Growing food from seeds is AMAZING. It is truly an awe inspiring experience. These tiny seeds can grow to be huge plants, sometimes producing hundreds of pounds of food. Sometimes those tiny seeds grow a beautiful radish or flower.
Understanding Seed Germination
When you decide to grow from seed, you'll need to decide if you're going to start indoors or outside. In this article, we will explain the process of seed germination as well as indoor/outdoor seed starting requirements. We also have a tip using Cinnamon!
But first, what is germination?
In simple terms, it is the process of a seed developing into a plant. Germination usually occurs below ground, before the stem and leaves appear above the soil.
All fully developed seeds contain three basic parts, the embryo, endosperm and seed coat.
The embryo is the part of the seed that develops into a plant. It contains the embryonic root (radical), embryonic stem (epicotyl and hypocotyl), and one or two seed leaves (cotyledons).
The endosperm contains the starch or stored energy for the developing embryo and is the largest part of the seed, packed around the embryo.
The seed coat is the outer layer that protects the seed’s internal structures.
In order for a seed to germinate, there are a few important factors: Water, oxygen and proper temperature.
Water is one of the vital elements when starting plants from seed. Too much water and your seeds will drown or rot. Too little and they will either fail to germinate or die once they do.
When a seed is exposed to the proper conditions, water and oxygen are absorbed through the seed coat and cause the embryo cells to enlarge. If there is not enough oxygen present, germination may not occur. The most common reason for a lack of oxygen is too much water in the soil due to over-watering or flooding.
Temperature is a bit trickier. Temperature requirements vary between species, but the general guide is between 68 F and 86 F, but 77°F is optimum.
Sometimes, it's not just as simple as sticking a seed into the ground.
Planting depth matters!
Seed sowing depth has a key role to play in germination. If you plant seeds too deep, they may fail to germinate. Alternatively, if you plant them too shallow, you could expose tender roots at germination, or the seeds could even wash away entirely.
The general rule for seeds is two or three times as deep as the seed’s diameter. That means those tiny seeds can often be surface sown while those giant beans need to plant planted plenty deep.
We have several articles and videos about seed starting (posted below). Some seeds need light, others need darkness. Some seeds do better with a 12-24 hour soaking and some require cold stratification or scarification.
Cold stratification is an extremely easy process and once you’ve done it once, you’ll no doubt get the hang of it. The time you need to keep your seeds in the refrigerator depends on the variety, but 4-5 weeks should be a sufficient amount of time for most seed varieties.
Once there’s no more chance of frost in your area, take your seeds out of the fridge and plant as normal. The simple, quick process of cold stratification helps the seed germinate quicker and grow more readily in your garden bed.
DIY Cold Stratification
Coconut Coir or Sand & Water
Place a 1/4 cup of coconut coir sand (or more) in a mixing bowl. Slowly add water until you can form a ball with the sand/water mixture.
Add your desired seed amount to the sand. Mix thoroughly.
Place sand/seed mixture in a ziploc bag or container and seal.
Label the variety and date clearly on the bag.
Place in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks before planting. If seedlings start to sprout in the bag in the refrigerator, remove immediately and either plant in the ground or in pots until it’s time to plant outdoors.
-Quality seeds -Growing medium -Water -Temperature -Light
If you read our online reviews on our website and social media, you'll see that customers report very successful germination rates with Mary's Heirloom Seeds. If you're not sure about growing a certain variety in your area, we are just an email away and we're happy to answer your seed or garden related questions.
If you are starting seeds indoors or in containers, it is recommended to use "sterile" seed starting mix or soilless medium such as coconut coir mixed with perlite.
A good seed starting medium should be fine, uniform, well aerated, and loosely packed. It also needs to be free of insects, disease organisms, and weed seeds.
As we mention above, too much water can reduce oxygen levels and kill your seeds. Not enough water can cause developing seeds/seedlings to shrivel up and die before they reach the surface.
Keep your soil/medium moist but not waterlogged.
