Disappointing Seed Start

I would prefer to grow my veggies by seeds.  It is cheaper, we can grow more varieties than what we might find locally, and it would enable us to start with heirloom seed instead of the hybrids that are available at the local nursery.

However, I’ve not ever had much success with starting plants by seeds.  Years ago we set up a table with a hot light.  They grew but they were spindly.  Since then we’ve not had a place to dedicate to seeds.  I did grow some nice bean plants last year from seed, but usually we have just purchased plants when it was time to set out the garden.

2012 Bean plants

2012 Bean plants

But this year, I thought I would try again.  We purchased a lot of heirloom seeds by mail order last fall.  I looked up my local extension office to find planting instructions for each.  I even had honeyman build me a very nice cold frame.   I was all set to plant my seeds.


We can plant most summer crops around 4/15 here in central NC.  So I counted back 8 weeks and started the seeds around mid-February and put them in the cold frame.

This is my first time using a cold frame so I wasn’t up on all the rules.  For instance, I didn’t know that when it was sunny and 50 degrees outside that you needed to open the windows and vent it.  When I finally figured that part out, I realized that sunny and 50 degrees outside meant 90-100 degrees inside the cold frame!  Who knew the windows would make it that much hotter when the sun shines in.  In addition, I wasn’t aware that the pots would dry out faster and require more watering.  Well, maybe I could have figured that out, but with working 12-14 hours days at the time, there were many days I didn’t get outside to check on them.  So, three weeks after planting, there was nothing.  It was like a barren desert.

So, I replanted.  And this time I followed the rules.  I watered them more often and I vented the windows.  Jump ahead two weeks… well, I guess you can’t call it nothing, but it’s close enough.  The collards are up and there a couple of little sprouts of herbs.



Collards, cabbage & onions

Collards, cabbage & onions

herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, bak choy, kohlrabi

herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, bak choy, kohlrabi

So, I thought maybe I had bad seed.  I read online that you can tell bad seed from good seed by soaking them overnight in water.  Good seed are supposed to sink to the bottom, and bad seed are supposed to float.  So I set up little cups of water and put different seeds in each.


By the next morning, 99% of the seed had sunk to the bottom.  So that means the seeds are good right?  So I planted the seeds that had been soaking all night.  I thought having soaked in water all night would give them a head start and they should sprout even faster.    I had put more in each cup than I thought I needed because I didn’t expect 99% of them to be good.  Therefore, I ended up with more pots than I had originally planted due to the fact that I had extra seeds soaked.  I certainly didn’t want to waste them.

Back in the cold frame they went, well watered this time.

DSC_0986 DSC_0987This was 6 days ago… I have one new sprout.  Just one!

I haven’t completely given up hope on the seeds, but since planting time is just 3-4 weeks away I’m beginning to wonder if I should put money aside in the budget to buy some plants.


6 thoughts on “Disappointing Seed Start

  1. I do my seeds inside. I am still waiting for my fall/winter garden to finish….so let’s just call it spring garden :-)….I am planting seeds this weekend for tomato’s and herbs and then plan to do the rest a little later (not too late) just need more garden space. 🙂

    BTW coming over from triangle guild web page 🙂

    • Wow. You’re fall and winter garden must be doing great if it is still going. I have never actually done a fall/winter garden, but plan to this year. My tomato seeds actually sprouted about 3 weeks ago and they are growing nicely, so hopefully I’ll be planting them in another week or two. Gotta get the tiller fixed first… Glad you found me.

  2. Due to the temperature and moist for seeds require, it is easier and faster to germinate them indoor until they grow steadily.

    After that you can move them to your cold frame area to continue their growth. Always soak the thicker seed to re-hydra them then plant them.

    Start with longer harvest time crops first. Have fun and good luck!

  3. I also have trouble starting seeds inside, though I was able to grow a little lettuce inside this spring. I haven’t tried a cold frame yet, but am very interested. When I wait and plant summer seeds outside these usually do fine, like cucumber, beans and zucchini. The rest I just end up buying as plants…., but it is more expensive!

  4. Last year my seeds most took twice as long to sprout as the packages suggested. I had almost given up hope when suddenly they started sprouted. I’m definitely not an expert with planting by seeds, but maybe they’re just a bit slow. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s