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Eager gardeners sorting through the possibilities. Photo: Lucy Martin
Eager gardeners sorting through the possibilities. Photo: Lucy Martin

Lots about seeds

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Corn, cucumbers, parsley and parsnips...it all starts with seeds. But not all seeds are easy to nurse through the germination stage. In their weekly gardening conversation, Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy talks with Martha Foley about some of the challenges that stall or prevent germination, and ways to give seeds the conditions they need to sprout.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Summary of today's gardening conversation

Horticulturist Amy Ivy, who is with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service of Clinton and Essex Counties, says, “people have been frustrated this year with some poor germination.” The conditions have been very challenging due to unexpected shifts in the weather, abnormally going from warm and dry to cold and wet.

Germination, when a plant emerges from its seed and begins to grow, is the trickiest part of the growing cycle, so it may be best to start with crops that are easy to germinate. Ivy says, “Seeds are usually fussier about the weather conditions during germination and need more pampering to get the roots down and the leaves up.”

Some plants are not fussy at all when it comes to germination, but some have particular requirements. These requirements can be found on seed packets and in seed catalogs that have great information about temperature and days to harvest. It is important to pay attention to the days until harvest, because you may be able to plant the seeds earlier than you think. “Big seeds like squash and beans can be more durable because they have more food in them to support the life,” says Ivy. “These are all warm season plans and are pretty easy to plant directly in your garden, but if you have had a problem with germination in the past, you can take your plants inside.”

With a frost warning in effect for tonight and cold weather predicted to continue for Tuesday, you should protect your seedlings with a sheet or a blanket, making sure that whatever you are using is suspended above the plants. If you have anything in a container or pot, such as tomatoes, you can bring it inside. Hopefully it will even off by Wednesday morning, and temperatures will return to normal.

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