A number of factors, both obvious and not-so-obvious, can affect the growth of plants and seed germination. While each plant and seed has different growth needs, being aware of these factors can help beginning gardeners learn about plant growth in a way that helps them enjoy the benefits of growing and maintaining everything from flowers to vegetables, with productive and positive results.
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An important nutrient for any living creature, water plays a vital role in the gestation and germination of seeds into plants. Water is absorbed through the seed's thick coat, causing the shell to swell and burst. Once inside, the water activates hydrolytic enzymes that stimulate the breakdown of the seed embryo's food reserves into chemicals needed for growth. Water is necessary for plant growth because it not only provides hydrogen and oxygen, but it also causes cells to grow and expand, becoming larger and stronger. A small portion of water helps the plant make sugar, which converts to energy and produces fruit, while the rest of remaining water pumps the sugars and other nutrients through the plant as it grows. With a continuing supply of water, roots continue to grow and therefore provide an ongoing supply of nutrients for leaf growth and function. Without water, plants use energy reserves, stored for the following year, resulting in subsequently poor harvests, reducing growth rates and increasing stress levels, which can diminish winter and spring hardiness.
Oxygen typically is thought of as a waste product cast by plants. However, oxygen helps transmit nutrients through the cell wall where they are then converted into energy, a process called cellular respiration.
Temperature factors vary by region and therefore by plant species. Colder climate plants do well in temperatures ranging between 10 and 21.1 degrees Celsius, while plants that thrive in warmer climates germinate and grow in temperatures from 15.6 to 26.7 degrees Celsius. Water temperatures can affect plant growth as well, so it is important to your water reservoirs to keep them between 19.4 and 22.2 degrees Celsius. Cooler waters hold more oxygen and prevent fungi from forming in the roots, while warmer water inhibits nutrient absorption and plant growth.
Sunlight is absorbed through a plant's leaves, which the plant then uses to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen particles. The hydrogen helps the plant turn carbon dioxide into sugars for energy and fruit production. Light requirements vary by plant species and act as a physical type of dormancy that triggers the germination of seeds. Refer to the seed distributor's instructions to determine proper spacing between plants to ensure that each plant receives a significant amount of light
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- Michigan State University Extension: Horticulture: Water and Plant Growth
- College of ACES: University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign: Requirements for Plant Growth
- The Garden Helper: How to Grow New Plants from Seeds
- Jason's Indoor Guide to Organic and Hydroponics Gardening: How Oxygen Affects Plant Growth