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Why Won't My Seeds Germinate

I am having seed starting issues with my vegetable seeds. It’s not that I have none coming up. Only some though. And it’s driving me cuurrazzy! I have done some homework and think I have found some great reasons and the fixes for those reasons. Some I have implemented with success. I will share them with you below.

Seed Starter Peat Pots Kit | 10 Plastic Plant Markers Included | 5 Pack - 50 CellsSeed Starter Peat Pots Kit | 10 Plastic Plant Markers Included | 5 Pack – 50 Cells

Why won’t my seeds germinate?

A couple of the seeds I have the most trouble with are my Swiss Chard and my Dragon carrots. I am especially heartbroken over the Swiss Chard as I cannot easily get it up here. And Swiss Chard is a nutrition powerhouse! I need all the help I can get too as my mid 40-ness gets in the way of my productivity allthetime. I have noticed the better I eat, the longer my brain and I last throughout the day.

1. Did you confirm your seeds are planted exactly the way it is recommended on the seed packet?

There are a lot of considerations when answering this question. Maybe the seeds are planted too deeply? My Swiss Chard should be sowed ½” deep. For me, that is basically, the length of my fingernail.

The instructions also highly recommend I sow outside-versus inside. This might explain why they did not last long when I tried sowing them in my Jiffy Seed Starter Trays. Something else I see is they hint that we soak seeds for 12-24 hours before sowing. Hold on. Going to do that right now!

Jiffy Seed Starter Trays

They are trying SO hard!

I’m back. Will update this post to let you know how the seed soaking tip went!

Update: The seed soaking kinda, sorta worked. Only some of the seeds sprouted. I didn’t feel like they worked any better than the Jiffy Pellets – or simply planting them directly in the pot.

My carrots started well in the Jiffy Pellets but did not make it past week three. I tried them again but cannot tell you how it went because so far only one has sprouted!

Aug. 2017 update: I do not recommend the Jiffy Seed Pellets unless you are growing seedlings just to grow them. Instead, I recommend you use biodegradable peat pots. This way, you do not have to transplant the seeds, you can just put the whole seedling (pot and all) into the ground.

The instructions also tell me it is best to start them outdoors-which of course I have not done. They are currently sitting in my kitchen window. Seed Savers Exchange does warn that germination is slow and uneven so…I’m <im>patiently waiting.

This is probably the main reason my seeds aren’t sprouting.

Final word: Make sure you are following your seed packet’s instructions as closely as possible.

2. Did you plant in a seed starting mix or in soil?

Rodale’s Organic Life highly recommends we start our seeds in a seed starting mix versus potting soil.

They feel the latter is usually too rich for seeds and does not drain as well as starting mix (which the seeds need).

One piece of advice they give which is new news to me is to moisten the mix first before even putting it in your pot. Did that make sense? In other words, put the mix in a bucket, add warm water and let sit for 12-24 hours which gives the mix plenty of time to absorb the water. Then, put the mix in your pots and THEN you can plant your seed.

Not to be forgotten is that you want to cover those pots loosely with some kind of plastic to keep the humidity in. They should sprout around 65-70F. A good spot is on top of the refrigerator as it gets pretty warm up there. Or put them on a heating mat if you need to help them along.

Final word: Consider using seed starting mix for your seeds.

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3. What is the temperature of the soil?

Knowing the temperature of the soil is crucial for vegetable development-similar to when you plant your spring bulbs. Most spring bulbs need to be planted when the soil is below 60F. Similarly, vegetables (and fruit) need to be monitored in the same way.

My Swiss Chard seed packet states “…soil temperature is at least 40F, ideally 75-90F.” Now, 75-90F is some darn warm soil! Of course I have no idea what my soil temp is but you can bet your booty I will be checking now! I can tell you that the seedlings have done much better since we moved them to the new greenhouse. It gets pretty warm and humid in there.

Final word: The soil needs to be warm enough to sprout the seeds.

Download my Free Gardening Printable : Soil Temperatures for Planting Seeds/Seedlings 


4. Are you over watering or under watering?

My fledgling greenhouse.

I would like to say I am famous for one or the other but I am not. I am infamous for both! Sheesh. Kinda embarrassing actually. This is pretty basic stuff right? I am certain I over watered my Jiffy Seed Starters.

I actually think I may have under watered my Swiss Chard in the beginning because literally, the day after I realized and watered it, a little seedling popped through the soil. Go figure.

I did invest in a moisture sensor-which is now my new BF. I bought it when we lived in Key Largo because I could not get straight which plants needed more or less water. I killed many a palm from over-watering (root rot) but under-watered my elevated gardening bed thus killed my veggies.

Here, I was not watering enough inside the house but now that I have moved most plants to the greenhouse I do not need to water anywhere near as much. This is probably the second most important reason why my seeds won’t grow.

Final word: Check water every day.

5. If you planted in the ground did you confirm the seeds are still there?

my seeds aren't sproutingi.e. not eaten by one of those rascally wildlife around you?

When asking yourself “Why don’t my seeds come up?” maybe it is because they are no longer there! Did you confirm the seeds are still in the ground and not eaten by Rocky or his friends? 

As you know, newly planted seed beds are a huge attractant for wildlife out searching for a free meal. Want to get rid of them but don’t want to kill them? Try a motion activated sprinkler.

Chicken wire cloches are good for those smaller vegetables you want to protect. Raised beds help deter some pests. Building a tall fence can help albeit not the most economical option. If you do decide to go this route, bury that fence 1 foot into the ground to keep out rodents such as groundhogs!

Final word: No final word. This is a tough one and totally dependent on your environment, your pests, etc. Good luck though!

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I don’t know about you but I am feeling a little more hopeful about how to fix my seed starting issues! It is still early in the year (February) so I have plenty of time to get my spring crops going. Yeah! Send me your pictures so I can see how your vegetable container garden is doing too! Amy[at]theedibleterrace.com. I will share them on my Pinterest feed so we can inspire other gardeners.