Seed Germination Overview
Seeds are living organisms, they remain in a suspended or dormant state until exposed to the optimal conditions to germinate. Germination is the growth of a plant contained within a seed; it results in the formation of the seedling. Each type of seed prefers a certain soil temperature, moisture content, and soil depth to begin its growing cycle. These external conditions are most likely to resemble the natural habitat of the plant.
Through the imbibition of water, the seed coat expands and then cracks allowing oxygen to access the seed embryo. Therefore, ending the seeds state of dormancy by changing the metabolic rate of the plant cells and jump starting its growth pattern.
When germinating vegetable and/or fruit seeds for your garden you may want to keep in mind your climate zone. This will help you decide what vegetable/fruit types and varieties you would like to grow for a successful season. Your climate zone will also determine the timing of your growing season, of what to grow and when to start it.
Understanding Your Seed Germination Climate
Typically, information of your climate zone will include a “last frost date”, which is when you should be able to move any seedlings grown indoors outside. However, every season is different, making the “last frost date” an estimated average. I have had more success with my growing season by observing my surroundings rather than following the rule of the “last frost date”.
You may get as technical as monitoring soil temperatures in your garden space, or, just watching certain perennial plants in your area as the season progresses. Observing lilacs or cherry trees works well. When the trees are in bud phase you can directly seed the cold hardy varieties that typically germinate in the 40*-50*F temperature ranges. There are a wide variety of cold hardy plants; kale, chard, spinach, all lettuce, onions, carrots, beets, radish, cilantro and most herbs.
When in the leaf phase, you would seed again, your cold hardy varieties (for a second, later harvest), as well as anything that germinates in the 60*-70*F temperature ranges. These include squash, cucumber, eggplant, beans, etc… Any of these can be started earlier if you create a micro-climate zone using a cold frame, particularly, a cold frame with an automatic vent, greenhouse, or cloche.
Once the lilac or cherry tree is beginning to bloom it is safe to move any seedlings that require warmer temperatures and a longer growing season out into the garden space as well as to germinate more seeds for the 70*-80*F temperatures. For an easy transition, you can place these plants in the cold frame to acclimate/harden off to the fluctuating temperatures.
Pollination vs. Non-Pollination
It is important to know and understand the difference between heirloom, open pollinating, non open pollinating and genetically engineered when choosing your seed varieties, types, and origins. All heirloom seeds are open pollinating, however, not all open pollinating seeds are heirloom. To be classified as an heirloom it takes three generations of harvesting seed without cross pollinating with similar varieties.
Open pollinating means that the seeds collected from those plants will produce seeds to gather and will then germinate to create another plant. There is a big difference between hybridizing and genetically engineering. Hybridization is accomplished with the cross-pollination of plant varieties with similar genetic material to be paired, either through human influence to achieve a desired trait, or, through natural selection.
Genetic Engineering and the Consequences
Genetic engineering is the process of splicing genetic material that would be incompatible in nature, leading to unpredictable side effects. Designed in a lab for industrialized agriculture, these monoculture fields have been proven to adversely effect the surrounding ecosystems. The controversy involving genetically engineered seeds is complex, many of the side effects are still unknown and will only be evident in the future.
It may take some extra research, but we do not recommend buying any seeds from companies that produce genetically engineered seeds.