The Q&A Archives: Poor Germination

Question: I have planted peas and beans for several years here in SW Michigan. Every year I obtain a poor stand. Less than 10% of the seeds that I sow sprout. I do not understand why the germination would be so low when I use new seeds. Would you have any idea what might be causing this?

Answer: Both peas and beans tolerate cold soils and grow best in cool temperatures, so unless the soil is soggy wet, sowing in the early spring should bring about better than 10 percent germination. Have you dug the area up to see if the seeds are still there? Sometimes birds discover a newly planted garden and have a field day. Seeds can also rot if the soil is too wet, and if you dig the area you'll find decomposing seeds. Another possiblility is that the seeds are sown too deeply. Seeds have only a small amount of stored energy - just enough to be able to send a sprout up to the soil surface to begin the process of photosynthesis. So, here are some guidelines: Plant seeds no more than twice as deep as the seed is wide. Plant only when the soil is dry enough to crumble in your hand. Cover the seedbed with a floating row cover until the seeds sprout - to keep animals and birds away. And, water the seed bed if there's not much rain. Better luck next time!

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