7 Reasons Why Your Seeds Don’t Germinate And What You Can Do About It!

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 09:04 pm

7 Gründe warum deine Samen nicht keimen und was du dagegen tun kannst!

You seem to have done everything right and are well equipped with seed trays and pots, growing soil and seeds. Nevertheless, the seeds just won’t come up and far and wide there are no seedlings to be seen. What could be the reason for that? We have collected the 7 most common reasons why seeds do not germinate for you and show you in 5 simple steps how to turn your seeds into strong seedlings.

Nothing to see here – that’s why seeds don’t germinate

7 Reasons Why Your Seeds Don't Germinate And What You Can Do About It!

As spring approaches and it warms up outside, so does the gardening season. Most vegetables and summer flowers must first be grown from seed before they can be planted in beds or outdoors. In addition, many amateur gardeners want to raise their plants themselves from the beginning and not immediately resort to seedlings. After all, it is a very special feeling to be there from the beginning.

You can therefore start sowing seeds and growing seedlings even when the temperatures outside are still quite low. Sometimes, however, it can happen that the seeds do not come up despite all efforts. If you are also waiting in vain for the first seedlings, you should take a close look at the following 7 points, because they are the most common reasons why it remains suspiciously quiet in seed trays and pots.

Experiment | Was brauchen Pflanzen zum Keimen? | Stiftung Haus der kleinen  Forscher
  1. the seed is too old

Yes, seeds also have a best before date. The older seed gets, the weaker its germination capacity becomes. This overview shows you how long seeds are normally germinable:

1 year: onion, chives, garlic, parsnips
2 years: carrots
3 years: celery, fennel, spinach
4 years: radishes, peas, beans, radish, lamb’s lettuce
5 years: tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkin, cucumbers
So the fact that your seeds are not germinating could be because they are just too old. Take a look at the packaging, there should be a best before date. You can also do a simple test to see if your seeds are still germinable: Take a piece of damp kitchen paper, spread a few seeds on it and roll it up. Then put the rolled up paper in a small bag made of plastic foil, in which you have previously poked small holes. Keep it at room temperature and observe if seedlings form within the given time. If more than half of the seeds have germinated, the seed is still usable. If less seedlings appear, you should discard it and get new ones instead.

  1. the seed was stored incorrectly
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If the seed was stored incorrectly during the winter months, germination problems may also occur at the beginning of the planting season. To prevent this, you should always store seeds in a cool place away from light. Ensure good air circulation and be sure to pack your seeds in an air-permeable container to prevent mold growth. Paper bags are ideal, but plastic bags are a no-go. If your seeds are really 100% dry, you can also store them in a screw-top jar.

  1. it is still too cold

It’s not uncommon for too-low soil temperatures to be to blame for seeds not germinating. To be on the safe side, you should therefore wait a little longer than indicated on the packaging of your seeds before sowing them outdoors. If the soil is then already much warmer, germination is often even faster than expected. Another advantage is that at higher temperatures the tender seedlings are not overgrown by weeds as quickly as at lower temperatures.

  1. the wrong substrate

Sometimes it is also due to the wrong substrate, if simply no seedlings want to show themselves. Basically, this should be loose and fine-crumbly with a rather low nutrient content to allow seeds to germinate optimally. In addition to coconut swelling tabs and special growing soil, you can also use homemade soil. This should consist of one part sifted garden soil, one part sifted compost and one part sand. Heavy soil with a high clay content is not suitable at all, because it is very difficult for young seedlings to penetrate.

  1. the wrong sowing

Especially with seed tapes and seed discs made of cellulose, a lot can go wrong during sowing. Although these sowing aids are intended to simplify sowing, there are some important points to note. Tapes and discs, for example, should be thoroughly moistened after being laid out. Only then should you cover them with soil. This must be well pressed and also well moistened for optimal contact with the seeds. If you put the soil only loosely over the seed discs and bands, the tender first roots will not find a foothold.

  1. too little water
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Lack of water is one of the most common causes of non-germinating seeds. Especially after sowing and in the germination phase, you should make sure to keep the seedbed well moistened so that the seeds can swell and sprout. In this phase, too little water will inevitably cause the tender seedlings to die.

7 The wrong sowing depth

Basically, seeds can be divided into light germinators and dark germinators. While some need light to germinate, others germinate only in the dark. Small seeds should only be sown shallowly and barely covered with soil so that the seedling makes its way to the surface. Larger seeds, on the other hand, must be sown deeper into the soil. You should keep this in mind as a basic rule. You can use this as a guide if you don’t have information on the correct sowing depth from the manufacturer.

Your 5-step plan to strong seedlings

By following a few basic tips, you can significantly increase the germination rate of your seeds and enjoy numerous vigorous seedlings.

Soak seeds before sowing. Especially hard-shelled seeds should be soaked before sowing or, if possible, even roughened with sandpaper. This will make it easier for them to germinate.

Use special growing soil or coconut fiber. These are loose, water-permeable as well as low in nutrients and not only offer seeds the ideal conditions for germination, but also ensure that strong roots form. However, since the plants will later need a nutrient-rich environment, we recommend that you fill the bottom half of your growing pots with potting soil and the top half with growing soil. If the roots of the plants are long enough, they will automatically reach into the nutrient-rich potting soil.

Very important: Fine seeds should be covered with no more than the same to twice the amount of soil, while large seeds should be covered with three to four times the amount of soil.
Provide adequate heat and humidity. Dry indoor air is poison for germination. This can be remedied by mini greenhouses and seed trays, which are equipped with transparent lids and thus provide the ideal germination conditions. If the lid does not have ventilation openings, you should remove it for a few minutes every day to prevent fungal diseases through air circulation.
Keep the soil well moist. Regular watering is mandatory to get seeds to germinate. It is best to use a sprayer for this purpose so that the fine seeds are not washed out of the substrate.

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Use a planting string. When sowing directly in the field, a planting string is a very useful tool that allows you to maintain both the recommended row spacing and a straight sowing line. This makes it much easier to sow very fine seeds in particular.
With the right know-how to a growing paradise

Avoid mistakes and work with the right tricks – that’s how you’re guaranteed to get your seeds to germinate. With our tips, sad empty seed trays and pots are a thing of the past and you can enjoy lush growing seedlings. The right time, the right substrate, heat, water and light will turn dry seeds into lush plants.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-jones-436784297/ gardeninguru@outlook.com Jones James

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