Northern Queensland Permaculture

Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share

Successful Seed Germination for Permaculture Enthusiasts in Tropical North Queensland


By the end of the lesson, participants will be able to identify factors that influence seed germination, prepare seeds for germination, and care for seedlings in a permaculture garden in the tropical climate of North Queensland.


45 minutes


  1. Seeds
  2. Seed trays or pots
  3. Seed-raising mix
  4. Spray bottles filled with water

Lesson Outline


Welcome and introductions

Greet participants and briefly introduce yourself

Overview of permaculture principles and their application in North Queensland
  • Raising your own seedlings gives you control over the quality and variety of plants in your garden.

You can select plant varieties that are best suited to your area and soil conditions. Additionally, growing your own seedlings can be a cost-effective way to start a garden, as buying seedlings from a nursery can be more expensive. Raising your own seedlings also allows you to observe the entire life cycle of your plants, from seed to maturity, giving you a deeper understanding and appreciation of your garden.

Factors Affecting Seed Germination (20 minutes)

  • Discuss ideal temperature ranges for various seeds
  • Explain the effects of temperature on germination rates and success

Typically not a problem in North Queensland - though too much heat will kill the seedlings.

  • Emphasize the importance of consistent moisture and proper drainage
  • Discuss how to achieve ideal moisture levels for germination

Adequate moisture is crucial for seed germination. Seeds need to be in contact with moisture to start the germination process. However, excessive moisture can lead to issues such as fungal growth, damping-off, and poor germination rates. The ideal moisture level for germination depends on the type of seed and the germination medium being used.

In general, the germination medium should be moist but not waterlogged. To achieve ideal moisture levels, it is recommended to water the germination medium from the bottom or use a spray bottle to mist the seeds. The germination medium should be checked regularly to ensure it does not dry out or become too wet. Covering the seed trays with plastic wrap or a humidity dome can help to maintain moisture levels during particularly low humidity periods (though usually not a problem if a sheltered area is selected away from wind).

  • Explain the role of light in germination and how it affects different species
  • Discuss how to provide adequate light for germinating seeds

Light plays an important role in seed germination as it triggers the production of chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis to occur. Some seeds require light to germinate, while others need darkness, and some may not be affected by light at all. Light requirements for germination vary depending on the plant species and the environment. In general, seeds that require light for germination should be planted near the soil surface or left uncovered. Seeds that require darkness should be covered with soil or other opaque materials to block out light. Insufficient light can cause seedlings to become leggy, weak, or discolored, while too much light can lead to overheating, dehydration, and stunted growth.

  • Explain the importance of seed-raising mix in germination
  • Describe the characteristics of a good seed-raising mix

The quality of the soil or growing medium used for seed germination plays a crucial role in the success of germination and growth of seedlings. Seed-raising mix is specially formulated to provide the ideal conditions for seed germination and early growth. Seed-raising mix is typically a combination of peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and other organic matter. A good seed-raising mix should have good water-holding capacity, adequate drainage, and aeration to promote healthy root growth and prevent waterlogging. A pH level of 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal for most seeds, but some may require a more acidic or alkaline soil.

Seed viability and age
  • Discuss the importance of using fresh and viable seeds
  • Explain how to test seed viability

Seeds lose viability over time due to aging, exposure to heat, moisture, or light, and other factors. Old or low-viability seeds may take longer to germinate, have lower germination rates, or fail to germinate at all. The seed germination test can be done using a paper towel, soil, or other germination medium. The test should be conducted in a warm and humid environment, and the seeds should be kept moist but not waterlogged. After a set period of time, usually 7-14 days, the number of germinated seeds is counted, and the germination rate is calculated. A germination rate of 80% or higher is generally considered good, while rates below 50% may indicate low seed viability. Seeds that do not germinate can be discarded, and only the viable seeds should be used for planting. It is recommended to store seeds in cool, dry, and dark places to maintain their viability and extend their shelf life.

Group discussion
  • Invite participants to share their experiences with seed germination

Seed Preparation (20 minutes)

Soaking seeds
  • Explain when and why to soak seeds
  • Demonstrate how to soak seeds properly

Soaking seeds can be a helpful technique to improve germination rates, especially for seeds with hard or thick seed coats. Soaking seeds helps to soften the seed coat, allowing moisture and oxygen to penetrate more easily, and triggers the germination process. Seeds that can benefit from soaking include beans, peas, corn, and some flower seeds. Soaking times vary depending on the seed type, but generally, seeds should be soaked for 4-12 hours in warm water before planting. It is important not to soak the seeds for too long, as this can cause them to rot or lose viability. To soak seeds properly, place the seeds in a container, cover them with tap water, and leave overnight (12 hrs max) After soaking, drain the water and rinse the seeds thoroughly before planting them in the seed-raising mix.

