The advantage you get out of growing plants from seeds is that many varieties can only be grown (that are not locally available) and it’s cheaper that buying from a nursery. You can order any variety of a specific plant simply by browsing through a mail order seed catalog or several online seed catalogs. You can even order exotic seeds especially from catalogs like “the greendealer”.
In this article we will discuss how to grow plant seeds – detailing the process of germination and the light, heat, moisture and fertilizer requirements involved in growing seeds.
So basically we are going to discuss how do seeds grow with the necessary conditions required for the same, and how to plant seeds in the growing medium.
Germinating the seeds
Each seed consists of an outer shell and an inner fleshy part. Certain seeds have a really hard outer shell which needs to be softened by soaking in water, or even nicked, to get the process of germination started. How do seeds germinate? There are four factors involved – growing medium, heat, light and moisture. Once it has germinated, you will also need to start fertilizing. We will discuss all this in detail below.
As the seed begins to germinate, the roots are formed from one end and the stem emerges from the opposite end. Once you have purchased the seeds, or developed them on your own, you can get started with the process of bringing up a plant from these seeds.
1. Soaking the seeds
It is beneficial to soak the seeds in warm water. You can also add a pinch of sodium nitrate to the water especially for seeds that have a very hard coat.
The soaking can be done for 1 or 2 days for most seeds. The seeds will bloat up a bit, you can dry them with some paper towels and transfer them to a planting medium before they are too dry.
Some seeds which have a really hard coat would need be scarred with the help of a file or a sandpaper. Be sure not to damage the embroyo inside.
2. The containers to use for raising seeds
You can use any type plastic or peat moss containers that are atleast 3 inches deep. If you are reusing a container be sure to cleanse it thoroughly with a solution of water and bleach (10 to 1 parts).
If you are using self made containers like ice-cream cups or water cups, you will need to make a hole at the bottom for drainage. You would need to place a tray underneath the containers to collect the excess water drained out.
It is a good option to buy the flats, also known as jiffy stripes, that are designed specifically for growing seeds. They come well equipped with a tray and individual slots have a holes in the bottom.
The also have plastic lids on top to keep the humidity levels intact while the seed is germinating.
Just fill up the containers with the growing media and you are ready to sow the seeds
3. Growing media to grow plant seeds
You would need a special type of growing media when you are raising plants from seeds. It is important that you don’t use the garden soil because it will contain several pathogenic microbes that are harmful to a germinating seed.
A potting mix, specifically prepared for germinating seeds, can be bought from a nursery or you can make a mix of your own using equal portions of peat moss, sphagnum moss, perlite and vermiculite. You don’t have to use all of these ingredients, just a combination of two or three is enough.
4. Providing the right temperature to germinate seeds
Seeds germinate and grow better in a warm growing medium. A temperature of 70 to 80 F is optimal for most seeds. If the medium gets too cold it will impede the seed germination.
If you are growing the seeds indoors, you can place a 40V incandescent bulb underneath the flats. The heat produced by the bulb will warm up the growing medium. Don’t use a higher power bulb or the heat build up will get too high.
5. Meeting the light requirements
Seeds need light to germinate as do the little seedling that develop later. Simulating 10 to 12 hours of light using a source like fluorescent tubes is the best option. Fluorescent lights are closer to the natural day light than incandescent lights.
You can check out our article on grow lights for more information on indoor lighting needed to grow plants from seeds.
It is important to note that seedlings require periods of darkness along with light. No plant would do well under 24 hours of light.
6. Watering the right way
Before you sow the seeds, you must moisturize the growing medium once. You can do that by sprinkling water on top or by allow the medium to wick water from the tray below.
Once you have sown the seeds you can water every time the top surface, of the growing medium, goes dry. It is best to let the medium wick the moisture from below, so you can replenish water in the tray every time the level goes down. So the most critical factor in how to germinate seeds is to provide moisture – both before sowing (by soaking) and after sowing.
7. Adding fertilizers
The question most people have is – how do I know that my seeds have germinated? Well the starting sign is the emergence of a tail or root, which is basically the embryo. But since the seed is embedded in the soil you can’t see it, the visible sign is the appearance of the cotyledons, also known as the first leaves. They are not really leaves but food storage cells, but their arrival signifies that the germination has been successful.
How do seeds grow initially? Using the food stored in the fleshy part of the seed. Once this food has been used up you will need to provide it externally through fertilizers.
Once the first leaves appear you can get ready to fertilize the medium within a week or two. Water soluble fertilizers like Miracle-Grow are quite optimal for this purpose. The solution you use for seedlings should only be 1/4 the power of the one used for mature plants. Make sure you read the instructions on the label clearly.
Once the plants get strong and healthy you can start using a full strength solution.
If you use the right growing medium, and water and fertilize on time, the plants will grow healthy and would not succumb to any disease. Once they are sturdy, you can transfer them to a larger container or you can move them over to the garden soil. Transplanting is discussed in detail in this article: Starting Transplants.
We hope you found this information on how to grow plant seeds useful in implementing a plant growing project of your own.