Temperature was also mentioned above. If you are starting seeds indoors, there are several options to warm up your soil: above the refrigerator, in a greenhouse (preferably heated) or a heating mat.
This is an important factor. While some seeds need light and others need darkness to germinate, plants NEED light. When your tiny seedlings begin to emerge, they will need a light source. If you are starting seeds indoors, it is best to use a grow light or something similar that is very close to your seedlings.
The type of light you use will determine how close it needs to be to your plants. In general, a florescent should be 10-12 inches away, while an LED should be 24-36 inches away. These are just general recommendations.
If you use a sunny windowsill indoors, seedlings often become "leggy" and not very strong. Rotating them daily and using a fan on low can help.
Remember how I mentioned Cinnamon?
Damping off is a soil-borne fungal disease that affects seeds and new seedlings. Several fungi can cause decay of seeds and seedlings including species of rhizoctonia, fusarium and phytophthora.
The most common way damping off will present itself is when your plant stalks become water-soaked, thin and mushy, and fall over at the base and die.
The seedlings, especially the cotyledons (the first leaves produced) may have a kind of gray-brown color, and young leaves will wilt and turn from green-gray to brown.
There is no cure for plants that already have damping off. However, you can easily prevent the problem by providing good air circulation
Cinnamon is a natural anti-bacterial and is often used as a rooting hormone. Bonus, it's delicious and most of us have a bottle or two in our kitchen cabinet.
Once your seeds are planted, gently sprinkle cinnamon over the surface. If you are starting seeds in trays, be sure to "bottom water" and don't over-water.
My best advice is to plant more seeds than you think you will need. Some will be eaten by bugs, some might not make it after transplant ans some may not thrive. The remaining seedlings might feed you for years to come. Have patience, plant seeds and enjoy the experience!
Sow Basil seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before your last frost day OR sow seeds outside when soil is warm and temperatures do not drop below 65 F during the day. Seeds should be sown less than 1/4 inch deep in moist, well-drained soil.
Basil seeds usually germinate in as few as 5-7 days. Make successive sowings of basil seeds for continuous summer harvests.
From seed to harvest, Basil is ready in as few as 45 days. Basil can grow in full sun as as little as 6 hours of sun. Space Basil plants about 12 inches apart or interplant basil between larger plants such as Tomatoes and Peppers.
Water basil when soil is dry to the touch and try to water soil and not leaves. In warmer months, Basil will need more water.
Basil is pretty pest tolerant but you might see the occasional flea beetle marks or leaf miners. Aphids can usually be sprayed of with a water hose.
One healthy, well pruned Basil plant can produce around 1/2 cup of leaves every week. If you're limited on space, there are even dwarf varieties such as Dwarf Greek Basil.
Once mature, harvest basil leaves regularly to promote healthy growth. It is usually recommended to harvest from the top of the plant, using scissors or fingernails. Try to cut as close to the stem as possible.
Pinching off flowers is recommended to keep a continuous harvest all summer long. Flowering is also called "bolting" and the plant will put forth more energy for flower production. If you wish to save the seeds, allow your plants to bolt.
I like to use Coconut Coir for seed starting. It's easy to use and less acidic than peat moss. Seeds do not need any fertilizer in the beginning stages so it is best not to use compost or treated soil for seed germination.
Coconut Coir Pellets or 6 Cell Germination trays work well for seed starting. Use garden markers to label the seeds you've planted. I hear from SO many gardeners that they forgot to label or lost their labels and they don't know what they planted! We recently posted 2 video to help you get started
Sowing depth varies, depending on the germination needs of the plant, but generally most seeds are sown at a depth about twice their width. Some seeds require light to germinate and so require sowing on the soil surface. Once depth is determined, sow one to two seeds per pot and mist the soil surface with water so it's evenly moist. Most seeds germinate best at temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Watering when the soil surface feels dry is sufficient, but empty any collected water from the drip tray within 30 minutes of irrigation to prevent soggy soil.
