Seeds and Germination
The heart of Vegetable Gardening is knowledge of seeds. Soils, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and watering are necessary to have a successful garden, but seeds are at the heart of it all. If they don't germinate? You don't need the rest.
This information piece is to familiarize gardeners with seeds and their germination. Master Germination and you are well on your way to master gardening. After all, gardening is a time sensitive practice, if your seeds don't come up, don't come up on time, or don't come up strong then you may miss your window of planting and then it will be only a 6 month wait if you are lucky. Unlucky? Well, just wait until next year!
When you look at a seed you are looking at the seed coat. As people wear coats for protection from foul weather, seed coats perform much the same function. They provide protection against entry of parasites, against mechanical injury and, in some seeds, against unfavorably high or low temperatures.
Germination is a fascinating process. Seeing a tiny seedling emerge from a dry, wrinkled seed and watching its growth and transformation, is observing the mystery of life unfolding. The first sign of germination is the absorption of water -- lots of water. This activates an enzyme, respiration increases and plant cells are duplicated. Soon the embryo becomes too large, the seed coat bursts open and the growing plant emerges. The tip of the root is the first thing to emerge and it's first for good reason. It will anchor the seed in place, and allow the embryo to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil.
Some seeds need special treatment or conditions of light, temperature, moisture, etc. to germinate. Seed dormancy is very complex, but it protects that living plant material until conditions are right for it to emerge and grow.Practical lessons can be learned from the seed: *
Seeds with bigger amounts of endosperm (the food housed within the seed shell)can feed the embryo plant longer, while it works its way toward light. Therefore, big seeds can usually be planted deeper. *
Seeds must absorb water to get germination going. Therefore, pre-soaking seeds may speed up the process. *
Available water is important to the newly emerged root. Therefore, you should plant seeds a little deeper in the middle of summer, when the top of the soil dries out quickly.
With proper storage conditions, the average useful life of some common vegetable seed is much longer than some others. This is a table stating the average life expectancy of a seed stored properly. Proper seed storage is cool, dry and dark.
onions and leeks
beans and peas
squash and pumpkins
This site has one of the best explanations and examples of seed germination based on temperatures I have ever seen. The table is well worth a good look. It will help you determine when to plant outside , what germination rate to expect and also if using pot to sprout it will help you determine what temperature to have your beds at.
Seeds and Germination Temperature Table
Seeds are the very beginning of our success or our failures as gardeners. The knowledge of them is vital if we are to continue our heritage. The day may come when the only seed available is a GMO "Frankenseed" that we have no desire to grow for various reasons. At that time, any natural seed we have will be more valuable than gold. Its' germination could be vital to survival of that species or variety of plant. The knowledge of making that germination more likely will be priceless.