You've done everything right. You picked the perfect location for your garden, enriched the soil with plenty of compost, and chosen a mulch that you feel is best. You've set up irrigation to water your newly planted garden and the last step is planting your seeds.
It can be frustrating to put so much work and love into setting up a new garden, especially if you find that the seeds you are planting don't germinate as you had expected.
There are several reasons why seeds won't germinate well, but these are probably the most common:
1. Don't overwater your seeds!
Heavy, frequent watering can adversely affect the germination of your seeds. You want to make sure that the soil is moist to the touch but not soaking wet. Depending on the climate where you live, your watering schedule should be set up to ensure that you don't flood or overwater your newly planted seeds. A heavy rain or pro-longed watering time can also cause your seeds to wash away from the spot you had originally planted them. Read more about Watering your Garden.
2. Don't let your seeds experience a "freeze"!
Knowing when to plant your garden is key. Every gardener should be aware of their local freeze dates, first and last average frosts. Seed varieties all need a specific window of soil temperature to germinate properly. Before you start planting, do some research about what the ideal soil temperature should be and also pay attention to the days until maturity date. Try viewing our "Grow Guide" pages before starting any variety of seed. Make sure you have enough time to start the seed, and that you have enough time for it to mature before your frost date. Find more information about what grow zone you're located in.
3. Protect the health of your seeds during storage!
Seeds that have been improperly stored from prior gardening seasons will lose their germination viability. Germination rates will go down if you do not store your seeds in a cool, dry place.
4. Protect your newly planted seeds by using bird netting!
Occasionally critters and birds will eat your newly planted seeds. Pay attention to the wildlife that you see frequently in your garden area and if you feel like the birds or squirrels could be eating your seeds once you've planted them, then secure the site of your planted seeds with some bird netting or fencing.
5. Don't plant your seeds too deep!
All varieties of seed will do best when planted at the proper depth. Again, refer to our online "Grow Guides" for tips on correctly planting your seeds.
6. Protect your seedlings against "dampening off"!
Dampening off is a disease that causes new seedlings to wither up and die. It is most likely caused by planting in non-sterile soil or overwatering your young seedlings. Make sure you use pots or trays with adequate air circulation.
7. Allow proper germination time for each variety planted!
All seeds germinate at different rates. Don't expect your lettuces and peppers to germinate at the same time even if you start them in the same tray. You may think a seed is no good if it doesn't germinate quickly, but just realize that some varieties can take a very long time before they sprout.