Germination is the point at which seeds start to put out shoots and roots, after a period of dormancy. Germination can only occur when light, temperature, moisture, air and seed viability are exactly right. If one aspect isn’t correct, the seed will remain dormant until conditions change, improving the chances that the young plant will survive. Germination is activated by certain enzymes within the seed. These enzymes start converting starchy endosperm into energizing sugars and the miracle begins!
If preemergent herbicides are applied, this process can be halted before it begins. This may be a quick fix for defeating weeds, but it also puts chemicals into your food supply. Postemergent herbicides will not prevent seeds from germinating. Applying mulch is a far better method because it blocks germinating weed seeds from ever reaching the sun and mulch adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Even if weeds sprout in mulch, their stems and roots are not as well attached to the earth, so they are easier to pull.
Propagation & heat
Some seeds, such as peppers and tomatoes, need quite a bit of heat to germinate. They also need long growing seasons to reach full flavor. You can start pepper seeds indoors, on heating mats specially designed for seed germination, to get a head start on the growing season.
This activity is what turned me on to gardening many, many years ago. It is simple, inexpensive, and a lot of fun for junior gardeners (and the rest of us, too!)
1. create a tube out of the paper or foam and place it in the cup, allowing it to expand to touch the sides of the cup
2. curl the kitchen sponge so that it holds the paper or foam in place and touches the bottom of the cup
3. place each seed between the cup and the paper, making sure to point each one in a different cardinal direction and keeping the seeds separate from each other
4. add enough water to wet the sponge
As moisture is absorbed (imbibed) from the sponge into the seeds, they will begin to expand. You will need to monitor the sponge, making sure that it remains moist, but not soggy. Within 2 weeks, if conditions are right, tiny sprouts will begin to emerge! Encourage your child to draw pictures of how each of the seeds behaves differently and to measure the growth every few days. When the seeds have outgrown their cup, you can transplant them to a sunny location and watch them become giants in the garden!
It still amazes me, even though I now understand the chemistry involved, how each seed, regardless of its initial orientation, always sends the roots (radicles) down and the shoots (plumules) up.
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.