Methods For Germinating Seeds – Learning How To Successfully Germinate Seeds

By: Heather Rhoades

Many inexperienced gardeners think that the steps for how to germinate seeds are the same for all seeds. Knowing what is the best way to germinate seeds depends on what you are trying to grow and how to successfully germinate seeds varies greatly. In this article you will not find the steps of seed germination for the seeds you have. What you will find is an explanation for different terminology that might be used when you find the directions for seed germination that specifically applies to your seeds.

Terms Related to How to Germinate Seeds

Viability– When talking about seed germination, viability will refer to the chance that the seed will be able to germinate. Some seeds can sit for years and still have a high viability. Other seeds, though, may lose viability within hours of being removed from the fruit.

Dormancy– Some seeds need to have a certain amount of rest time before they can be germinated. A seed’s period of dormancy sometimes also coincides with a stratification process.

Stratification– Oftentimes when someone refers to stratification, they are referring to the process of cold treating a seed in order to break its dormancy, but on a broader level, stratification can also refer to any process used to help a seed germinate. Forms of stratification can include exposure to acid (artificially or within the stomach of an animal), scratching the seed coat or cold treatment.

Cold treatment– Some seeds need to be exposed to a certain period of cold in order to break their dormancy. The temperature and length of cold needed to complete the cold treatment will vary depending on the seed variety.

Scarification– This refers to the process of literally damaging the seed coat. Some seeds are so well protected by their seed coat that the seedling is not able to break through it on its own. Sandpaper, knives, or other methods can be used to nick the seed coat to allow a place where the seedling can break through the seed coat.

Pre-soaking– Like scarification, pre-soaking helps to soften the seed coat of the plant, which both speeds up germination and increases the viability of the seeds planted. Many seeds, even if it is not stated in their steps of seed germination, will benefit from pre-soaking.

Light needed germination– While many seeds need to be placed under the soil in order to germinate, there are some that actually need light in order to germinate. Burying these seeds below the soil will keep them from germinating.

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The Best Way to Germinate Vegetable Seeds

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Causes of Seeds Failing to Germinate

Starting plants from seeds is one of my favorite activities. I love watching the tiny sprouts push up and out of the soil as they search for sunlight. It never ceases to amaze me and strikes me as magical every single time it happens.

When things go right, you get the satisfaction of seeing your new plants pop up out of the ground and turn into big, healthy harvests in a few months. When things wrong, it’s incredibly disappointing.

Sometimes you never know what happened, but there are lots of things to watch out for:

1. The Temperature is All Wrong

The wrong soil temperature can mean your seeds never ever get to see the light of day.

Seeds of different species have vastly different requirements. Spinach seeds, for instance, like cold soil and won’t sprout if the growing medium is too hot. Melon seeds need warm soil to sprout.

Remember that seed germination temperatures are entirely different than temps required for mature plants to thrive. Seeds of various kinds are essentially programmed to pop out of their dormant state and grow when certain conditions are met.

We have a handy guide that includes a thorough chart of seed germination temperatures for your reference.

You don’t need to break out the thermometer just yet, though. With experience, you’ll come to understand the general needs of certain plants.

Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant seeds won’t sprout if they’re sown in cold soil. For these, I recommend a heat mat to provide additional ambient warmth. If it’s too hot, many greens won’t sprout, so I make sure to keep them away from heat mats.

When planting outdoors, a soil thermometer can come in handy. The ambient temperature is often very different from the soil temperature -especially if you’re growing inside tunnels or underneath row covers.

Germinate seeds using the glass of water technique

The glass of water method is another way to germinate seeds. This is very easy to do and requires no special tools as well. The glass of water technique requires a glass half-way filled with distilled water and some seeds that you wish to germinate.

  1. First, take the glass with water and place it on a flat surface.
  2. Place the seeds in. Let these remain for a few minutes. Do not stir the seeds let this remain without moving the glass.
  3. You will notice that the seeds will either sink or float. After about five minutes, check the seeds.
  4. Get rid of the seeds that are floating and just grow the seeds that have sunk.

What do all these mean? Seeds that have drowned are seeds that contain viable insides. These seeds have heavy viable content that keeps the seed-heavy. It won’t be long when these seeds will sprout. Meanwhile, seeds that are dense are light and empty seeds. You won’t be able to germinate these seeds because these do not contain any viable material. Discard these seeds and just let the sunken seeds remain inside the glass. These will eventually germinate marijuana seeds because water will soften the seed coat. Don’t let your seeds remain underwater for more than 24 hours

Germinate cannabis seeds by growing it in soil or in the ground

There are some consumers who simply plant their cannabis seeds in the ground this is basically the easiest and the most basic way to sprout seeds. Just choose viable seeds and plant them in soil conducive to growing cannabis.

