Different species of plants possess different requirements for germination. The ones most people are familiar with are the easy to develop ones… marigolds, beans, etc . Generally, annuals are the easiest: sow in the proper depth, provide consistent humidity and warmth and viola! You have seedlings. Annuals live one year and die. They usually profusely seed and their goal is to quickly germinate when conditions are right because they only have one shot at reproduction. They need to germinate quickly, grow quickly, and reproduce quickly (flower). These seeds contain very little if any germination inhibitor. The most important criteria to get planting this kind of seed is getting the particular planting depth correct. Some seed products need light to germinate. Their seeds should be sown on the surface and not covered with soil. Sowing depth is information provided on the seed packet. If not, the general rule is not to cover seeds more than 3 times their diameter. For really tiny seed, just press into the soil plus water gently.
Stratification Then, you can find the seeds which require exclusive treatment. Many perennials and biennials need certain conditions in order to germinate. These are adaptations to continue its varieties in the climate it lives in. Perennials and biennials, which come from frosty climates, often need the particular treatment called stratification to get over seed dormancy. I find perennials often have, within one batch associated with seed, various amounts of dormancy. This is so only a few may germinate immediately and the rest become part of the seeds bank in the soil to provide baby plants in the future. An insurance policy of sorts towards something happening to the stand of plants. This isn’t a very handy strategy to deal with if you want to grow a lot of vegetation from the seeds. Often perennial seeds needs stratification to either result in germination to happen or it unifies and improves germination. The easiest way to stratify seeds is to sow them in the fall in the place they are to develop. Let nature take care of it. Another way, is to sow the seed in a container that can be covered with plastic material and put in the fridge or simpler still, the seed is place in a plastic bag with damp peat or sand and a pinch of cinnamon to inhibit mould growth and this is put into the particular fridge for the required time. Sometimes, it’s only a week, sometimes from the few months, sometimes they need to stay in the particular fridge until they germinate. In most cases, you may need to freeze the seed for a certain length of time.
Sometimes seeds just have a partially developed embryo so that they need a period of warmth, then cool, then warm again. The length of time varies by species that have this type of dormancy.
Soaking. Some seeds require placing in warm water to induce seeds germination. Many of the legumes need this. Wild sweet peas, lupines, and locust tree seeds all ought to be soaked before sowing to improve germination. Plant all that swell. Check daily because they can actually swell too much plus die. Ones that do not swell, either are dead or latent. You can try the next method to help improve germination of the latent ones.
Scarification is another seed treatment that is sometimes required to get seeds to germinate. A few seeds need to have water impermeable hard seed coats abraded or nicked to allow water to get into the seed to start the germination process. This is often done with a knife, sandpaper, or a file. Only go into the seed coating until you see light, some shade of white, material. Also, many seeds have an indentation where the embryo is. Do not make this nick close to the indentation because you may damage the particular embryo and the seed will expire. I like to scarify on the ends or maybe the opposite side of the indentation. Then the usual procedure is to soak the particular seed in water. Seeds which come from fruit often need this kind of treatment. There are seeds from fresh fruit which need to pass through a bird or animal digestive tract. Strong acids in the gut damage the seed coat. Most people do not have access to strong acids to do this and physical scarification may be the only practical method.
An additional method is to soak the seed in a plant hormone that will stimulate seed germination. Again, most people are deprived of access to this chemical and the following can be used as an alternative.
Natural wood smoke cigarettes has been found to stimulate seeds germination. The wood from the seeds’ environment works the best, but other smoke may be just as valuable. Smoke discs can be purchased, liquid smoke flavor, or catching smoke from a fire on a damp cloth, are all viable means of obtaining smoke. There are compounds in the smoke which overcome dormancy, as if a fire just passed through their environment and the landscape needs repopulating with plants.
Some seeds need a combination of all these methods.
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How is someone to know what a seed needs to germinate? There is an incredible website put together by Tom Clothier (search by that will name) that is a huge data foundation of species and their specifications. Other sources are seed packets, but I’ve often seen them list sowing conditions which will not lead to germination. It’s best to check another resource.