How to Germinate Seeds

There are a bunch of different ways to germinate seeds. This is the method that I like to use because I've had good repeatable results with this method. I have found that there are only a few necessities for seeds to grow: water, light, heat, and dirt (or some other grow medium). I have experimented with a lot of different light sources and found that the sun produces the best results. Some gardens are not lucky enough to be outside so indoor grow lights can be used. 

When a seed is made by a plant all of the life giving energy is already in the seed. There is no need to add any fertilizer to germinate a seed. Avoid adding fertilizer if possible. You may get the young plant "hooked" on fertilizer. When water is applied to the seed it loosens the hard protective shell and signals the seed to start to germinate. Heat activates the protein within the seed to germinate and sprout though the surface. The soil simply holds the new sprout in place as the seed in entering into life. 

Here are a bunch of seeds after germination.  

Super Easy Seed Starting

I use this method of starting seeds a lot. I have cut the bottom of a five gallon container off and slit the sides about 2 inches up. Then place the container on top of the lid of the bucket. Place a clear piece of acrylic sheet over the top of the bucket. I then use a small incandescent light to keep the soil warm. The moisture level can be adjusted by sliding the plastic slightly off the bucket to vent excess moisture. After the seeds have germinated switch bulbs to a cfl 6500 k rated bulb until the seedlings are ready for transport. 

I have found that heat is more important than having the proper grow light. Once the seeds have germinated you can begin the process of hardening the seedlings for 

Alternative Method

1.Gather the following list of materials from your local nursery or other retail outlet:
  • Seeds
  • Containers (Empty gallon container Works Well And Is Cheap work)
  • Growing medium
  • Incandescent Light Bulb 60 watt and a lamp holder ... or.... 
  • A window with lots of light and a black surface.
  • A timer (if you are using a light bulb)
Sift out the grow medium to remove the large chunks. I like to use Scotts Seed Starting Mix. Its not my first choice of soil mixes but I can get this stuff anywhere and the consistent and doesn't require sifting. This grow mix is actually soiless. It is made of mostly bark and ground up trees and other filler stuff. There is an additive in the soil that improves the "wetness" of the soil. I believe that this helps to hydrate the seed to signal germination. There is also a nursery down the road that sells their own premium mix of potting soil that works well.
Just don't use a heavy clay material when starting seeds because the new roots will have trouble penetrating the harder material and will stunt growth. Also when you attempt to transplant the new shouts you will usually end up ripping the roots apart trying to transplant the infant plant and will ultimately kill it.
3. Cut the top 2/3 of the gallon container off but leave a small amount of plastic attached so that you have a hinged lid.
4.Fill the smaller container with your grow mix. Place multiple seeds in the soil. Its best to have many sprouts as apposed to a single sprout. You can always thin the herd and select the strongest seedlings for transplant latter. Moisten the soil will clean water. Tap water works wonders because its actually slight acidic and helps to crack the seeds open faster.
5.Place the smaller container inside of the hinged gallon container and place it in a sunny window. If you have a black map of dark surface this will help to increase the heat inside of the container and accelerate the growth rate. You can also use an incandescent light and a timer if you don't have a window with lots of sun. 14-16 hours of direct sunlight would be ideal. Although I have germinated with a lot less than that before. 

Keep the soil moist. This is important. The seeds will germinate faster using this method however the water will evaporate quickly because the increased heat. You can keep the soil moist by adding a small amount of standing water to the bottom of the gallon container. 

If all goes well you should see sprouts within 72 hours for most seeds. Some of the harder to germinate seeds may take longer. Remember that time is a resource just as much as water and dirt are. So be patient with your new seedlings.