Goat Binder

Raising up a healthy seed and seedling into a productive plant takes some work. Learn these common outdoor seed sowing problems and how to fix them!

In the 4 Most Common Seed Starting Problems and How to Fix Them, I discussed the problems home gardeners face when starting their seeds indoors. Some seeds, such as corn, beans, and roots do much better when they are directly sown outside. But directly sowing doesn’t mean you can just toss the seeds out and forget about them! Germination is a delicate process and raising up a healthy seedling into a productive plant takes some work. First, make sure you are starting with a good quality seed- nothing old or starting to mold! Now let’s dig in to some of the outdoor seed sowing problems you might be faced with and how you can fix them!

5 Most Common Outdoor Seed Sowing Problems…and How to Fix Them


Soil Temperature

Just as with starting seeds indoors, temperature plays a big part in the germination process of direct sown seeds as well. Each crop has an ideal germination temperature, but most like a soil that has been warmed and is no longer cold and wet from the winter freezes. If you jump the gun your seeds will sit in the cold soil until it reaches the correct germination temperature- and chances are it will begin to mold or rot while it sits!

How Can You Fix This?

  • Don’t plant to early. Just because the frosts are over doesn’t mean that it is time to plant. Take time to make sure the soil is sufficiently warmed.
  • Grow in raised beds or in hills- the higher soil level will warm more quickly
  • Grow under cloches or in a cold frame if you simply must plant early

Raising up a healthy seed and seedling into a productive plant takes some work. Learn these common outdoor seed sowing problems and how to fix them!

Planting Depth

Seeds are not all created equal. If you read the back of your seed packets you will notice that there are often specific directions on planting depth. Some varieties need some light to germinate, some don’t. And most seeds, if planted too deep, will run out of energy before every emerging from under the soil.

How Can You Fix This?

  • Follow the directions on your seed packet
  • As a general rule only plant a seed a deep as it is wide
  • For small seeds such as lettuce and many herbs, simply sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and add a very light dusting of peat moss, compost, or loose soil on top.

Moisture Levels

Moisture plays a big part in germination and in the health of your seedlings. When starting inside you can keep this under control, but outside you are at the mercy of the weather. Wet, poorly drained soil can spell death to most seeds, so when planting be sure your soil isn’t sopping wet and ensure that you have adequate drainage. If your seeds are sprouting and then dying you can still be dealing with the diseases that come from overwatering.

How Can You Fix This?

  • Make sure to dig enough organic matter into your soil- this both improves drainage in wet soils and holds water longer in dry soils.
  • Don’t plant in too-wet soil, such as after a large rain or big snow melt
  • On the flip side, seeds do need moisture to sprout, so if there is no rain in the forecast be sure to give your seeds a light watering daily until they have established a strong root system.

Raising up a healthy seed and seedling into a productive plant takes some work. Learn these common outdoor seed sowing problems and how to fix them!

Poor Soil

Seeds can usually sprout- and sometimes do better- without an over abundance of nutrients. But once they have germinated and begun to grow, your soil quality will determine just how strong and healthy they will become. If your seeds are sprouting but then staying stunted and very small, chances are you are dealing with poor soil quality.

How Can You Fix This?


Sometimes you can do everything right- you have the perfect soil temperature, moisture level and nutrients and your seeds STILL don’t sprout. Outside your seeds are not only facing the elements, but also pests. Squirrels, insects, birds, rodents, even your own cats or chickens can cause some problems.

How Can you Fix This?

  • Grow under cloth to keep the pests away at this early stage
  • Keep your garden behind a fence or netting to keep larger pests away
  • Again, make sure your soil is healthy. Healthy soil will go a long way in preventing soil-bound insect pests.

Have you come across these problems when it comes to direct sowing in your garden? How do you fix them?

© 2017, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.

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