As fall approaches, it’s time to start thinking about germinating seeds for the upcoming growing season. Starting them outdoors and then transferring inside can lead to good results. How can this be accomplished? The truth is that the ideal time for any stage of the growing process is entirely up to you and the circumstances that you must work within.
Yard and Garden: Germinating Seeds For Future Growth
AMES, Iowa – As fall approaches, it’s time to start thinking about germinating seeds for the upcoming growing season. Starting them outdoors and then transferring inside can lead to good results. How can this be accomplished?
ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your questions about germinating seeds.
How do I germinate butterfly weed seeds?
Harvest the seed pods of butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, when the pods begin to split. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in late fall or started indoors.
When sowing seeds outdoors, work up the soil in a protected location in early to mid-November. Scatter the seeds over the prepared seedbed and then cover the seeds with approximately one-fourth inch of soil. The cold, moist conditions over winter improve seed germination. Seedlings should emerge in spring. Carefully transplant the seedlings to their permanent locations when the seedlings are three to four inches tall.
To start seeds indoors, fill a flat with a commercial germination medium (such as Jiffy Mix). Moisten the medium. Scatter the seeds over the surface of the germination medium and lightly press the seeds into the material. Cover the seeds with an additional one-fourth inch of the germination mix. Carefully moisten the additional material. Slide the flat into a plastic bag and place the bagged flat in the refrigerator. Leave the flat in the refrigerator for four to six weeks. After that, remove the flat from the refrigerator and place it in an area with a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds should begin to germinate in three to four weeks.
If no seedlings appear after four weeks, place the flat back in the refrigerator for another four to six weeks and repeat the process.
Take the flat out of the plastic bag as soon as seedlings appear and place the flat under fluorescent lights in a 60 to 65 degree Fahrenheit location. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots when the seedlings are one to two inches tall. Continue to grow the seedlings indoors under fluorescent lights for several more weeks. Prior to planting outdoors, place the seedlings outdoors in a shady, protected location and then gradually expose the seedlings to longer periods of direct sun. Plant the seedlings in their permanent locations after they have hardened outdoors for seven to 10 days.
How do I germinate Jack-in-the-pulpit seeds?
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) seeds can be sown directly outdoors or started indoors. Harvest the cluster of berries as soon as they turn red in late summer. Each berry usually contains four to six seeds. Remove the seeds by gently squeezing them from the berries. Seeds can be planted immediately outdoors. Plant seeds one-half inch deep in a moist, shaded location.
Jack-in-the-pulpit seeds can also be started indoors. Before sowing the seeds indoors, the seeds must be stratified (exposed to cool, moist conditions) for 60 to 75 days. Jack-in-the-pulpit seeds can be stratified by placing them in moist sphagnum peat moss or fine sand and then storing them in the refrigerator for two to two and a half months. Suitable storage containers include small plastic bags and food storage containers. After the seeds have been stratified, remove the seeds from the sphagnum peat moss or sand. Plant seeds one-half inch deep in a commercial potting mix. In spring, plant the seedlings outdoors.
How do I germinate purple coneflower seeds?
Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, seeds can be sown directly outdoors or started indoors. Exposing the seeds to cool, moist conditions (stratification) usually improves germination.
Outdoors, plant seeds in fall. Cover the seeds with one-eighth to one-fourth of soil. Seedlings should emerge in spring. Seedlings can be transplanted to different locations later in the growing season.
Indoors, fill a flat with 1.5 to 2 inches of a commercial potting mix. Sow seeds on the surface of the potting mix and cover with an additional one-eighth to one-fourth inch of material. Moisten the potting mix, slide the flat into a plastic bag, and place the flat in the refrigerator for two months.
After that, remove the flat from the refrigerator and place it in an area with a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds should germinate in 10 to 14 days. Take the flat out of the plastic bag as soon as germination occurs. Transplant the seedlings into small pots three to four weeks after germination. Grow the seedlings indoors several more weeks before planting outdoors.
Is it too early to start germinating cannabis seeds?
Canadians have now spent a few solid months in frigid cold temperatures, and we’re starting to get antsy as we notice the birds starting to return, and the snow melting away. The shining sun and mild weather can feel fantastic on the skin, but we aren’t quite yet to the point where flowers begin to come to life, and so for many, the idea of starting marijuana seeds is still a distant plan for the future.
