Enhance germination: Soaking seeds

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Sadly, this picture does not belong to me :(. I really want to have peas growing in our garden, and lots of peas!!! I love peas…

But so far, the ones I have planted have been eaten by snails as they come up, or simply just don’t germinate. So I’ve been desperate and looking for help. Thankfully, there is a stunning forum where people are really helpful and love sharing their gardening stories. It’s called SelfSus. Now I had gone ahead and just stuck the peas in germination mix in seed trays. Apparently I’ve been doing it all wrong. One of the answers I got back suggested that I stop using germination mix (as they believe the stuff is rubbish, and I’m starting to agree), and use either potting soil or top soil to plant my seeds in. Either that, or plant the peas straight into the ground. So I’ve done this. There are about 6 peas in the veggie garden. Now I just need to see if they will come up. Another suggestion was to cut off the top part of a plastic bottle and place it over the seedling, so keep the snails off them. So I will be trying this when the seedlings do come up.

Now I’ve been doing some research and I am going to try this as well. Apparently some seeds do better once they have been soaked. And there are plenty of different methods of soaking, or helping seeds to germinate. So I think I am going to try this with the cabbage, celery, lettace and peas (maybe some spinach too).

I got these methods from different places and I am just going to “copy-paste” them, so that I can make sure that I don’t miss any important information:

The Baggie/Coffee Grinder Method [SOURCE]

“1) With masking tape and a Sharpie waterproof marker, mark a ziplock baggie with seed type, date, and any pertinent info about germ temps/stratifying/light required.

2) Wet a coffee filter, then squeeze out excess moisture so it is just damp, not wet.

3) Imagining it as a pie, sow your seeds on 1/4 of the pie, then fold filter in half, then in half again. Your seeds should have one layer of filter on one side, three layers on the other.

4) Place the folded filter into the ziplock back, puff a little air in the baggie, then seal, leaving it just slightly puffed, not completely flat.

5) Place in warm place to germinate or in a tupperware container in the fridge (so they don’t get squished by the cucumbers!) for cold strat, and wait….

Voila, little mini-greenhouse!

Check baggies every few days, and remoisten as needed. Even if one doesn’t appear to need remoistening, don’t let them go over a week without opening them up for some fresh air. I use a mister bottle with 1:20 hydrogen peroxide:water to help prevent mold and mildew from forming. You could use chamomile tea too if that is what you currently use. For seeds that need light, keep them with the single layer of filter up, and in bright light, though not direct sunlight. If they need dark, put in a drawer or cupboard.

I have used this method with great success for many types of seeds, including very small ones. It does take some practice transferring them from the filter to the cellpacks, and I use a couple of toothpics for this procedure, transplanting them as they sprout. I premoisten my soilless mix (5 cups mix to 3 cups hot/boiling water), let cool, then fill the cellpacks lightly. There shouldn’t be large airpockets, but it also shouldn’t be packed down. Don’t forget to relabel the cellpacks. Pick up seeds/seedlings using a wet toothpic, handling only the seedcoats/leaves, not the stem or root. Use a 2nd toothpic as a dibble, making a tiny hole or larger depending on the root. Larger seeds like Datura I move with my fingers. Put them root down, firm the mix around them and pop them under the lights. ”

Pre-treatments for Slow-to-Germinate Seeds [SOURCE]

Some seeds come clad in a protective coating that is particularly hard and water-resistant. In nature, weather, gritty soil, and even acid in the digestive tracts of animals abrade the seed, letting moisture in to spark germination. Gardeners can mimic this process at home by scratching the seed coat, which allows water to permeate the seed and prompts germination.
Method: Scuff individual seeds by dragging them across a sheet of medium-grit sandpaper. Avoid making deep scratches that expose the underlying, lighter-colored embryo, and prevent damaging the seeds’ growth points by sanding only their sides. Scarify large amounts of seed by placing them in a jar with coarse sand and shaking vigorously until the seed coats are dull and scratched. Sow scarified seed immediately.
Best for: Morning glory and moonflower (Ipomoea), castor bean (Ricinus communis), and New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa)

The seeds of many perennials, trees, and shrubs need periods of chilling and warming to turn off the chemical inhibitors that prevent germination. Sowing these seeds outdoors in fall exposes them to variable temperatures, but refrigerating the seeds prior to starting them indoors is a more reliable way to condition them.
Method: Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. Skim off any floating seeds, as they are most likely not viable, and drain the remaining ones. Fold large seeds into a piece of damp, long-fibered sphagnum peat moss and mix small ones with barely moistened vermiculite; place them in a plastic bag. Seal and label the bag. Refrigerate the seeds at 40° to 45°F. Refrigeration times vary from 1 to 4 months, depending on the seed. Look up exact refrigeration times in a propagation reference, such as Making More Plants, by Ken Druse (Clarkson Potter, 2000). Sow the seeds indoors under lights following the refrigeration period. You can sow the small seeds with the vermiculite, but pick out the large seeds from the peat moss before sowing.
Best for: Perennial phlox (Phlox paniculata), ornamental onions (Allium), columbine (Aquilegia), violas and pansies (Viola)

Presoaking softens the coats of seeds that are slow to sprout and primes them for germination.
Method: Soak the seeds in a jar filled with tepid water for at least 4 hours and up to one day. Skim off any floating seeds. Pour the remaining seeds into a wire mesh strainer and rinse well with fresh, cool water. Sow immediately.
Best for: Edible peas (Pisum sativum), sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), beets and chard (Beta vulgaris)


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  1. […] Enhance germination: Soaking seeds […]

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