Reasons Why Seeds Fail To Germinate

Although fulfilling, gardening is not a walk in the park. Like most things in life, gardening has its ups and downs. One of the most discouraging things in gardening is failed germination.

Undoubtedly, it is incredibly disheartening to find out that your seeds will not germinate. Fortunately, there are various ways to prevent failed germination. But first, let’s look at the main reasons seeds fail to germinate.

Common reasons that often lead to failed germination

1. Unfavorable climatic conditions:  These are among the most common causes of failed germination. If your seeds are not experiencing the right temperatures, moisture, and oxygen, they are unlikely to germinate. Thus, it is essential to sow your seeds at the right time. This way, you’ll ensure they obtain the right growing conditions.

2. Inadequate water: Generally, seeds need enough moisture to germinate. The more seeds mature, the more they take in moisture. As a result, you need to keep watering your plants from time to time. When seeds do not receive enough water, they naturally don’t grow. Nonetheless, you have to be careful not to overwater the plant.

3. Too much water: Another reason seeds fail to germinate is excess water. The water you provide to your plant should be enough to support its growth. Overwatering the seeds will hinder germination. Not to mention, overwatering leads to poor quality soil that does not support germination.

4. Inadequate Oxygen: Seeds need oxygen for proper metabolism. Your seeds could be getting insufficient oxygen due to overwatering or underwatering. Seeds that don’t receive enough water develop hard coatings, and this makes it difficult for them to absorb oxygen from their environment. On the other hand, overwatering will lead to soil compaction, which makes it difficult for oxygen to pass through. Sowing your seeds too deep into the soil can also cause them to receive inadequate oxygen.

5. Low temperatures: Seeds require adequate warmth to germinate. Therefore, avoid growing plants from seeds in cool environments. Most gardening experts advise placing your grow bags or planting pots on the refrigerator to enable seeds to get enough warmth. Alternatively, you could purchase grow lights to provide the needed warmth for your seeds. The best temperature to encourage healthy and quick germination is 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. High temperatures: Although seeds require warmth to germinate, they should not be exposed to extremely high temperatures.Doing this will lead to failed germination. So, avoid placing your seeds close to heat sources. It would be best to provide shade for your plants during the summer to prevent them from overheating.

7. Damping Off: Occasionally, your seeds may experience an issue called damping off. When seeds encounter this problem before germination, they are unlikely to germinate. On the flip side, when seeds face this problem after they germinate, their seedlings will fall off eventually. More often than not, damping off results from fungi.

8. Low Germination Rates: Some seeds typically have a lower germination rate compared to others. Likewise, some seeds do not germinate even when exposed to the right conditions. So, it is always advisable to sow two to three seeds in one hole, just in case one or two seeds don’t germinate. Conduct thorough research on the seeds you plan to grow and check their germination rate.

9. Wrong seed storage: At times, seeds fail to germinate due to incorrect storage. Storing seeds incorrectly makes them lose their viability. Gardening experts advise storing seeds in a cool, dark, dry place. Failure to do so might hinder quick germination. Exposing your seeds to extremely high temperatures damages their structure, making it impossible to germinate.

10. Aged seeds: More often than not, too old seeds may fail to germinate. On average, seeds can last from one to five years when stored correctly. When seeds are past their ‘use-by’ date, they will fail to germinate. If you are sowing old seeds, it would be best to put two to three of them in one hole not forgetting to get the right depth. This way, you encourage the chances of germination. Luckily, most seed packets have an expiry date.

11. The seeds were eaten before germination could occur. Birds and pests can eat up seeds before they germinate. In such scenarios, most of your sown seeds won’t germinate.

What do I do if my seeds don’t germinate?

As seen earlier, there are many causes for failed germination. If your seeds don’t germinate, the technique you use to fix the situation depends on why the seeds are not germinating.

Here are some things to try if your seeds don’t germinate.

  • If your seeds don’t germinate because of poor environmental conditions, it would be best to plant them indoors. Take your seeds indoors in a planting pot or use a quality grow kit where you can easily control them. Alternatively, grow your seeds in a greenhouse so that you can have better control over them. Planting your seeds indoors allows you to regulate the light, oxygen, and moisture the seeds receive.
  • If germination does not occur within the expected period, check whether the soil is soggy or mushy. If it is, avoid watering the soil until it becomes dry. Otherwise, too much water may soak the soil and lead to failed germination. Remember to avoid underwatering and overwatering the seeds to foster quick germination.
  • At times, seeds don’t germinate when planted too deep. In such a scenario, slightly pull off the seeds from below the soil and sow them at the right depth. It would be best to use another packet of seeds instead of tampering with the old seedlings. Ensure you read all the sowing instructions on the seed packet. Generally, the plant depth you use should be twice the size of the seed’s diameter.
  • Another way to deal with failed germination is to cover the seedbed with landscape fabric. This is a good solution when pests are a common issue in your garden. The landscape fabric will prevent pests and bugs from attacking your plants.