Benefits of choosing to germinate early
Now, we’re pretty fortunate to live in a region with a long enough growing season that starting marijuana seeds indoors isn’t necessary, so not everyone concerns themselves with this extra step. Those that do get to sit back and enjoy the spoils with a bigger and better harvest at the end of the season are starting the process of germination early in the year as it can help in a variety of ways, including:
- Stronger plants
- Higher seedling survival rates
- Larger harvest
- More potent product
Is it possible to start germination too early?
The truth is that the ideal time for any stage of the growing process is entirely up to you and the circumstances that you must work within. Many cultivators have great success growing year-round indoors, but that can be time-consuming, space-taking, and financially less ideal, so instead, what you need to know is how long you should have a sprouting cannabis plant indoors before transplanting it outdoors, to thrive.
As we first enter into spring, the temperatures are perfect, and the days get longer, providing much-needed sunlight for the earliest stages of growing cannabis plants. Eventually, we reach regular double digits during both the night and daytime hours, which is ideal for the flowering period, as it enhanced the plant’s ability to produce vital cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
Towards the end of our Canadian growing season, the temperatures cool, the days get shorter, and this results in a response from your cannabis plants. Basically, it tells them to hurry up and finish production, and this reaction occurs because they can sense that winter is closing in quickly, which means that they are likely to die soon.
All of these things significantly impact the best time to start germination, but they only explain the why rather than the how of the process. Even after knowing all of this, it’s easy to misjudge the best time of year to germinate, which is why it is essential to keep one rule in mind the whole way through as you decide.
When is the best time for germination?
Most gardening experts start digging up their soil in early May, but that tends to be out of habit and to make the ground softer for when the time comes for planting. Very few seasoned growers will plant anything before the big May 24th weekend, which is also when the majority of greenhouses and nurseries open their doors to the public. This is fine for some vegetables and flowers that are climatized to lower temperatures, but at that time, it’s still incredibly cold at night.
Cannabis plants are a tropical plant that can survive in less than ideal conditions, but they prefer hot and humid weather, and that is why they are usually planted halfway through June. By this point, there is no longer a threat of frost looming overhead, which gives seedlings a much higher chance of surviving the strenuous transplant from inside to outdoors.
Marijuana seeds planted directly into the soil often don’t get planted until the end of June, but seedlings started indoors have a much stronger head start allowing them to be planted earlier, but that still doesn’t exactly tell you how early you should start, or whether or not it’s too early right now. What you need to know is that the ideal amount of time for seedlings to hang out indoors is between 6 and 12 weeks.
That might sound like a short period of time, but if you do the math, we are already so close to spring. By the time this article is published, there will only be between 3-4 months left to wait, which is between 12 and 16 weeks total. That means that right now, and any point over the next month is probably the safest window of time to get started with germination if you intend to put your cannabis plants outside for the remainder of their lives.
How to germinate marijuana seeds
If you have already gathered all of the necessary tools for germination, then you are probably wondering how to get started. It really isn’t that hard to germinate marijuana seeds. The trick is to provide just enough moisture and heat to open up the fibrous shell, which will release the fresh, new seedling. There are several different ways that you can do this, but the most popular and widely used option by small-time home growers is the paper towel method, which we have included easy directions for, down below.
- Paper towel
- Translucent plastic bag
- Marijuana seeds
Fold a paper towel in half and use it to line the inside of a plastic baggie.
Add just enough water to one side of the paper towel where you can see it’s been absorbed, without pooling in large amounts.
Gently place the marijuana seeds at least one inch apart onto the wet half of the paper towels.
Press the dry side of the paper towel onto the wet one to encase the marijuana seeds.
If parts of the paper towel still feel dry, then add a bit more water to the mix.
Set the baggie somewhere warm and cool for the next few days. Light will only dry out the paper towel because, at this stage, there are no exposed leaves to soak in the powerful light, so keep it in the dark until you see small jagged leaves start to poke out from the shells.
Usually, small germinated marijuana seeds can last for several days this way as long as you continue to add moisture and introduce light once the leaves form, but it isn’t going to take long for the seedlings wanting to stretch out as they try to form a complex root system. Cannabis seedlings should not spend more than seven days in one of these bags before being transplanted into soil-filled pots.
How to successfully germinate old cannabis seeds
The thing is, that even if you are having difficulty germinating old seeds, there are several things you can do to achieve a higher success rate.