Friday, March 6, 2009

Seed germination in dry climates

Mid-March is generally the expected seeding date for cool season vegetables along the Front Range. These include lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, spinach and cabbage. Earlier sowing may be possible this year because soil temperatures already have warmed to 40 degrees F (check Fort Collins soil temperature website mentioned last post). Of course soil temperature can drop lower with extended cold and cloudy weather.

Small seeded vegetables such as lettuce can be a challenge to germinate in dry climates. If small seed is planted deep so it doesn't dry out, it won't germinate. Planting shallow and just barely covering with soil raises the danger of drying out which kills germinating seeds. The following technique can help you overcome the challenge of our low relative humidity and winds that dry the soil surface.


  1. I've used this same technique successfully for years--it's the only way I can keep small seeds moist enough and also keeps them from blowing away, just like he says :)

  2. Just found your excellent blog! My garden buddy and I are trying this method in the garden with lettuce.

    One other garden tip, I used sifted sand to help plant small seeds. Put the seeds in a small container, add a small handful of sifted sand, stir gently, and spread finely over the soil. The sand lets you see where you have seeded and also helps evenly spread tiny seeds.

    Keep up the great suggestions! Gardening on the front range can be very challenging!

  3. Thanks for the slides on how to start those little seeds using row cover. That really helped me out!