A guide to effective germination
What is germination?
There are 2 industry-standard ways to produce new plants. Through germinating from seed or by cloning a plant by taking a cutting. Another more high-tech method is tissue culture but this requires high levels of sterility and the correct conditions and media to do so. Germination has always been a key part of propagation and is generally how cultivators produce new plants.
Germination is the basic process of a seed developing into a plant. This only occurs when environmental conditions are favourable. The radicle is the first part of a seedling to emerge. The radicle is the embryonic root of the plant, and grows downward in the soil, this then develops into the taproot and is the initiation point for all other roots that will form during the plant’s lifecycle. At the top of the radicle, the hypocotyl forms and will then push through the media in the opposite direction of gravity to reach a light source. Typically the seed shell would be pushed by the taproot/hypocotyl and the first leaves, known as cotyledon, would begin to open, nudging the seed shell off the plant.
Seeds are amazing dormant little packages of food and genetic material ready to burst into life when certain environmental conditions are correct. In order to get the best results out of your seeds below are some simple hints and tips to help get consistent germination rates.
How to speed up seed germination?
In order to maximise your chance of sucess when germinating seeds you should have on hand some basic equipment. To achieve the best possible results when growing from seed you will need a propagator and your choice of media to sow the seed into (This could be tissue paper, soil, coco, rockwool cubes or peat plugs / Jiffy pellets). We suggest that whichever media you decide to sow your seeds into you use a solution of water and a rooting stimulator such as Katana Roots to pre-soak. Once your seeds have sprouted and your first true leaves as opposed to coyledons have emerged we suggest a specific feed tailored for the needs of establishing young plants – Shogun Start is ideal as it contains lower levels of macro nutrients (NPK) than standard feeds but elevated levels of the micronutrients a plant needs to establish.
MOIST, DARK AND WARM.
Certain environmental factors play a huge role in the process of germination. The 3 essentials you need to keep in mind are moisture / humidity, temperature and darkness. When a seed is in dark, warm and wet conditions, it’s outer shell will gently crack and produce a radicle. If the root breaks through and environmental conditions are too dry, the seed will die. To stay healthy and growing a seed needs constant access to water. But there is a fine balancing act as too much water can result in damping off to occur. The critical success factor when germinating from seed is a warm, moist and aerated environment.
In the majority of cases, seeds will germinate better in warmer temperatures and high humidity, which again speaks for the importance of moisture. Moisture and humidity continue to be a key factor when the first true leaves begin to form as younger plants generally respond better to moisture in the air and media. Ideally, 21-22 degrees C is the perfect temperature for germination but any where between 18-24C is the range to aim for, Humidity needs to up to at least 80%, hence the need for a propagator to help maintain this.
Hello darkness my old friend! The abscence of light is a signal to the seed that triggers the plant hormone phytochrome for long enough to establish germination. In the presence of light phytochrome takes on a different form which does not trigger germination in most cases.
Expert advice: This is the point where you would use a rooting stimulant like Katana Roots and Shogun Start to keep your seed moist and fed. This solution will encourage your seed to crack and produce a healthy seedling, enhancing your chances of success The trace elements in Start encourage the movement of calcium around and in the seed, strengthening it and its taproot. This is also an opportunity to use an propagator that will ensure warmth and locks in moisture levels. The naturally occurring phytohormones will also encourage faster and larger root mass. Plant hormones are signal molecules, produced within plants, that occur in extremely low concentrations. Plant hormones control all aspects of plant growth and development, from embryogenesis, the regulation of organ size, pathogen defense, stress tolerance, through to reproductive development.
PLANTING DEPTH, SEED ORIENTATION.
If you are using the paper tissue method, where you place seeds between wet tissue paper until they germinate rather than directly into media it is thought to be important to plant it right away in your chosen media, and a lot of growers say it is wise to plant it with the root facing down, but this is not strictly necessary as nature always finds a way. What is necessary is the planting depth, we believe you should plant knuckle deep. If you are starting from seed and transplanting into a hydroponic system we would advise to start off in coco coir because it offers the least resistance for root growth. If you choose to use an inert media such as rockwool cubes, it is important to pre-soak it in a weak pH-adjusted nutrient solution, Shogun Start is perfect for this.
Scarification is the process of weakening the seed so that water and air can enter much easier, and consequently speed up germination. You have to be careful as it’s important not to damage the seed embryo while undergoing scarification.
One form of scarification can be to place seeds in a Matchbox that is lined with sandpaper. A square bit of sandpaper on the bottom would be fine in this case, then shake the Box well for 30 to 60 seconds. Another way would be to place a couple of seeds on sandpaper and then using another bit of sandpaper to rub the seeds gently for about 30 seconds.
Some seeds have a line going around their diameter, this can be easily noticed on one side of the seed compared with the other. This ridge can sometimes be picked and peeled off revealing a naked white seed. By taking this layer off you will speed up germination as the taproot no longer needs to break through the shell of the seed.
To take this ridge off pinch the seed ridge side up and scrape a knife over the top until you see an opening which you can then peel off.
Another method of speeding up the germination process is called priming. This can also help with fungal disease that may be on the source of the seed, sitting ready and waiting to infect fragile seedlings. Seed priming involves soaking the seeds in a solution of water or a seed-soak / nutrient solution for 24hrs and then drying the seed out completely. The seed can then be stored in dry conditions until you are ready to plant the seed. What this does, is starts the chain reaction within the seed to start germination. Once primed and dry the life process is stopped but as soon as conditions are right again the seed is already halfway to germination. You will potentially see the emergence of the tap root much faster. Using weak nutrient solution can also aid this process and it is often a common practice commercially to use a weak solution of ethanol to sterilise the seed.