How to look after your seeds and get better results

Storing seeds in a sealed container.

How to look after your seeds and get better results

We’ve all been there – you’ve spent hours carefully planting your seeds and days patiently waiting for hundreds of tiny green sprouts to poke their dainty heads above the compost, only for…well, not a lot. So, where did it all go wrong? Germination can be a delicate process, so it’s important to try and minimise any factors that make it harder for seeds to flourish. Here are 7 of the most common reasons why your seeds haven’t sprouted.

  1. Your seeds are too old. While seeds can remain viable for many years, that faded, cobweb coated packet that has been lurking in the back of the shed for who knows how long probably won’t be as successful as a fresh batch. The older your seeds are, the further the germination rate falls. So, if you want to maximise your chances, it’s often best to plump for newer seeds.
  2. You haven’t stored your seeds properly. So, you’ve found an absolute bargain at the garden centre and stocked up on all your favourite varieties for the next growing season – perfect! However, you might not get the full benefit of your savvy horticultural investment if you pop them on a sunny window ledge or in damp corner until you need them. And if you’re saving seeds from your own plants, make sure they’re nice and dry before you squirrel them away. Show your seeds a bit of love by keeping them in a cool, dark, dry place and you’re more likely to reap a bumper crop. 
  3. You’re using the wrong compost. A ‘one size fits all’ approach might not be a recipe for success, particularly when it comes to growing vegetables. Different plants prefer different soils, so give them what they want. A standard multi-purpose compost may not contain enough of the right nutrients for what you want to grow. And if you plant alkaline-loving seeds in an acidic soil (or vice versa) you won’t be giving your crops the best chance of germinating.
  4. You’ve got the temperature wrong. Most seeds can cope with a reasonably broad range of soil temperatures, but if they get too hot or too cold, germination rates will drop, or they may even fail altogether. So, check what temperature your crop of choice likes best and do what you can to create the optimal environment. 
  5. You’ve put them in a place that’s too dark or too light. While all seedlings need light, most seeds germinate best in a dark environment. However, as with pretty much every rule, there are exceptions. Some varieties of seed (like lettuce, for example) love a bit of light to get them going, so always check the specific plant’s requirements.
  6. You’re over or underwatering. The very first step in germination is the absorption of water to kick start the chemical process that prompts growth. So, if you’re not giving your seeds enough moisture to stay hydrated, you’ll fall at the first hurdle. However, if you’re too generous with the watering can, the seeds could drown or rot before they have a chance to germinate. Watering lightly and daily will probably be enough to keep your seed bed moist enough without overdoing things. 
  7. You didn’t follow the instructions. We’re probably all guilty of this one (yes, it applies to gardening as well as flat-pack furniture assembly). If you’ve bought commercial seeds, you don’t have to wing it – all the plant’s favourite things are right there on the back of the packet, so use the information wisely. For seeds you’ve saved or been given, a quick Google search should be enough to tell you what you need to know.

Of course, when you’ve been gardening for a while and have developed your own tried and tested methods, you’ll know what works for you. But if you’re just starting your grow your own journey, our Harvst tips might just help you avoid the crushing disappointment of a sproutless seed bed. If you want to know more about Harvst, get in touch!

Seedlings emerging
Success starts with well stored seeds.