Are Failures Possible?
Is failure possible?
I would say, honestly, that the answer is yes. I've been doing this for a few years now and there has always been a few flats that haven't germinated. And it's not always because of choice of seeds. Let me see if I can come up with the most common causes.....
I do trade for my seeds and once in a while I am trying to grow something that I later on find out is genetically sterile...or the seeds weren't gather properly. I'm very forgiving as I was a new trader too at one time and I have no doubt that I may have traded seeds that weren't 100%. I learned by example and got better as I went along.
Another reason could be that the flat has dried out at a crucial point due to my negligence....it's easy to tell when a flat needs water because you don't see condensation under the lid...if I'm away for a few days during Spring and I am not home to check on the moisture then a flat could perish. I've solved that problem by now nestling my flats down into a kiddie pool with about an inch of water in it....it's also placed in the shade. The flats soak up the moisture and they're fine while they're in the pool....I don't have to worry. When I get back I take out the flats and dump the kiddie pool. I store it upside down when I'm not using it as I don't want it to become a breeding ground for skeeters.
A flat has overheated. I lost several flats last year because of a freak heat wave in early Spring. I was in NYC and unable to get home for several hours. If I had been home I could have increased the ventilation slits and that would have allowed the overly-warmed air to vent away.
I've pushed the envelope and tried to germinate a tropical plant. I ALWAYS try a few tropical varieties each year. Winter Sowing is best for plants that originate in a temperate climate (a temperate climate is a region that has four distinctly separate seasons.) Sometimes I am quite surprised by my successes and sometimes I am not surprised by my failure. It's yin and yang and I take the failure whimsically....I don't get hung-up or depressed about it. I've been delighted to germinate a beautiful crop of annual yellow hibiscus that are regional to South East Asia. My success with coleus has been minimal...I had just a few seeds germinate...I loved what did germinate but I wished I had gotten more.
A flat simply doesn't germinate despite having all the criteria for germination. Mother Nature is in control....was there some inferiority to their genetics that didn't allow them to germinate? Anything is possible....and again I don't get frustrated over it.
Usually we can expect very high germination percentages across the board....a large amount of the flats will germinate (my own percentage of success has been routinely about 90%...this could go higher if I stuck with only temperate climate seeds) and also, among the individual flats the germination inside the flat is super-high too. The flats protect the seeds from the elements, critters, wash-outs from downpours, and desiccation from wind...so there is a higher germination count simply because more seeds survive the winter to germinate when the weather warms. This is the main reason why Winter Sowing is superior to direct sowing (IMHO).
I hope everyone will have tremendous success and I do expect it as well....but it is important to realize that some failure, minor though it is, should be expected. Winter Sowing is only as perfect as Mother Nature.....we must take the bitter with the sweet, but that sweet is VERY SWEET!