How to Speed up Seed Germination

On average, it takes one to two weeks for seeds to germinate. Fortunately, you can speed up the germination process to extend your growing season. Below are some of the ways you can speed up the germination process.

Use paper towels for germinating your seeds

One of the best ways to germinate seeds quickly is by using paper towels. Using paper towels to germinate your seeds can speed up the germination process three times.

Follow the below steps if you wish to germinate your seeds using a paper towel.

  1. The first thing to do is to get a large paper towel. Fold it and place it at the bottom of a glass or plastic container.
  2. Wet the paper towel until it becomes moist. Be careful not to soak the paper towel in too much water.
  3. Take your seeds and place them on a moist paper towel. Then, cover the glass or plastic container using its lid.
  4. Label the container by writing the type of seeds you are growing. Doing this helps you separate different kinds of plants.
  5. Place the containers in indirect sunlight to avoid overheating the seeds. Keep monitoring the seeds until they sprout.

This process can help you germinate seeds in one or two days. So, it is pretty effective if you are late planting.

Soaking the seeds before planting

Soaking seeds before sowing them into the ground also encourages faster germination. When you soak seeds, you soften their shells, or outermost coating.

This makes it easy for the seeds to take in moisture, light, and oxygen while in the soil. Soak seeds only for 24 hours; exceeding this duration can lead to rotting.

Once you finish soaking your seeds, sow them into the soil. Soaking works best for bigger seeds. Nonetheless, before soaking your seeds, ensure they can survive the process.

Using cold treatment or stratification

This method requires you to expose the seeds to moist cold. Doing this makes the seeds think they are going through winter, hence germinating quickly. Once the seeds sprout, transfer them to planting pots or grow bag. After soaking the seeds for 24 hours, place them in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

Nicking the seeds

Another tip that helps you germinate your seeds quickly is nicking the seeds. Nicking the seeds tampers with their topcoat. Do this using a knife or sandpaper.

Scarified seeds are in a better position to absorb light, moisture, and oxygen needed for germination.

If you use this technique, ensure you nick the seeds immediately before planting. Keep in mind that injured seeds are in a better position to get infected with bacteria, among other pathogens.

Do seeds need light to germinate?

Typically, seeds need light to germinate. Nonetheless, this is not usually the case. Naturally, some seeds grow best in shady spots, while others germinate only when exposed to light.

So, before planting, ensure you understand the requirements of your seeds. If your seeds need a lot of light, cover them lightly with soil after planting. On the other hand, if your seeds grow best in shady spots, sow them deep into the soil.

Is Light Even Necessary?

Gardening experts report that all seedlings require light to form a robust root system. If seedlings don’t receive enough sunlight, they will become leggy since they’ll be straining to access a source of light.

Note that different seedlings require different levels of light. Nevertheless, exposing seedlings to too much light may lead to wilting.

Conversely, not all seeds require light to germinate. Understanding the requirements of the seeds you want to sow is therefore important. So, why do some seeds require light to germinate, while others do not?

Plant Photoreceptors

All plants have light receptors known as phytochromes. Phytochromes use red ultraviolet light to help in photosynthesis. There are two primary types of phytochromes; type I and type II.

Type I phytochrome gets activated by far-red UV light, while type II phytochrome gets activated by red UV light. Some plants have type II phytochromes and can withstand direct sunlight or red ultraviolet light.

Once these plants take in this red light, they reflect it on plants with type I phytochromes. So, most plants that only take in far-red UV light are shorter and found on the ground.

Ultimately, every seed requires light to germinate. But plants with type I phytochromes cannot withstand direct sunlight. So, plants require different types of light. When plants get exposed to the wrong type of light, they don’t grow.

How Much Light Is Enough?

If you’ve just finished sowing your seeds, consider exposing them to a grow light. Alternatively, place the planting pot in an area with maximum sunlight.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the pot should face south. On the flip side, if you live in the southern hemisphere, let your pot face toward the northern side.

The seeds that germinate in shady areas should be planted in trays. It is advisable to cover them with a black plastic bag to ensure you don’t expose them to light.

After you’ve covered the seeds, make sure they’re getting the right temperatures for germination.It would be best to use a soil thermometer to measure the temperatures.

Ensure the soil has a temperature of approximately 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, identify the exact temperatures needed by each plant to encourage faster germination.

How best to grow your plants

Growing plants from seeds is not as complex as most people think. However, you need to make sure your seeds receive all the necessary conditions for germination. Otherwise, the seeds won’t germinate.

There is a broad spectrum of reasons why seeds fail to germinate. But the most common ones include growing old seeds, inadequate moisture, light, and oxygen.

If you are growing your seed indoors in a pot, it is important to consider the number of seeds to grow in each pot.

Thus, before sowing your seeds, ensure you have the right environmental conditions.

This way, you increase the chances of germination. Moreover, consider speeding up the germination process by growing seeds on a paper towel and soaking the seeds beforehand. Regardless of the technique you use, ensure you understand all requirements of each seed.