The third week of March and spring is officially sprung so celebrate with a fresh pair of garden gloves and plant something from seed. Growing from seed is still the best bargain around and if you take a moment to consider the transformation of seed to plant to bloom or bountiful harvest it really is miraculous and magical. Starting with packaged seed is the best way to begin a growing adventure as we have local seed companies that stock garden and home centers with fresh seed each spring and the planting instructions and growing tips are accurate and helpful for success in our cool summer climate.
Now just in case you have saved some seed, been given some seed or collected seed from the wild, here are some tips on germination or sprouting that can help crack the code…and the seed coat of growing from seed.
Seeds that need darkness to sprout….make sure they are covered with soil or a damp cloth
Poppy, Sweet Pea, Fennel, Phlox, Nasturtium, Verbena, Calendula, Delphinium, Borage
Seeds that need light to germinate….sprinkle these on top of the soil
Petunia, Impatiens, Lettuce, Coreopsis, Begonia, Coleus, Snapdragon, Dill, Sweet Alyssum, Primula, Salvia, Lychnis, Shasta Daisy, Feverfew, Ageratum, Dill
Seeds that like to be soaked overnight before planting
Parsley, Thrift, Morning Glory, Lupines, Parsnip, Lirope or Black Mondo Grass
Seeds that like to be nicked with a knife or filed before planting to open up their seed coat:
Sweet pea, Hibiscus, Morning Glory, Lupine
Seeds that need a cold period or stratification before planting – this means you can plant seeds in a pot and leave buried in the soil outdoors all winter, or place seeds between layers of a damp dish cloth or in a bag of damp peat moss mixed with half sand and place the seeds in a refrigerator for at least 10 days. You are just fooling them into thinking they survived winter to get them to sprout.
Bleeding Heart, Hellebores, Daylilies, Lavender, Phlox, Primroses, Viola, Columbine
Seedling that do not like to be transplanted – sow these where you want them to grow
Dill, Swiss Chard, Beet, Turnip, Carrot, Fennel, Lupine, Nigella, Poppy, Parsley, Peas, Corn, Nasturtium
Hardy seeds that can be planted now outdoors in early spring
Leek, Onion, Peas, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Turnip, Larkspur, California Poppy, Lettuce, Spinach, Radish, Parsley, Cress
How do you know if a bunch of seeds are still good or “viable”?
Seeds can last for many years in storage especially if stored in the right conditions. To figure out the viability rate just place 10 seeds in a damp paper towel, slip this into a plastic bag and check the seeds in 10 days. If just one seed sprouts then you have a low germination rate of 10 percent but that doesn’t mean you can’t plant the seeds. Just plant ten times more to get the number of seedlings you want.
Seeds are inexpensive, surprising and can break all the rules when it comes to sprouting success so experiment and keep growing.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.