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Preparing Seeds

-Preparing Seeds-

Sometimes seeds need a little help germinating.  Seeds with a tough outer shell will benefit from scarifying the out most part of the seed.  Other seed to be cold treated in a method call vernalization to trick them into believing a cold winter had happened.   And during dry summer months it can be beneficial to pre-soak your seeds.

-Scarification-

Some seeds that have a tough outer shell that can benefit from deeply scratching, or scarifying, the outside of the seed.  Here we opened up a sweet pea seed to expose the inner seed and show an outer shell that is similar to a coconut shell.  Deeply scratching the surface helps water enter the seed and increases your germination rate. 

One way is to take a metal fingernail file and carefully create a nick in the seed that you can feel with your fingernail.  You don't want to go down too far into the seed.

The method we like to use is a fingernail clipper to do the same and cut through the outer shell.  We find this is quicker and once you get the hang of it you can get more consistent results.  Be sure to only nick the surface of the seed until you can feel it with your fingernail and try not to go down to the lighter seed area.

-Vernalization-

For those in zones 8 and above, and those who don't get an extended cold winter, you will need to cold treat some seeds to trick them into germinating.  Generally, once germinated, plants that are perennials won't need the cold treatment again to bloom.  Here we put some potting soil, or you can use peat, into a zip lock baggie.  Put about a tablespoon of water, or a moist paper towel inside the baggie, and then insert your seeds.  You want your soil slightly moist but not visibly wet.  Place in your refrigerator for about 2 1/2 months and then sow them into your garden or into pots.

-Soaking-

For fall, winter, or spring sowing you don't need to pre-soak, but sometimes if sowing in dry spells or the hot summer months soaking will help seeds germinate.  We always soak for about 8 hours and in a shallow dish with the water just covering 3/4 over the seeds,  but not submerging the seeds.  Some seeds are finicky about being submerged for long periods of time and they will actually germinate less if left underwater for too long of a period.  We then pat dry the seeds with a towel, or paper towel, and sow in the garden normally.