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Seed Germination—Scarification, Stratification, and Soaking

March 15, 2012 - GrowOrganic
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Sometimes we all need a hand. If your favorite seeds are in the “hard-to-start” category, we have tips for you on techniques to give them a hand and get growing. The three basic methods for encouraging seeds to germinate are: Scarification Stratification Soaking Tricia demonstrates them all in our new video. SEEDS 101 A seed is made up of a seed coat that encloses the plant embryo and the endosperm. The endosperm is the food supply for the early growth of the embryo. SCARIFICATION Seeds…
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Video Transcript
Hi I'm Tricia an organic gardener. Starting plants from seed can be a lot of fun however it can also be tough because some plants have seeds that are hard to germinate. Today I'm going to give you some tips on how to germinate those tough seeds. Some seeds have characteristics that served him well in the wild but can be frustrating for the gardener. I'm talking about dormancy periods, tough seed coats and even light requirements. There are a few different things we can do to increase the chances of germination. Scarification, stratification and soaking and all must be done with love in your heart. Scarification is used on seeds that have a tough outer shell like nasturtium and morning glory you can think of it as scarring the seed coat to allow in moisture and gases necessary for germination. If your using the file you don't wanna scratch the seeds too much just enough that the seeds are dulled and you can see the scratches. If you use the nail clippers you want a definite nick in the seed coat. Another method of scarification is to put the seeds in very hot but not boiling water put them in the water and let the water cool down to room temperature and then let them soak for another twelve to twenty-four hours. Plant the seeds immediately after soaking some seeds need what is called stratification this process mimics the natural freeze and thaw cycles that some seeds require in order to germinate. Wildflowers and perennial flowers are often planted in the fall and they may stratify naturally or you can ensure that this process happens with a few simple steps. To stratify the seed we're just gonna mix it with a little bit of moist not wet perlite, vermiculite or builder sand. Mix the seed and the medium in a plastic bag you want one part seed to three parts medium. Place the bag in the refrigerator not the freezer for about ten to twelve weeks and check every so often to make sure that the medium stays moist after that period take the bag out and plant the seeds along with the medium be gentle with the seeds in case any have sprouted. There's scarification, stratification and then there's just plain old soaking of the seeds for about twelve to twenty-four hours in room temperature water and seeds like beans peas and okra benefit a lot from this soaking. Parsley is a special case the seeds from parsley are actually coated naturally with a substance that retards germination. It really helps to soak the parsley seeds for forty eight hours and change the water twice. For some seeds they don't need soaking they don't need scarring but the amount of light that they get while they are germinating is important for example alyssum needs light to germinate so it's planted very shallow on the other hand fennel will not germinate unless its in total darkness so you'll plant it deeper. If you want to learn more about starting your own seeds I recommend this book the new seed starter handbook so start your own seeds and grow organic for life!

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Jeff Adams Says:
Mar 26th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Guess I lost the previous post—-but was just writing in to complement you on your well-written, informative website—especially Tricia’s nicely composed, easy-to-comprehend, informative video’s…and I stated that I got a hoot out of the shipping & handling one with Keith—if I ever need a “heavy” for added security, I am callin’ Keith !  Lol smile
Thanks again for the well done video’s—hope to find something soon to purchase from you again one day… smile
-Jeff Adams

Emily H. Says:
Mar 26th, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I love these videos I learn so much! I wish you all would make documentary series…  And the unscripted parsley chomp cracked me up grin

Bruce Says:
Mar 27th, 2012 at 11:38 am

A couple of comments:
1) soaking beans is a bad idea, because the cotyledons come apart, making it difficult to handle the seeds when you go to plant them

2) Some seeds won’t germinate unless they have passed through the stomach of an animal. This is a chemical form of scarification. To mimic this, germination of most seeds that require this treatment will be aided by soaking briefly in an acidic solution, such as glacial acetic acid. A funny story came to light about one famous exception to this acid-bath rule. Many years ago, my old boss, Dr. Eduardo Vallejo, was accompanying the famous biologist Dr. Charles Rick, on an expedition to Peru to collect wild relatives of the tomato plant. They applied the usual acetic acid treatment over and over, but with no effect—the seeds just wouldn’t germinate. Then, Dr. Rick noticed that the wild tomatoes were being eaten by tortoises, whose stomachs are not acidic but alkaline. They tried using a dilute solution of bleach to these wild tomato seeds and presto! the seeds germinated easily. Turns out, a 10% bleach solution for 30 seconds works wonders on all members of the tomato family, even distant relatives like peppers. Just be sure to wash the seeds copiously after treatment.

Sincerely,
Bruce Ritchings, Encinitas, CA

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 28th, 2013 at 12:58 am

Thank you for the helpful information, Bruce!

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