Some seedlings may have to be transplanted into larger pots to give them room to grow and develop their root systems. Handle the baby plants gently by their leaves, not stems or roots, and try to keep the tiny rootballs intact as you move plants to their new pots. When watering seeds, I use either a spray bottle to moisten the soil or pour water into the reservoir so the soil wicks up the water. Heavy-handed pouring can displace tiny seeds so it is best to use caution. Kathryn at Little Bits of Heaven homestead mentioned her secret to avoid "dampening off" in her video Starting the Summer Garden & Cheap Seed Organization and it's cinnamon! We use Cinnamon as well and it definitely helps. Check on your plants once a day Harden off your seedlings prior to transplanting outdoors. Not sure how, we have an article Hardening Off Seedlings If you'd like to check out our very first video on seed starting, it's also on our youtube channel
If you have additional questions please give us a call or email
We're raising chickens here at Mary's Heirloom Seeds and growing extras for our birds. Supplementing fresh, homegrown veggies and grains for our chickens is not only super healthy but it can also save a bunch on your feed bill!
This Combo pack includes:
2 ounces of Reid's Yellow Corn - Perfect for cracked or whole corn. An excellent storage corn that produces loads of high protein kernels. The staple of any scratch recipe.
2 ounces of German Golden Millet - Easily cut and hung up in the garage for later use. We tie these sprays of millet together, hang in the barn and throw the entire spray to the the chickens when we need it. No need to thresh, and the chickens love it.
2 packs of Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard - huge chard perfect for poultry greens, which are absolutely vital to good growth, egg production, chick development and health.
Includes SEEDS from Mary's Garden Pack. Over the years I've tried new varieties in my garden. This seed combo pack includes many of my favorites! Includes One packet of each: -Amana's Orange Tomato-German Giant Radish -Anaheim Pepper -Detroit Dark Red Beet -Jalapeno Pepper -Tom Thumb Lettuce -Blue Lake Bush Bean -Purple-Top Whiteglobe Turnip -5-Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard -National Pickling Cucumber
All over the radio and around I'm seeing advertising for Black Friday sales and a few of my friends have asked if we're having one as well. Well, the answer is NO...and YES!
This year, we're spending time with our families and not stuck behind a computer. Thursday we'll all get together at my sister's house and Friday I'm spending the day with my Dad, behind the counter at his retail shop.
We're starting a Sale TODAY that will run thru Sunday, November 27th
*While Supplies last*
Before we get to the Seed Sale, just a quick reminder. Our Gardens Fundraiser is going thru Dec 19th. We've added more items. Check back often for more NEW Items and Thank You for helping us help others!
SEEDS, COMBO PACKS & STARTER KITS
SALE Ends November 27th
*Click the Images for complete details*
We've added Organic Plant Food samplers to 3 of our Combo Packs/Starter Kits AND they're On Sale!
If you love the sweet, juiciness of homegrown, heirloom tomatoes then we have a very special combo pack for you! This combo pack includes 6 varieties of heirloom, organic tomato seeds. All individually packed, regular size seed packs.
For those of you just getting started and looking for guidance, we have created a special "kit" just for you. This starter pack includes PRINTED instructions from some of our more popular articles and tutorials as well as seeds, germination supplies, organic pest control and organic soil amendments
An excellent starter pack! Includes 10 varieties of organic, non-GMO seeds (25 seeds per pack), Coconut Coir seed starting pellets, Plant Markers, organic plant food and detailed growing instructions
Organic, Heirloom, Non-GMO Seeds: St. Valery Carrot, Tom Thumb Lettuce, Roma Tomato, Black Beauty Eggplant, Blue Lake Bush Beans, New Jersey Wakefield Cabbage, National Pickling Cucumber, Early Scarlet Globe Radish, Yellow of Parma Onion and Black Beauty Zucchini
8 ounces Organic Plant Food 3-4-4
Options: 24 Coconut Coir Pellets OR 50 Coconut Coir Pellets
A more recent addition to our combo packs includes our homesteader packs!
