Seed Starting

Seed Starting Outdoors: How it Works


Seed Starting Outdoors: How it Works

Planting seeds directly in your garden, or direct sowing, is a process that has been repeated by nature and humans alike longer than we have records to prove it. It represents the connection that people have to the earth and the sustenance it provides. It is a process that most gardeners repeat frequently because it is the means to an end, a beautiful and productive garden. But, it is also an experience filled with fun and wonder for gardeners of all ages and skills as we watch our sown seeds turn into the fruits (and flowers) of our labors. With an understanding of how seeds work, you'll be able to create a formula for success, and then repeat it again and again.


First, it helps to understand what a seed is. Then, we'll take a look at what factors will influence your success. A seed is the embryo of a plant. It usually comes packaged with some food and is enclosed in a protective coat. It is actually a dynamic little (or not so little) system of interactions that functions to preserve the genetic potential of its parents until it is time to grow.

Seeds respond to water, light (or absence of light), and temperature. They do this within the surroundings they're planted in. After germination, they require space, soil, water and nutrients. In the case of direct sowing, your garden will be the place where they receive what they need to live and get all the signals they need from nature to grow and develop.


There is more water in a plant than any other component. How you apply it becomes one of the most important factors in determining the overall health of your seedlings. When a seed comes in contact with water it begins to absorb it. This signals to the seed that it is time to come out of dormancy, germinate, and grow. Seedlings are fragile in the early stages of life. At this time, consistent moisture is vital. Growing seeds outdoors can present some challenges. Gardeners in some areas of the country can depend on rain to keep their soil moist. In other areas, rainfall can be unpredictable, or absent, and so watering becomes your job. After sowing, seeds should be watered gently, but thoroughly. If your seeds are tiny, or are to be sown shallow, you may want to wet your soil before sowing. Moisture should be maintained consistently after the first watering, but never to the point of soggy soil. Saturated soil can create conditions that will rot your seeds before they germinate. You can cover your seeds with any sort of moisture-retaining mulch. Mulch, in its simplest sense, is anything you use as a soil cover to retain moisture. Check your seedlings daily to ensure that your mulch doesn't prevent them from emerging. If your sown seeds are allowed to dry out too much after germination, they may die.


Where you choose to start your seedlings is one of the most important decisions you can make. Unless you plan on transplanting your seedlings elsewhere, the spot you choose to sow in is the place they're going to grow in. So, your plants need to be able to access the resources they need in the place they grow. The first consideration is light. Your Botanical Interests seed packet will indicate the optimal amount of light for your plants. The recommendations are general and can vary slightly by time of year, elevation, or directional exposure. Full sun indicates that your plant likes plenty of sun and 6-8+ hours of direct sun each day is best. Part sun and part shade are the same. This means that your plants require some sun but may not be perform their best in all-day summer sun, so 3-6 hours is best. Shade means that your plants require some protection from excessive sun. This does not usually mean, however, that your plants should be placed in the deepest shade possible with no direct sun exposure. Flowering plants that are meant for shade still require some sun to produce blossoms. Shade plants do best with 3 or less hours of sun each day. Many recommendations will mix two of these groups, like 'SUN/PART SHADE.' This means that the plant will perform in sun ranging from approximately 3 to 8, or more, hours a day.

Once you have found a spot with the right amount of sun, you need make sure that your plant will have enough room to grow. Your Botanical Interests seed packet will tell you the amount of space your plants will need to perform their best. Plants that are crowded together will compete for resources and may not produce the expected results.

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