeds, failure of seed to germinate can often be traced
back to the gardener. There is an easy way to testing
the viability of seed. It is known as chitting or should
that be cheating?
Count out a set number of seeds and lay them in some
paper towel. Roll the paper towel up, wet it using a
spray bottle, then place inside a plastic bag. Check the
seed every day to look for the emergency of the first
Getting Seeds To Germinate
Seeds can be sown directly into the soil or into
containers. Direct sowing leaves seeds open to the
element. Sowing seeds in containers gives us more
control over the conditions that they are exposed to.
Seed Raising Mix
Key features - light enough
for the roots to be able to push down easily. It must be
able to hold sufficient moisture, but should not crust
on top as this may prevent oxygen reaching the roots.
Potting mix is usually too chunky and open for good seed
germination. Sieved compost is fine if you can tell the
difference between your seeds and any weeds that happen
Most seeds do not
need light for germination (eg cyclamen), but do need it
once the first seed leaves appear. For others, light is
essential (e.g. lettuce) and too great a depth of planting
will inhibit germination.
Seeds vary in the
temperatures they require to germinate. You can often
make a good guess at this by looking at the season in
which the plant grows best or where the plant comes
from. Winter growing annuals or vegetables germinate in
cooler soil temperatures (cabbage & cineraria) whereas
spring and summer growing species (salvia & capsicum)
need more soil warmth.
Sufficient moisture must be present
to penetrate the testa or seed coat, but not so much
that the seed rots or that the oxygen level in the soil
Some seeds require special treatments to encourage them
Sufficient moisture must be present to penetrate the
testa or seed coat. Pre-sowing treatments required by
Soaking in hot water
Pouring boiling water over seeds and allowing them to
soak overnight before sowing can help to break the seed
coat and promote rapid swelling and germination of seeds
Treating hard coated seeds
This can involve using sandpaper, wood files or a sharp
knife to break through the seed coat (eg Burdekin plum
Cleaning fleshy seeds of natural chemical inhibitors
Leaving the seed to ferment in water can help any flesh
on the outside of the seed to break down and help to
dilute the effects of natural chemical inhibitors (eg
Other seed treatments may include using smoke water
(especially some Western Australian native plants) and
use of acid to replicate the digestion of seed that
would typically take place in the gut of an animal (e.g.
fruits of rainforest plants naturally consumed by the
How Long Should I Wait?
A marigold may take
three days. A cycad may take three months
What about nutrients?
Nutrients are not
required until the plants start to grow their first pair
of true leaves. At this time they should be watered with
liquid or soluble fertiliser. Within a week or two of
this stage they will probably be ready to potted up into
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