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Seed Starting Problems: Seeds Don't Sprout

We all agree... seed sprouting should be easy. Well, for some seeds, sprouting  certainly is fast and easy. For, others it can be difficult, and takes weeks to occur.

Are you providing ideal seed sprouting conditions for your seeds? Let's find out....

The Symptoms:

You planted seeds (indoors or out). But, they are not coming up....yet.

The Causes of Seed Sprouting Problems:

By far, the most common reason seeds do not sprout, is that they are planted too deeply. If it is too deep, the seedling struggles to emerge.

Heavy, clay soils makes it difficult, impossible for a seedling to break through the cement-like soil..

Soil and temperature conditions may not be ideal. This can delay germination, or result in the seeds not sprouting at all.

Another "cause" is the anxious gardener, who is unaware of how long it takes to sprout a particular seed. Some seeds sprout in as little as three days. Others, take two or more weeks.

The Remedies:

First and foremost, plant seeds at the proper depth. Consult the seed packet, for this information. We also, recommend, sowing seeds, slightly LESS deep than indicated. You can always add soil around a seedling after it has grown a couple inches.

TIP: Fine seeds can wash too deeply into the soil, by just watering them. For fine seeds, sprinkle them on top of the soil. Then, add a dusting of starter soil on top. Water lightly.

When planting outdoors in heavy clay soils, mix in ample amounts of compost, to make the soil lighter and looser. When you dig the hole or furrow, drop in the seeds, then cover with a layer of starter soil.

Moisture levels are very important. The best rule of thumb, is to keep the soil moist, but not wet. If the soil is dry, then moisture doesn't penetrate the seed cover to begin the germination process. Wet soils, results in rotting of the seeds.

Soil temperatures are too hot or too cold. It takes a minimum temperature for a seed to germinate. There is a maximum temperature for successful germination, over this temperature, the seed "cooks". The ideal temperature range varies by  type of seed. The ideal range for most garden plants is 70-85 degrees. Cool weather crops germinate at the lower range. And, warm weather crops germinate at higher temperatures in this range.

For outdoor plantings, try a raised bed, or a raised row. This helps to warm the soil, and helps avoid overly wet soils. See Raised Beds.

Heated germination mats are highly recommended for indoor starts.

Consult the information on the back of the seed packet. It should tell you how long it germination will take before sprouting, under ideal circumstances.

Old seeds may no longer be viable. This shouldn't be the cause of the germination problem, if you bought fresh seed from a reputable seed company. But, it could be the cause for older, leftover seeds, or seed harvested by you or a gardening friend. See Seed Germination Tests.

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