Germinating Seeds

Author: Meera, June 11, 2014

On the property behind my farmette, a Sierra Live Oak tree drops acorns in abundance. The acorns sprout into seedlings, ensuring new generation of the tree.



Four-year-old oak

Four-year-old oak



The life cycle of the oak tree begins with acorn (the seed of the oak).  As with all seeds, the acorn contains the genetic information for germinating and growing into the specific type of plant (in this case, a Sierra Live Oak).



The acorn has sprouted a seedling

The acorn has sprouted a seedling



This is the secret of seeds, they are alive and many remain viable, able to germinate for 1-5 years. Seeds link one generation of a plant to the next. Seeds for woodlands as well as vegetable and flower gardens widely vary in size, shape, color, and the amount of time it takes for germination.



Seeds require moisture and warmth to germinate. Some–such as the flower garden varieties of columbine, petunia, begonia, and snapdragon–also require light to germinate. You would not plant those seeds¬†under the soil, but rather scatter them on top of moistened soil or seed-starting mix.




Light, however, is not necessary for most seeds to germinate. Outside in the garden, seeds require soil and air temperatures to be warm (tomatoes need the ground’s night-time temperatures to be around 55 degrees Fahrenheit) before they’ll set up blossoms and fruit. Moisture is a requirement, too, but too much water destroys the seed.




Pre-sprouting is the process of sprouting seeds before they are planted in their permanent places in the garden. In cold climates, pre-sprouting can give plants (especially the heat lovers like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) a jumpstart in the spring since they are started indoors and put out when the warm days arrive.



Seed sown directly into the earth can take a week or more to germinate but seed pre-sprouted in your kitchen may take only a couple of days.



To sprout your seeds indoors, you’ll need to sprinkle them across a moistened (not dripping wet) paper towel and also cover them with moist paper towel. When inserted inside an unsealed plastic bag and placed in a warm area, your paper towel seed mat retains its moisture. Check it every day and spritz with water if necessary until the seeds germinate.




These bell pepper seedlings were pre-germinated and transferred to cells

These bell pepper seedlings were pre-germinated and transferred to cells




The small plants of germinated seeds that have not yet been planted into the garden are called seedlings. Plants in cells (like the seed flats you see in nurseries) need to have two to four sets of leaves before they are ready to transplant into the garden.



Gardening becomes a fulfilling hobby when you start plants for your garden from seed and nurture the seed through the process of germination into seedlings. Flats of cell packs (usually six or eight cells to one pack) and commercially prepared potting/planting mixtures make starting seeds for your garden fuss-free and easy.



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