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how to incubate seeds

Should you soak seeds before planting?

Also, what is seed incubation? In summary, seed germination is the process of a fertilized plant ovary, or seed, developing into a mature plant. Seed germination starts with imbibition, when the seed takes in water from the soil. Seed germination is important for natural plant growth and growing crops for human use.

In the vegetable garden, this means peas, beans, corn, pumpkins and squash; even chard and beets. Smaller seeds — lettuce, radishes, carrots, and the like — are hard to handle once their soaked and don’t really need it anyway. Flower seed to soak? Sunflower, lupine, sweet pea, nasturtium take well to soaking.

Then, what seeds should be soaked before planting?

Too much soaking in water and a seed will drown. It is recommended that you only soak most seeds for 12 to 24 hours and no more than 48 hours. The seeds of some species of plants can survive longer soakings, but you should only do this if the specific instructions for this species recommend so.

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This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

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If you’re a gardening enthusiast, you know there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing the first tiny green shoots come up after you’ve planted seeds. To germinate seeds you will need to give them the correct type of soil and make sure they get the right amount of sun or shade, plus regulate the temperature so they don’t get too hot or cold. Read on to learn how to give seeds the right environment to germinate and grow.

Some areas of the house are typically warmer than others in the winter months. Simply placing planted seeds on top of the refrigerator can add a couple of degrees depending on the model and accompanying enclosure. Using a couple of different thermometers, we’ve measured a 2-5°F increase on ours.

To raise the soil temperature, a heating mat for seedlings is potentially the easiest and least expensive. The “for seedlings” part is important as they are designed to be water-resistant (though, not waterproof). Most manufactures claim their mats can provide a 10-20°F increase over room temperature. Combined with a timer, the heating mat can be automatically controlled to increase the soil temperatures during daytime hours. We usually shoot for 12-14 hours a day.

Heating Mats

In doing this ourselves, we’ve decided to add in a temperature controller to improve precision, safety and save energy. The one we chose was about $35 and included power control for both heating and cooling. This allowed us to plug the heating mats into the heating power receptacle and a fan into the cooling side. We put the temperature probe firmly into the soil and set the temperature to 83°F with a 2°F heating/cooling margin.

While increasing humidity is as easy as covering the seed starts with plastic wrap, providing a better seed sprouting temperature, can range from easy and cheap to slightly less than $200 dollars (with a quality LED grow light) and some effort. The more costly and effort intensive methods typically provide better precision, and additionally, can even provide a sense of learning and accomplishment. While potentially not necessary, the more involved options can be a rewarding parent/grandparent and child project.

Two 20″x10″ mats; large enough for twenty-five 4″ seed cups.