Cool Member
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 5:38 pm
Location: NY

Most of my cucumber seeds die immediately after germinating

Here is a strange issue I've been tracking for the past few weeks. I have various cucumber seeds that I know are good. I know this because when I germinate in a plastic bag in the house on some paper towel I get 90%+ germination (seed pops open 24 hours later), and the seeds just keep on sending the roots out as long as they are in the bag.

However, from the very same bag of seeds, when I put them in the earth (outside) the majority appear to pop through the shell a tiny bit (say a mm or so) and then stop. I have dug through the soil on a lot of seeds and found this exact problem. Something is causing them to stop growing immediately after germinating.

This is happening even now in June, way beyond any frost concerns.

The earth I have appears fairly high in clay, but it's very loose when I put the seeds in and I've grown cucumbers, tomatos, etc. in it for the past few years.

I am saturating the soil heavily when I put the seeds in and sprinkling it each morning to ensure it stays moist OR I am saturating the soil when I put seeds in and covering with a plastic cup or similar. Depth is 1/4-3/8" I'd say.

My only idea right now is that the soil is so tough that when it's moist it is cutting out all the oxygen to the seed (?). Like I said, if I put seedlings in the ground they are good, and the seeds that do successfully germinate and poke out of the ground do fine.

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Posts: 30540
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M(11/B)

My first thought is that you may not be giving them enough time.

In the house at steady mid-high 70's or more, and high humidity plastic bg, seeds germinate fairly quickly.

Out in the garden temps drop to 60's (or 50's here last night) even though daytime temp in the sun might be considerably higher (like over 100°F). Up to two weeks to sprout out of the ground in the garden is not uncommon.

When you water, give the area a deep drink -- not just on the surface, and certainy more than just the immediate area if it hasn't rained in a while and the entire area is dry. Watering once a day or every other day for the first week is a good idea for shallowly planted seeds... Or do what I do and sow seeds after a good soaking rain or just before.

If the garden bed is highly compacted clay, it's best to work in some organic matter like compost or decayed leaves to the depth of garden fork/shovel. Even better if you do this at least two weeks in advance, a month is more effective. I actually prefer to sheet mulch and avoid all the digging, though I do occasionally double-dig a bed (twice the depth of garden fork/shovel).

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