It’s time to germinate – here is how to
In a little while, it will be Easter, and spring is announcing its long-awaited arrival. This means that a new gardening season begins after a long winter.
One of the spring activities I really like is germinating. It may seem trivial, but the whole magic of planting small seeds and following the development is something quite special. Germination may seem confusing and difficult to some, but it certainly does not have to be. There are some precautions one should know and as soon as they are mastered, the success experiences come quickly.
Let’s start by looking at what germination is and why we do it at all
Germination means, as the name so nicely indicates, that seeds are planted to germinate before they are transplanted at their final place of residence. The seeds are thus sown under some protected and favourable conditions, where the small seeds can be allowed to germinate in peace and turn into small plants. Another reason we germinate is that we give the plants a head start. When the weather allows it, we are already ready with well-developed plants that are ready to be transplanted.
Let's get started!
On the back of all seed bags are instructions and information about when and how the seeds should be sown and handled. Always follow the instructions.
Now we are ready to sow, and you then have to decide what to sow in. I recommend you start your germination adventure with a fairly common germination set, which includes plastic seed trays, an irrigation tray and a plastic lid. In theory, anything can be used, old meat trays, toilet rolls and even folded newspapers. The only requirement is that there must be drains for excess water.
The soil you need is called sowing soil. This soil type is an obvious choice as it is both light, airy and the nutrient content is low. If you use regular potting soil, for example, there is a risk that the small sprout roots scorch due to the added fertilizer in the soil.
The trays must be filled with soil, and here it is not a matter of squeezing as much soil into the trays as possible. Let the soil be light and airy so that the small roots can easily get a hold. When the trays are filled with soil, irrigate them well. Use either a sprayer or make a few holes in the cap of a bottle and use it to irrigate.
When the soil is moistened, place 2-3 seeds in each pot. If several seeds germinate in the same pot, remove the sprouts that look weakest, leaving only the best one standing.
I know it can be difficult to remove the beloved little baby plants, but it is crucial to the success as the seedlings need space to develop. If the sprouts are too close, they will all end up at a standstill and the development will stop.
Now that all the trays have been sown with seeds, put the plastic lid on to keep the moisture. The soil must be kept evenly moist and must never dry out. It's about balance; if it looks like you can squeeze water out of the ground, then it's too wet. It must be kept moist, like a clear cloth you wipe the dust off with.
Place the seed trays in a bright window ledge at room temperature until the seeds have germinated and formed their first two leaves, which are called cotyledons.
Once the seeds have formed cotyledons, the plastic lid can be removed, and then it's about balancing the amount of light and temperature, just like in nature. The hotter the sprouts are, the more light they need. If there is an imbalance between this, for example, high temperatures but lack of light, the plants will stretch after the light and risk becoming tall and thin. If this happens, the plants must be moved to a cooler room so the balance can be re-established.
Due to the above, it is better to start late than too early. Germination is about getting the plants off to a good start indoors so that they can go outside the moment they are a certain size.
When can you transplant?
Once the plants have grown large enough, they can be transplanted outside. Although, it depends on which plant it is. As a rule, mid-May is a good time, as the chances of night frost are small. You can typically read on the back of the seed bag when it is safe to transplant.
Always choose a windless and cloudy day or even better a rainy day, then the plant has a good chance of settling into its new abode.
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