Germinating Seeds Quickly: Complete Guide

Starting seeds is one the most exciting and enjoyable parts of gardening and you can do it in winter. Each seed pack contains little miracles that in your hands will develop into beautiful mature plants, provided you follow the simple steps outlined in this post. 

I have personally germinated over 2,000 different varieties of plants using the methods in this guide. It is much easier than you think and the tricks and procedures detailed here will work for vegetables, flowers and even trees.  Grab those seed packs and let’s get started.

seed just poking its head above soil

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It’s Seed Starting Time

I know it is still snowing, but this is perfect weather for winter sowing. It is also a good idea to look at your seeds and figure out which are still viable using my simple seed test. You should also start getting your equipment ready. Is this the year you order new LED lights?

Below are some excellent videos that answer many of the questions you have about starting seeds including my most popular video about using the baggy method for seed starting which now has 1.2 million views!

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Best Seed Starting Mix, Including DIY

You work very hard to grow the very best seedlings you can. So start them off right and give them best seedling mix you can. I have grown over 2,000 varieties of plants from seed and wrote the book Soil Science for Gardeners. In this post I review the best commercial and DIY seed starting mixes and give you my opinion on starting your babies off right.

Two hands potting up a tomato seedling
Use the right seed starting mix

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Seed Dormancy – What is it and How do You Break it?

In my previous post, Plant Seed Basics, I described the germination process in very general terms. A seed lands on the ground, absorbs water, and germinates. It is all so simple – or is it? In this post I will have a closer look at something called seed dormancy. What causes it and how do you overcome it so the seed germinates.

Seed dormancy, Germinating Fritillaria seed, by Robert Pavlis
Seed dormancy – germinating Fritillaria seed, by Robert Pavlis.  Notice the radicle growing through the seed and emerging from the bottom of the seed.

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Winter Tasks for the Gardener

Its cold and the snow is blowing. All you want to do is get out in the garden, play in the soil and smell some flowers. Even weeding would be a pleasure this time of year. I have good news for you. This blog is chocked full of winter gardening activities you can enjoy right now.

Don’t wait until spring – start gardening now and chase those winter doldrums away.

Clematis Betty Corning, by Robert Pavlis
Clematis Betty Corning, by Robert Pavlis

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When Do You Fertilize Seedlings?

When do you start fertilizing seedlings? The most common advice is that newly germinated seedlings do not need to be fertilized because they get initial nutrients from the seed and the soil/media. If that is true, why does the horticulture industry start fertilizing as soon as they seed? Do they know something gardeners don’t?

When Do You Fertilize Seedlings?
When Do You Fertilize Seedlings?

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How To Name Plants Correctly – Botanical Names vs Common Names

Knowledge of plant names is the foundation of gardening and they help gardeners select plants and determine how to grow them. Many gardeners obtain or share knowledge by communicating with other plant enthusiasts from around the world. A good grasp of plant names and how to use them, will save you significant time, effort, and money.

The proper use of plant names becomes more complicated when we consider varieties, cultivars, hybrids, and regional differences between common names.

A rose by any other name might not smell as sweet…because it’s an entirely different plant!

Use the correct plant names, source:
Use the correct plant names, source: David J. Stang, Liné1

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Floating Seeds in Water – Is This a Good Seed Viability Test?

How do you know if your seeds are still viable? Simple, do a seed germination test. Place the seeds in some water. The ones that sink are still viable – the ones that float are dead.

This advice is all over the internet so it must work? But how reliable is it?

Floating Seeds in Water - Is this a Good Seed Viability Test?
Floating Seeds in Water – Is this a Good Seed Viability Test?; source: Pens & Pencils

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Potting Up – Which Pot Size is Correct for Potting On?

You have been growing seedlings in small pots and it’s time to move them to bigger pots. Or maybe you bought a small houseplant and it has grown too big for the pot and it needs more space. What size of pot should you use when potting up? Is it better to pot up one size at a time, or go to a big pot right away?

Is there a right answer or does the answer depend on your goals for the plant, the type of soil or the type of plant?

The answer is going to surprise many of you and it’ll show the value of listening to science.

Potting Up - Which Pot Size is Correct for Potting On?
Potting Up – Which Pot Size is Correct for Potting On? photo by Kitchen Garden

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How To Grow Moss – Which Method Works Best?

Some of you want to get rid of the moss in your lawn and others want to grow more of it in special places like rocks and logs. Moss is a fairly good ground cover, it can take some traffic, and never needs to be mowed. It doesn’t need to be fertilized because it prefers low nutrient levels.

Moss is also a great addition to shade gardens giving them an aged look that is so hard to get. If you are building a stumpery, you almost have to add some moss to give it a final touch of authenticity.

But how do you grow more moss where you want it? You might be surprised to learn that not everything on the internet works. In this post I’ll review and test several ways to grow moss.

How To Grow Moss - Which Method Works Best?
How To Grow Moss – Which Method Works Best?

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Growing Seeds in Ice Cream Cones – Great Idea or Ultimate Stupidity?

You have probably seen the memes showing you how to grow seeds in ice cream cones. There are lots of pictures on the internet, especially in places like Pinterest, showing nicely grown seedlings like the one pictured below.

The whole idea did not make sense to me, but who knows, maybe it’s a good idea and I’m just jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

I had to try it!

Growing Seeds in Ice Cream Cones - Great Idea or Ultimate Stupidity?
Growing Seeds in Ice Cream Cones – Great Idea or Ultimate Stupidity? Source: Sarah Neuburger

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