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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Apr 08

Seed Germination

Posted on April 8, 2016 at 10:28 AM by Emma Detwiler

by Charlene Burgi

The process for germinating seeds can be challenging if growing conditions are not met. Ideal growing conditions include soil temperature, moisture, light and oxygen which all play an important role in this process. 

When my grandson Wyatt was here during Easter he asked if he could plant seeds. I had onion sets that needed to be planted soon. I also had radish and mache seeds that could also be planted with the existing growing conditions. Within a week, green onion began sprouting as well as the radish seeds.
Radishes and onions
Green onion and radish seeds sprouting.

What factors contributed to this success? Planting inside the greenhouse in Lassen was mandatory as the temperatures are too inconsistent here at this time of year for outdoor seed germination. Stable 70-80 degree soil temperature is ideal for seed germination. Likewise, the moisture level should remain consistent as water helps break down the seed coat and allows for germination. The soil should remain moist but not wet. If the moisture proves to flexuate or becomes dry, the seed germination process will stop. The greenhouse could assure protection from unexpected heavy rains that could cause the seeds to rot if the soil became too wet.

                            Soil temperature guage
Here is my soil temperature gauge.

Correct light and oxygen are also necessary to provide energy and strength for each seed to promote healthy germination. To assist with healthy oxygen to the root zone, Wyatt added soil amendments to the greenhouse beds before planting that allowed good pore space lacking in compacted soils. When planting in seed starters it is best to use a good seed starting medium or add vermiculite or pearlite to the soil to attain better pore space in top soil and place the seed trays in a well lit area.

After the seeds have germinated, keep the seedlings in indirect sunlight that is brightly lit to promote strong plants. The seedlings can be moved outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and evening soil temperatures reach 50 to 60 degrees for cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Resist transplanting summer crops such as tomatoes, squash and peppers until the soil temperatures are consistently in the 65 degree range. Be certain the seedlings have six to eight sets of leaves before transplanting into the garden.

Starting plants from seeds can be challenging, but the rewards are great. You might want to give planting from seeds a try if you are typically accustom to buying starters. It's spring...give it a try!

Have a great weekend.


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