  • Explain how to scarify seeds
  • Demonstrate scarification techniques

Scarification is a technique used to break or soften the hard outer seed coat, which can prevent germination. Scarification is typically done manually, by scratching or nicking the seed coat using a file, sandpaper, or a sharp knife.

Stratification (if applicable)
  • Explain how to stratify seeds
  • Discuss when and why stratification is necessary

Stratification is a technique used to simulate the natural winter conditions that some seeds require for germination. Stratification involves exposing the seeds to a period of cold and damp conditions, usually around 0-5°C, for several weeks before planting. To stratify seeds properly, place the seeds in a moist medium, such as peat moss, vermiculite, or sand, and store them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator for the recommended time. The length of stratification varies depending on the seed type, but generally, seeds should be stratified for 2-3 months. After stratification, remove the seeds from the cold and plant them in the seed-raising mix.

Demonstration and practice
  • Guide participants in preparing seeds for germination

Sowing Seeds (30 minutes)

Choosing containers
  • Discuss the pros and cons of seed trays, pots, or direct sowing
  • Explain how to choose the best container for each plant species

The three main options for seed containers are seed trays, pots, or direct sowing.

Seed trays are convenient for growing multiple seeds in one container and can be used for transplanting seedlings later. Pots are ideal for larger seeds or plants that require more space and can be reused for multiple seasons. Direct sowing involves planting seeds directly in the ground or a larger container and can be useful for plants with delicate roots that do not transplant well. The best container for each plant species depends on factors such as seed size, root depth, and growth habit. In general, smaller seeds require shallower containers and larger seeds require deeper containers. Plants with taproots or longer roots may require deeper containers, while those with shallow roots can do well in shallower containers.

Sowing seeds at the correct depth
  • Explain the importance of sowing seeds at the right depth
  • Provide guidelines for sowing seeds of different sizes

Sowing seeds at the correct depth is important for successful germination and seedling growth. The depth at which seeds should be sown varies depending on the seed size and type. In general, small seeds should be sown shallowly, while larger seeds should be sown deeper. A good rule of thumb is to sow seeds at a depth of two to three times their diameter. Seeds that are sown too shallowly may dry out too quickly or not have enough contact with the seed-raising mix to germinate. Seeds that are sown too deeply may have difficulty breaking through the surface and emerging as seedlings.

Labeling containers
  • Emphasize the importance of labeling containers
  • Demonstrate how to create clear and informative labels

Labeling seed containers is important for keeping track of the seed type, sowing date, and other important information.

  • Explain how to use spray bottles to maintain moisture
  • Discuss how to prevent overwatering and damping-off

Watering is an important aspect of seed germination and seedling care. Overwatering can cause the seed-raising mix to become waterlogged and lead to damping-off, a fungal disease that can kill young seedlings. Underwatering can cause the seedlings to dry out and die. To maintain moisture levels, use a spray bottle to mist the seedlings or water from the bottom of the container. It is important not to water the seedlings too much or too often. The frequency of watering depends on factors such as the seed type, container size, and environmental conditions. A good rule of thumb is to water the seed

How to get perfect germination

  • Works well for seeds that can be handled with fingers easily (lettuce, or other small seeds may not work well with this method)
  1. Pre soak seeds in a small glass of room temperature water for no longer than 8 to 12 hours.
  2. In a transparent container with a lid, place paper towel and mist with water so the towel is damp but not wet
  3. Place the seeds in the paper towel, and cover with another paper towel - again misted with water to be damp but not wet
  4. Check the seeds each day, and when sprouted (usually a couple of days), transplant into ready seedling trays.

  • Example of pre-sprouting Pigeon Peas, before sowing (pictured above).

Successful Seed Germination - Poem

  • Permaculture enthusiasts in North Queensland.
  • Get ready to learn about seed germination.
  • From factors that influence, to seedling care.
  • You'll become experts with knowledge to share.
  • Raising your own seedlings is a wise choice.
  • Selecting the best plants with your own voice.
  • Variety and quality you'll have control.
  • And it's cost-effective, saving you a toll.
  • Temperature is important, don't let it kill.
  • Discuss the ranges, with knowledge and skill.
  • Moisture is key, but don't go too far.
  • Mist the seeds, don't let them drown in a jar.
  • Light triggers chlorophyll, necessary for growth.
  • Different species require different approaches.
  • Soil quality plays a crucial role.
  • Seed-raising mix is key, it's a perfect goal.
  • Fresh and viable seeds, don't use the old.
  • A paper towel test, make sure it's told.
  • Scarification or soaking, techniques to use.
  • Stratification too, with cold winter views.
  • Choose containers wisely, pots, trays or sow.
  • Seed size, root depth, and growth habit to know.
  • Sow seeds at the right depth, and label each one.
  • Water with care, don't let them dry, or they're done.
  • To get perfect germination, pre-soak in water.
  • Damp paper towels, seeds covered, no falter.
  • Transplant sprouted seeds to ready trays.
  • And watch them grow, in many wonderful ways.
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