The Q&A Archives: Seed Starting

Question: I recently started some vegetable seeds (tomato, beans, cukes, onion) It has only been a couple of weeks but only some of the seeds (about 5-10%) have sprouted. One sprouted and then died. What is the problem? The ones that have sprouted seem healthy.

Answer: Seed starting shouldn't be difficult, just follow these guidelines: use new seed starting mix in sterilized trays. Moisten the mix and plant according the the package directions. Some seeds need light to germinate and some will only germinate in the dark. Those that need light can be sprinkled on top of the soil and pressed in with your hand, but not covered with soil. Those that need dark should be planted no more deeply than 2 times the diameter of the seed. Cover the seed trays with plastic wrap to help retain moisture and put the trays in a warm place, like on top of the refrigerator, until the seeds sprout. Some seeds sprout in just a few days, others can take 3 or more weeks. As soon as most of the seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic wrap and move the trays under a source of artificial light, or into a brightly lit area like a windowsill. The artificial light source should be 6 inches from the tops of the seedlings, and left on 14-16 hours each day. Usually when seeds fail to germinate it's because of too much or too little moisture, or too much/too little heat. Seeds for warm-season plants will benefit from bottom heat from a heating cable during the germination process. Try the above suggestions and see if they don't improve your success rate.

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