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Starting Seeds Outdoors

One might think that starting seeds outdoors is just a matter of sticking some seeds in the ground. A few days later, watch them grow as the tiny seedlings emerge from the soil, to greet the sun.

If only it were always that easy........

How Plant Seeds Outdoors -  The Basics:

  1. The very first step to starting seeds, is to select, good, high quality, viable seeds. Nothing is worse, than to pin the hopes of your new gardening season on old seed, or seeds of questionable quality.  

  2. If you save your own seed from last year's crop, perform a simple seed germination test, to be sure the seeds are viable.

  3. Perform a Soil Test, to check soil pH and soil fertility. About soil pH

  4. Adjust the soil ph and add fertilizers, as needed.

  5. Prepare the garden soil. Dig deeply to loosen the soil, removing large rocks, stones, roots, and debris.

  6. Add ample amounts of compost and manure. Mix in well.

  7. If your area is rainy, or the garden is in a low spot, slightly elevate the soil where you are sowing seeds. This helps to avoid rotting the seeds.

  8. Read the instructions on the seed packet, to determine the spacing and depth for planting the seeds you selected.

  9. It is extremely important not to plant seeds deeper than suggested on the seed packet. This is the most common cause of germination problems, especially in heavy soils.

  10. Cover the seeds with loose garden soil. Do not tamp the soil down. This will only make the soil harder for the seedling to penetrate.

  11. Applying fertilizer at planting is a common practice. Use a granular fertilizer, and follow the instruction on the fertilizer package, for application rates.

  12. Water the seeds immediately after planting. You do not need to water deeply, only enough to reach just below the depth of the planted seeds.

  13. Mark the rows! Otherwise you may go out to the garden several days later, and not be certain where you planted the seeds. Weeds likely will have emerged, and you will not know where to safely begin weeding.

  14. Check the planting area daily for moisture conditions, and for signs of pests that may be look for a free snack of your seeds.

Seed Starting Tip: For easier row spacing: Dig your seed row. Then, place a strip of toilet paper along the row. Sow seeds on top of the toilet paper and cover them up with lose garden soil. The paper decomposes in the soil.

Seed Sowing Tips:

  • Do not plant deeper than the depth indicated on the seed package. This is by far the number one cause of germination failure.

  • Keep the soil moist, not wet. Wet soils rot seeds.  

  • Elevate the soil slightly for wet areas, especially if planting in early spring.

  • Mark the row with fast-growing radishes. Just plant a seed every 4-6 inches. Radishes are tasty soil markers.

  • Thin seedlings to recommended spacing.

  • Soaking seeds helps to speed up germination.

  • Nicking seeds helps speed up germination for some, but not all seeds.

  • Soil temperatures are important to germination. Cool weather crops germinate in cooler soils. Warm weather crops need warmer temperatures to sprout. Raise soil temperatures, by covering the planting site with black plastic, or raising soil levels prior to planting. Lower soil temperatures by covering the planting area with straw, or providing shade over the site. Ie. an old card table offers cool shade to small areas.

Critters like your Seeds

Birds, squirrels, chipmunks, mices and moles Will seek a meal from your freshly planted seeds. Learn about controlling these critters.

Related Topics:

How to soak seeds prior to planting

About Spaghnum Peat Moss

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