Hi Nico, Quick question: Should I germinate my seeds before planting? If so, what’s the best way to do it? Thanks, Cori W.
Hi Cori, thank you for writing us! Your question is pretty simple to answer, but sometimes not so simple to do! In short, yes, most growers tend to germinate seeds before planting them into their grow medium of choice.
To be clear, however, germination of seeds is not necessary prior to planting in medium. You can sow seeds directly into the medium and they will also germinate there, but not always with the same success rate. The reason growers choose to germinate outside the grow medium is because it is easier to control the conditions surrounding the seeds. This leads to the second part of your question, which is the best-case practices for germinating seeds – this leads to the harder answers.
There are many different ways to germinate seeds. Probably the best methods involve keeping the practice as natural as possible. The simplest methods use water, warmth and darkness – all conditions the seed would naturally encounter underground. Many folks simply lay some seeds down on a paper towel on a flat plate, cover them with another paper towel, then moisten the paper and place the plate in a warm dark place. A popular hiding spot has always been on top of the refrigerator, while more professional growers employ heat mats that lie flat beneath seedling/ clone trays. Heat mats are an excellent and inexpensive aid for seed germination. Whatever you decide, the temperature should be 10-20 degrees above room temperature, or range between 78 – 90F.
Of course, there are always the tricky strains or the old seeds that are quite fussy and refuse to pop. These seeds require a bit more attention and creativity. Some people prefer to soak the seeds for a short period before placing them in a moist and warm place for germinating. Some people go as far as to use mild chemical solutions to help soften the shell and prod the seeds. Other growers will even use very sharp and sterile razors to carefully slice seed shells or tips to help induce germination. These practices are all risky and should only be used as a last resort.
Once a seed cracks open, the taproot appears. This taproot will become the plants primary root from which all other roots will grow. Technically, the seed is germinated once you can see the white of the taproot. Some grows prefer to wait until the taproot is 1-2 cm long before planting the germinated seed into a medium. Once you are ready to do so, be sure to place the seed about a half-inch below the surface of the medium with the taproot point downward and the seed shell on top. Be sure there is some space for the seed shell to push upwards through the medium, towards the light. At this point, the very young seedling still needs moisture, warmth and a bit of light now to direct its growth in the right direction. The seedling will likely be in this medium and container for a few more weeks before the seedling is ready to be transplanted into a larger container for vegetation.
Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!