It is the time of year when gardeners should think about ordering seeds for next spring. Seed germination is easy if you follow the correct process. When ordering seeds be sure to read the packages for germination rates. The germination rate is based on a percentages and by law these must be included on the packaging. If the package lists an 80% germination rate and contains 10 seeds, it means at least 8 seeds must germinate.
Preparing your containers to start the seeds is the next step. If you are reusing old seed trays, be sure to sterilize them by soaking them in a bleach and water mixture. Remember, when using seed trays, a limited amount of soil is required. One seed should be placed in each cell on your tray. The planting mixture for beginning seeds should be a mixture of peat and vermiculite, as it will hold moisture and remain loose when wet, allowing the seeds to quickly root.
Apply bottom heat with a heat mat is a favorable technique, because the temperatures from the mat will remain constant and can be adjusted if needed (70F to 85F degrees is ideal). Some seeds varities require light to germinate, while others need darkness, so research your seeds beforehand. If darkness is required, simply place a black plastic bag or newspaper over the seeds. Keep seeds sheltered from cold air and away from window sills.
Check on your planted seeds often to see if they have sprouted. If you had a bag or paper covering them, remove it at this time. If the soil is drying out to quickly, place a thin layer of vermiculite over your seed tray, this will hold the moisture and allow light to enter. If you have finished planting and have extra seeds, you can store them for next year by placing them in plastic containers with a moisture absorbing gel pack (this can be substituted with a tablespoon of powdered milk folded inside a napkin if need be) and place the container in a refrigerator until next season. The germination rate may vary season to season, so place 2 or three seeds per cell when planting.