Coconut coir growing medium comes from the coconut's fibrous husk (known as coir) that is bound together by lignin (known as pith). After the husk is immersed in water for 6 weeks, the fiber is extracted mechanically, and the pith is left behind as a waste product and stored in heaps to age. Since the pith comes from the fruit, it is quite naturally rich in nutrients. Coconut coir growing mediums are dehydrated and compressed into a compact form for easy handling. With the addition of water, coir expands to an easy to work with growing medium.
Unlike peat moss, which is highly acidic, coconut coir has a neutral pH level. Most garden vegetables and flowers grow best in neutral to slightly alkaline conditions. When you use peat to amend a garden bed, an addition of agricultural lime is often necessary to combat the higher acidity. With coconut coir, limestone isn't necessary unless the soil naturally has a higher pH level. Coir use results in both a monetary and a labor savings, since you don't need to purchase further pH amendments nor work them into the soil.
-Coir improves soil drainage in the bed while also helping to retain moisture in quick-draining soils. Since coir breaks down slowly, much like peat, it creates air pockets in the soil that allow excess moisture to drain away from plant roots. The coir itself holds onto some moisture so the drainage doesn't occur too quickly and the soil doesn't dry out completely. These dual drainage and retention properties allow coir to improve moisture management in both heavy clay soils and dry, sandy beds.
-Peat moss, which coir replaces as a soil amendment, takes centuries to regrow once harvested. Coir is completely sustainable since it is a natural byproduct of coconut harvests, and coconut trees produce new coconuts every year. Using the coir in the garden keeps it out of the landfill where it would otherwise go. Coir can take a century or longer to fully break down in these landfills, so it's more sustainable to use it to improve your garden soil.
Step 1: Take out your Coconut Coir Pellets. I like to use a large tray
Step 2: Add water to tray and Coconut Coir Pellets. Using warm water might help them "grow" faster.
Step 3: Add seeds to the hole and gently cover or "squish" coconut coir.
Step 4: Place in a warm sunny place and keep moist. This is where the real growing happens!
Common Seed-Starting Issues
-Incorrect Temperature. Different seeds have different needs.
-Old Seeds. When properly stored seeds can have a very long shelf life. But the older they get, your germination rate will begin to reduce
-Incorrect Watering. Water in a necessity for all plants. In the germination stage you need to make sure you keep the soil evenly moist. If you water too much, you run the risk of your seeds rotting before they germinate. If you let them dry out, they will either never germinate or die trying!
-Planting Depth/Light. When you plant your seeds pay attention to your planting depth. This is important because if planted too deep you plants could run out of energy before reaching sunlight. Planting too shallow can lead to drying out. Some seeds actually need some light to germinate, so instead of digging them down you just press them into your soil.
MOLD or ROTTING
Dampening off, is probably the most common disease when starting seeds. It’s a fungus that can attack the seeds as soon as they germinate or after the seedling has emerged. You will know this is what killed your seedlings when you notice dark spots on the stem right at the soil level and the seedling topples over and withers away.
-Don't over water
-Provide air movement.A small fan will work
-Nutrients: Use a half-strength, organic fertilizer with tiny seedling.Our DIY Kelp Meal Tea is a great option for tiny seedling.You can use this as a foliar feed as well.
For coconut coir pellets, plant no more than 2 seeds per pellet for small seeds and only one per pellet for larger seeds.If both seeds germinate, do not pull one out.Pinch off one of the seedlings at the base to remove.This will give the remaining seedling a chance to survive and thrive.
Once your seedlings are strong and roots start to grow out of the mesh, it's time to transplant them into the garden or into your containers.
Take the entire pellet and plant into the garden. For healthier root growth and to give plants a boost, I add a tablespoon of Azomite into each hole and mix into the dirt before transplanting the coconut coir pellet with growing seedling. I also water with a diluted version of our DIY Kelp Meal Tea when I transplant to help with shock.
We hope you have enjoyed our in-depth article about Seed Starting with Coconut Coir. If you have additional questions, feel free to comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org