Seed germination

Posted: Tuesday 26 June 2012
by Pippa Greenwood

[...] this year, many of us have been disappointed with the performance of our seeds. I’m sure the quality is just as good as usual, but many have failed to germinate, often despite repeated sowing.

Carrot seedlings

I’ve always been fond of seed packets. The small paper packages offer such potential – for gorgeous, colourful planters and baskets, and flower-packed beds and borders. A single packet of seed can easily provide more lettuce than a whole family could want, all summer long, and enough sunflowers to brighten up the whole street.

However, this year many of us have been disappointed with the performance of our seeds. I’m sure the quality is just as good as usual, but many have failed to germinate, often despite repeated sowing. I've never known a year like it.

My carrots have fared particularly badly, even though I’ve sown seeds three times this year. My fourth attempt will hopefully be more productive, but only time will tell. And I’m not alone. People have been asking me about poor carrot germination on my website, at gardening shows, in garden centres … even in the supermarket!

The reason for poor germination is simple: it’s been cold and wet for far too long. This can cause seeds to rot and seedlings to damp off. And of course slugs love the wet weather. Slugs can eat a germinated seed before the shoot even emerges above ground.

So, at this stage I’m sowing everything again, even if the theoretical sowing dates have passed.

I’m incorporating more organic matter and extra grit into the soil, and sowing into soil that was previously covered with polythene to keep off the worst of the rain. I’m also watering nematodes onto the soil like there's no tomorrow. They do a brilliant job of killing off the slugs, giving any seedlings that do appear a decent chance of survival.

I haven't given up hope. Maybe the weather will improve, and I’ll finally be able to harvest those crops I adore, in decent quantities.

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Shuv 28/06/2012 at 13:01

I have had same problem with butternut squash (even went and bought a new pack of seeds & still no joy) and lettuce, and most of my flower seeds...... amazing how the weather never seems to affect the weed seeds though!

Lucas Oefenboerderij 28/06/2012 at 15:05

Dear Gardeners' World,

So sorry for your garden. Still we're glad to hear about this, we were beginning to doubt if it was our lack of care.

Same problems here in the middle of the Netherlands. We too, have used nematodes and it seems to help a bit. Together with other actions (removing mulch so snails cannot hide).

Keep it going, take care!

donutsmrs 28/06/2012 at 18:21

I have had the same problem with Celeriac. Three times I've sown these and at last I've got one that is growing well, yes only one. They just haven't germinated well at all. My carrots have been the same, they are now coming up in my veg patch so here's hoping.

Robot 28/06/2012 at 23:43

I've given up on my borlotti beans.  Seeds sown in the tunnel early and transplanted outside are pathetic and I might as well dig them up.  Seeds sown directly in the ground (unsoaked) on 30th May have done sweet nothing and seeds sown (soaked for 24 hours) in the tunnel 10 days ago have all rotted away.  Why do we bother?

Lost 3 haricot vert plants today to the dreaded chafer grubs.  I hate the bu**ers

kaycurtis 29/06/2012 at 01:42

Pippa do the nematodes remain in the garden, after you've watered them in or do you have to continue to do it, I ask because I have slugs every where, I did buy some for vine weevil but we still have vine weevil, have frogs in the garden but they seem to be fussy when it comes to slugs.

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