Serious gardeners love tinkering with new vegetables, unusual plants and trying out the latest gadgets and gardening tools. While most gardening is straightforward, some areas cause confusion, especially when it comes to seeds and planting.
How Can I Tell If The Old Seeds I Have Will Sprout?
You won't know if the seeds you have are too old to sprout until you test them. Most seeds will keep for several seasons, but the only way to know for sure is to test the germination rate of the seeds. Put the seeds in water in a plastic baggie, then keep them a warm, dark spot. Not too hot. High heat can kill the seeds. After a week, check the seeds. If the majority show a thin white tail, that's the embryonic root. The seeds are still good and will sprout in the garden.
Why Can't I Use Old Potting Soil to Start Seeds?
Seeds and seedlings are prone to a disease called dampening off, which is caused by a fungus found in the soil. The fungus kills the seed just as it germinates or when the seed has sprouted but only has a few leaves. The seedling topples over, looking like it needs water. Fresh potting soil doesn't have the fungus. It is possible to kill the fungus in used potting soil by letting it bake in an oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes. Shut off the oven and let the soil stay in the oven until it's completely cool.
Why Do Pots Need Drainage Holes?
Plants need water but will drown if the excess water doesn't drain. Seeds need to be completely hydrated to sprout, but as soon as they do, they need oxygen. Plants take up oxygen through their roots. Water blocks the oxygen absorption. When planting in pots, place gravel or pottery shards over the drainage holes so soil doesn't escape but the water can. It is sometimes recommended to add a layer of activated charcoal and a layer of stones to the bottom of a pot that doesn't have drainage. That doesn't usually work for the average home gardener. Water has a tendency to build up in the container.
Why Didn't the Perennials Seeds I Planted this Spring Bloom This Year?
Perennials, in most cases, don't bloom the first year, unlike annuals. The plant focuses its energy on growing a healthful root system and strong stem and branches. The second year a few flowers might show, but not as many as you might have expected. The third year is when perennials start flowering at full capacity. And most keep right on blooming for years.