Should I Soak Seeds Before Planting

One of the the most common practices that has been asked about is whether it is necessary to soak seeds before planting. Does it do any good? Does it help?

Soaking seeds for planting is not absolutely essential but it certainly does not hurt either provided that you do not leave the seeds in water for too long as this has the potential to cause other issues. It is also important to note that there are certain types of seeds that benefit particularly from being soaked or even germinated on a wet paper towel prior to planting which includes things like carrots, parsnips and parsley which are a difficult to germinate.

The advantages of soaking seeds

The primary advantage of soaking seeds prior to planting is that initiates the germination process prior to the plants going into the ground. However, many people claim that it actually accelerates the germination process which is false in most cases. The only exception to this is in cases where the temperatures of the water, in which, the seeds are soaked, is warmer than ambient temperatures.

The other significant advantage is that it does help to remove the remnants of any seed  inhibiting chemicals which can sometimes remain on the surface of the seeds. These inhibitors naturally occur on many seeds and help to prevent the seed from germinated when inside the center of the fruit which is moist. However, in most cases the inhibiting chemicals are removed when the seed is cleaned and dried for storage at the end of the season.

How to soak seeds

Soaking seeds is a relatively simple process that requires relatively little effort. Generally, the practice followed by most gardeners is to place the seeds into a glass of water approximately 2 to 3 hours prior to when they are going to be planted. To give them the best possible start is it advisable to use luke warm water as this will aid in initiating germination and help with getting the plants going.

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However, for plants such as carrots, parsley, and parsnips soaking seeds will certainly help but it is not the ideally the recommended method they should be using. The reason for this is because these seeds are relatively slow to germinate and require consistent moisture on an ongoing basis to germinate successfully.

As a result of this many people have trouble getting carrot and parsley to germinate because the seeds are sown relatively close to the surface of the soil which dries out readily.

The easiest way to germinate the seeds is on a damp paper towel that is placed inside a sealed tupperware container to ensure that the moisture is held within the towel consistently. Additionally, the paper should be moist but not soaking wet as the seeds will spend an extended time on the towel. When using this technique it is common for the seeds to take approximately 7 to 10 days to germinate. 

Once you see the first signs of germination it is important to remove the seeds from the paper towel insert them into the soil because if you leave them too long the roots can penetrate the paper towel making them difficult to remove.

In the case of root crops such as carrot and parsley it is easiest to cut up paper towel into strips and sow the vegetable seeds in lines which will allow paper towel, in its entirety, to be picked up and placed into furrow allowing the the seeds to grow on.

The key advantage of using this method is that you can plant only those seeds which have actually germinated in their final spot which ensures the space in the garden is maximised as there are not gaps created when seeds do not germinate.

Tips to ensure consistent germination of seeds

There are several specific methods which can help to increase the odds of getting seeds to germinate one of which is soaking the seeds with water. Other tips recommend is to sow the seeds into I seed tray rather than directly into the garden. There are several advantages associated with this, particularly in productive gardens.

Sowing into seed trays

Firstly, sowing into seed trays allowed the gardener to control the environment more accurately and therefore optimised conditions for maximum seed germination and seedling growth. For most plants the optimal temperature is around about 20 degrees celsius.  

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Secondly, growing seeds in trays ensures that you can keep space available in your garden for growing other things such as edible crops. In the case of productive gardens using seed trays will increase the overall productivity of the garden because the time that the crop spends in the garden is reduced by 4 to 6 weeks on average.

The third advantage is it reduces the chances of the plants being attacked by pests such a slugs and snails because it also reduces the period of time over which the plants are exposed to these pests. Most plants are susceptible to attack when they are young but become more resilient to pests as they mature.

When sowing into seed trays another another useful tip is to the place the tray into another tray containing water at a depth of about a centimetre. This will allow the growing medium to remain constantly moist without very frequent watering.

Using heat pad to aid germination

Germination will also be aided by the use of a heat mat which will increase the temperature of the growing medium substantially. However, it is important to note that you need to be using a heat mat that is specifically designed for growing plants rather that one that is used for pets or home brew. The reason for this is because the temperature of the pet and home brew heat mats are generally too high and causes growth that is too rapid resulting in leggy seedlings that are poor quality.

Sow more seeds than you need

Additionally, we recommend sowing at least two seeds per cell to ensure that every cell in the seed tray is occupied with a seedling. To ensure that at least one seedling comes up in every cell.  However, if multiple seedlings appear then it is necessary to remove the excess plants leaving the strongest seedling to grow on. 

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