The Q&A Archives: Low Germination Rate

Question: I planted tomato and pepper seeds on 2/19 - only 60% of them came up. What could be the cause?

Answer: Well, there are lots of things that affect germination rate. Usually seed packs are required to list the expected germination rate. If their rate is higher than yours, several things may be happening: if the soil temperature is too low, or fluctuates between extremes of hot and cold, the seeds that are marginally healthy won't make it; if soil moisture was too high, seeds may have rotted; my dad has had trouble with mice eating seedlings in his greenhouse as soon as they appear. Also, there's a chance that the seeds weren't up to par. You can do a test if you have any seeds left - moisten a paper towel with warm water, and wrap some seeds in it. Place the towel in a plastic bag or container, leaving it slightly open for air exchange, and leave it in a warm place (top of the fridge or TV). Check every other day to make sure the towel is still moist. By the end of a week, seeds should start to sprout. This'll give you a more accurate reading of the germination rate. Go ahead and plant the sprouted seeds to fill in the gaps!

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