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I was planting my green bean seeds 1 - 2 inches as the package said, then I got tired and threw the rest on the ground and stepped on them to press them into the wet soil.

What happens to seeds that are sown too deep - do they germinate, but not reach the surface, or are they being deprived of something that prevents them from starting at all?

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Yes, seeds sown too deeply can be deprived of the light they need to germinate. That is why you will sometimes notice that when you turn the soil in a garden, a whole crop of weeds comes up immediately afterwards. You've just moved seeds which were too deep to germinate to the surface.

That said, your bean seeds are more likely to be too shallow than too deep with the planting method you've described. I think you are more likely to see them float to the surface of the soil with the next big rain. Luckily, beans are not very finicky, and they will probably do just fine. I usually just poke any seeds that float to the surface back in with my finger, and they do just fine.

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The instructions on the seed package want you to plant them deep because bean seeds should not dry out during germination. In wet conditions, like your garden, shallow planting will work well, and the plants will emerge sooner. In fact, if you plant deep in wet soil, you will be likely to lose a good bit to rot.

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