Monthly Archives: March 2012

Why Won’t My Seeds Germinate?

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when planting a garden is low or no seed germination. Here are a few things that can cause seeds to fail or even plants to hardly grow after germination.

Planting to early or to late.  Timing is everything with seeds.  Seeds will wait until they have the right temperature and day length to germinate.  As an example:  when planting lettuce seed in the heat of summer when temperatures are over 90 degrees, the germination is few and far between.  Lettuce likes cooler temperatures to germinate.  Planting a cucumber in the cool season when the days are shorter, if it even germinates, it probably won’t grow until the night-time temperatures are at or above 50 degrees and the day light is longer.  Seeds can rot in the ground if the conditions aren’t right to germinate.  Boy, this doesn’t seem to happen with weed seeds, does it?

The use of weed killers or soil sterilizer.  I know this is a no brainer, but many weed killers can limit the growth in a garden long after they are supposed to degrade.  Weed killers can have an effect for two years, sometimes more, while sterilizers can last easily up to 20 years.  This is another reason to never use poisons in the yard/garden.

Using a raw wood chip mulch.  Although it is a good soil conditioner, it contains a growth inhibitor that can keep seeds from germinating or plants from growing well.  This is especially true to red wood chips.  If the chips have been well composted for over a year it can used in the garden as a mulch or conditioner.  Red wood mulch is a good product to use in paths or a place you don’t want weed seeds to germinate.

Using old seeds or seeds that have been stored in high temperatures or fluctuating temperatures.  Some seeds will germinate even after years of storage, but many times they do not perform well if they even do germinate.  Fresh is best!  Store seeds in a cool place and learn more on the length of each seeds storage life. Generally smaller seeds have lesser viable life span.

Planting in soil that is to wet.  If the soil is to wet, it will restrict oxygen, which is required for root growth.  Seed rot can also happen if the soil stays wet.  Wet is different from moist…  Moisture is needed for the seed to germinate.

Birds!  Birds love to dig up seeds for food.  These little feathered friends seem know right where and when you have planted and feast, sometimes without you even knowing.  Using a light row cover will eliminate the bird issue!

Allowing seeds to dry out.  If the seed starts to germinate under the soil and we forget to water them for one reason or another, they can wither up and die.  Seeds need extra attention until they have developed a root system.  Going on vacation the day after planting your garden from seed might not be the best idea.  Around here we fight to keep things moist in the spring due to our winds drying out the top soil and again in the summer, because of the heat.  Sometimes they require a couple of light waterings a day. Using a row cover right over the soil will help keep the moisture in.  Remember, seeds are only on the surface for now and shallow watering is best and water should be deeper only when the seedlings are grown up a bit!

Sowing seeds to deeply or to shallowly.  The smaller the seeds the shallower they should be planted.  Follow your seed packets guidelines.

HOT soil.  What I mean by this is you can create a problem with adding to much manure making the soil to rich and high in nitrogen which will burn the seedlings as soon as they germinate.  I never add manure that hasn’t been compost first.  And WELL composted.   If you do add it, till it in, in the fall so it will have time to break down over the winter with the rains and soil microbes.  Also adding to much fertilizer isn’t the answer to low fertility.  Only add as much as the product’s label calls for.  Remember, it’s better to add less than more!  Seeds will rot in “hot” soil.

Larger seeds can be soaked for better germination, but never soak more than 10-12 hours or they will start to decompose.  I actually never soak my seeds for more than 6 hours, and I never soak small seeds like carrots and lettuce.

Earwigs!  This year in our garden the  earwigs are out early and are in full force.  These little buggers will nip off seedlings at the first crack of the soil.   Sometimes you don’t even know that your seeds have ever germinated.  If you suspect earwigs, sprinkle diatomaceous earth or earwig bait around your seedling beds.  Earwigs are nocturnal and you may not even know they are there.

We have all had times when we had spotty germination for one reason or another.  You can easily correct this by filling in the gaps with a little more seed in blank areas.


Filed under Gardening

What’s All the Fuss About Rock Dust?

Rock dust… The new gardening phase…Well its not new, it’s ancient!  If you were to ask me what is my favorite rock dust I would probably say Rock Phosphate, or.. Azomite, or.. Gaia Glacier, or.. Greensand.    I have seen a HUGE change over the years of my gardening since I started using them over 15 years ago.  They are organic, slow release, and loaded with essential nutrients that your plants need to be healthy through-out the growing season.  It will encourage the root systems of trees, lawns, roses, vegetable gardens.  Rock dust aren’t just for vegetable gardens.  When you use them in your flower beds you will see increased blooms, larger flowers and healthier growth.  Roses love rock dusts to!  Vegetables will have fewer bugs, increased yields and I think, better flavor!  The mineral nutrients in these powdered rock products work with the soil rather than against like chemical fertilizers, therefore they will nourish the soil and make these nutrients available to plants at a balance rate.  Rock dusts should be applied  during the spring once per year, but can be applied seasonally for intensive growing.   General first application is about 10 pounds per 100 square feet, but always find the application rates on the product label.  You can also add them into your compost heap.  By doing this it enhances their availability for plant use.  The soluble acids in humus formation begin to dissolve the rock nutrients.  So when you apply your compost, it will make up for minerals removed from the soil when you harvest!  Yup, minerals don’t last forever in the soil.  Taking a vitamin once doesn’t mean it will last your whole life. 

Limestone is made from finely ground limestone rock.  It contains mostly calcium carbonate.  Lime should only be used on acidic soils.  If your pH is higher than 6.0, I would not add limestone.  Most plants function best in a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0, of course with a few exceptions.  Have your soil tested before jumping in and adding lime.

Rock phosphate is mined from clay deposits containing phosphorus.  Bone meal is a good substitution for a slow-release phosphorus if you can’t find rock phosphate.  It is important for root growth, bud, flower and fruit development.

Greensand is mined from old sea-bottom deposits.  It is an excellent source of potassium and many trace elements.  Potassium is important for the overall health of the plant.  Some of greensands trace elements are zinc, copper, molybdenum, boron and manganese.

Azomite is probably one of the newest rock dusts to me.  I have only been using it for the last 4 years, but I can’t believe the difference it has made in my garden and potted plants.   Azomite is silica clay that is mined in Utah from deposits left by an ancient volcano eruption that was ejected out of the side of a mountain and filled a nearby lake bed.  It contains over 70 active minerals and  trace elements.  It can be used in animal feeds as well.

Gaia Glacial Rock Dust is a natural mineral product which is produced over many thousands of years by glacial action. A wide variety of rocks which contain a broad spectrum of trace minerals are collected and pulverized by the expansion/contraction action of the glacier.  It also raises pH in acid soils, so using using in alkaline soils may not be the best idea.

You can also make a rock dust milk by adding 1 cup rock dust to a fine mesh bag or material, tie into a ball and suspend in a gallon of water. Allow to sit over night. Pour into sprayer and spray leaves.  This gives your plants a jump-start or helps with any stress. Bugs seem to find this unattractive and move along, so it works as a repellent as well. Snails are repelled by its high silica content, so by sprinkling  small amounts around the base of will not only feed the plant, but it will deter these pests.  Add a couple of tablespoons  to your potting mix to improve overall health, especially azomite.

While chemical fertilizers may produce more immediate visual results, when you add  Rock dust you are adding a huge range of minerals and trace elements for long-term soil health, your plants and most importantly, YOU!

Rock phosphate, Azomite, Bone Meal, greensand


Filed under Gardening