  1. Whether you are planting cannabis seeds in the ground or in a container or pot, you must make sure that the soil is in the best for cannabis. Soil that is best for cannabis is sandy-clayey soil this is soil that can hold more water and nutrients and at the same time drain excess water and nutrients. Sandy clayey soil will also be able to let oxygen to the roots as well. These good cannabis soil contents will be able to help elevate plant health and development.
  2. Place soil inside the container. Use a container with enough holes at the bottom to let excess water and nutrients flow out. Fill the container about ¾ of soil.
  3. Water the soil until water is dripping out of the holes at the bottom. Let the water drip and dry the soil until it is damp.
  4. Dig a hole in the middle of the container and place the seed in. Place only one seed inside the pot. Put the seed for about 2 inches into the soil. This would be enough space for the seedlings to sprout and for the taproot to dig in.
  5. Water the seed again until you see water running out of the pot. Place this in a cool, shaded area in your garden. The seed would be able to sprout in just a matter of five days.

If seeds just won’t sprout

There are some instances when cannabis seeds that you got from the mail will just not sprout. You have checked the seed and it looks okay but still, it will not germinate. There are physical techniques that will help the seeds sprout.

  1. Use a small knife to cut open the seed. Do not cut and open the seed but just let the knife open just a very small portion of the seed enough to see the viable plant matter. Afterward, place the seed in a glass full of water and let this stay for at least a day.
  2. Use a file to file the outer shell of the seed. The tough shell should give way and the inner material will be exposed. Once this happens, place the seed inside the glass of water and let this stay for a day.
  3. Let the seed stable in the water for 24 hours. Water will soften the seed cover and then allow the seed to open up and germinate. But never leave the seed inside the glass with water for more than a day because this could drown the viable seed.

Choosing the best marijuana seeds before germinating

The very first step in determining if the seeds are viable is to take a close look at its physical appearance. A viable marijuana seed will have a dark shade, normally black, brown, or dark brown. Don’t germinate seeds that are green, yellow, or white because these are immature crops.

Hold a seed between your fingers and try to hold or compress it. The seed should be firm and resilient to pressure. If the seed starts to give way and becomes compressed, discard the seeds because this means that the seed is immature and will never germinate.

Cannabis seeds are also round and shiny. These seeds are usually round with a slight taper. Hold the seeds in between your fingers and try to feel the seeds for imperfections. Observe for grooves, holes, cracks, and peeling seed covers. Any imperfections could indicate that the seed will not germinate at all.

The glass of water technique is another way to find out if the seed is viable or not. Usually, the seeds that have sunk contain viable insides and will germinate. Those that float are seeds without any viable insides and will never germinate marijuana seeds no matter what.

The perfect marijuana seeds are seeds that are fresh and the latest harvest. Although cannabis seeds may be kept in a container for a decade and will still be viable, using fresh, newly harvested seeds are still the best way to go. Old seeds will sprout, but it could take a long time to do so.

Storing the best marijuana seeds is crucial to preserve its viability. As much as possible store seeds inside its original breeder’s packaging. Use a glass container with a tight lid to preserve the flavor and the natural effects of cannabis. Do not place seeds inside a plastic container or in plastic bags, these containers can leach dangerous chemicals to your seeds. You may place containers inside the freezer or refrigerator. If you wish to use only a few seeds from the frozen batch, place the frozen seeds inside the refrigeration compartment and let these acclimate. Once these have acclimated from this section of the fridge, place these on the counter. These will soon be ready for germination.

Germination testing of seeds

G ERMINATION TESTING of leftover seeds would make a good science project for grade-school kids, and it can delight and inform big people, too. If you can count to 10, you can test last year’s seeds for viability, before wasting money on unnecessary replacements.

Most are viable three to five years, but there are exceptions. Gather a couple of zipper-lock plastic bags, sheets of paper towel (one per variety being tested), small plastic labels and an indelible marker. Count out 10 seeds of each kind being tested, place them in a row on a damp paper towel, and roll it up, with the label marked with the variety name rolled inside, too.

Put the whole thing in a plastic bag (you can put a number of these rolls into one large bag) and leave it in a warm place. Check it after a few days, and again after a week, and so on, and make certain things stay moist inside.

Count the seeds that have germinated, and multiply that number by 10 to get the percentage of viability. If eight seeds are alive, your packet it approximately 80 percent viable go ahead and use it. If only three germinated, you should re-order—or sow very heavily if you have a lot of seeds left, or only need a few plants.

Some people like to wait till later on, close to outdoor planting time, to do their germination tests, particularly with the large seeds such as peas and beans. Then, the ones that sprout are used right in the garden, so the germination test doubles as a pre-sprouting process, speeding things along and reducing the chance of failure in cold springtime soil. Even if your budget is large, try this experiment. There is nothing quite so extraordinary, nor so humbling, as the sight of a cotyledon, or seed leaf, pushing out of a seed—a botanical baby being born.


There can seem to be a lot of information to take in when it comes to hydroponic seed germination, but in practice, it is quite straightforward when you follow the requirements. The amount of equipment is minimal, and the only things are to make sure you have an area that you can use as a nursery.

In many cases, it can be something as simple as a shelf racking system where you can store your trays and is away from your system grow lights. If you use this, you can easily keep your seeds covered until they are ready to be introduced to grow lights, and the amount of shock they will face during transplanting can be reduced.

With the length of time required before transplanting, you can have seedlings at various stages and always have a continual supply of plants that you can add to your system. This makes the system more efficient overall.

Growers also find that growing their own plants from seeds, is not only cost effective, but it is also gratifying to complete every single stage of their plant’s growth.

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