Gardener’s Guide to Seed Scarification

Don’t fear.  It’s not as scary as it sounds. Seed scarification is the process of weakening a seed’s coating in order to support germination.

You might be thinking: Wait, don’t I just plant them in the ground and wait for them to sprout?

Well, for some seeds, it is this easy. Soft seeds, such as a large variety of vegetable seeds, don’t require an extra step before planting. Other seeds, however, possess a harder, thicker coating and require scarification in order to germinate more quickly. Some popular plants with thicker seed coatings include:

  • Morning Glories
  • Milkweed
  • Nasturtiums
  • Moonflowers
  • Flowers and Perennials with Large Seeds
  • Spinach
  • Winter Squash
  • Beans.

So why do some seeds have a thicker coat? Don’t plants want their seeds to germinate?

Of course. All living things want to reproduce, grow, and thrive, which is exactly why some plants have evolved to have thicker seed coatings. In essence, it is all about time-management.

Germination, Like Clockwork

The natural world is unpredictable. Weather is unpredictable. Plants know this, so to ensure their offspring survive, they equip them with time-management tools.

Seeds with thicker coatings gradually weaken in three ways: with the help of soil microbes, by passing through an animal’s digestive track, or by the freezing and thawing cycles of winter. This is to ensure that no water penetrates the seed and reaches its endosperm until the time is right. If water were to reach the endosperm as soon as the seed is planted, that seed could germinate during a drought or just as winter arrives–and then it wouldn’t survive.

Because gardeners have control over when they plant their seeds and have the ability to water and nurture them, these seeds’ coatings are unnecessary and are often frustrating. This is why gardeners have to scarify their seeds before planting them.

So how do you scarify seeds?

Seed Scarification

Seed scarification is traditionally performed by piercing a hole in the coating and rubbing it with sandpaper, then letting the seed soak in water overnight. This is extremely time-consuming, however, as you have to perform this process for every single seed. Other techniques include:

  • Freezing the seeds overnight and then soaking in water until germination
  • Freezing the seeds overnight, placing them in boiling water, and letting them soak for several hours.

Using these techniques, seed scarification can take one to two weeks.

There is another way, however, that you can scarify seeds in less than one week.

Seed Scarification with xVital

xVital is our patented nitrate fertilizer, which consists of just ionized water and nitrate. Nitrogen is essential for plant growth, and by soaking seeds in this essential nutrient, you can stimulate germination more quickly. Follow the steps below:

  • Grab the following supplies: seeds, paper towels, water, xVital, and glass or plastic containers.
  • Combine 75 ml of xVital with 25 ml of water.
  • Line your containers or glasses with paper towels and place two to three seeds inside.
  • Distribute your solution evenly among the containers, soaking the seeds.
  • Let the seeds soak for 24 hours.
  • Extract the seeds, dry, and place on a new paper towel. Place the seeds in a slightly warmer place, such as on top of the refrigerator.
  • In less than a week, your seeds should be sprouting.

Moldy Seeds

Sometimes, bacteria will develop on seeds. Seed-borne pathogens can devastate crops and, consequently, affect the economy. When it comes to your garden, moldy seeds can mean no yield. A 2016 study on the effects of hydrogen peroxide on chilli seeds found that soaking seeds in hydrogen peroxide can increase germination and reduce seed-borne bacteria.  If your seeds display signs of bacteria, soak them in 1% hydrogen peroxide to 99% water for 24 hours and then let them dry.



How to Scarify Seeds for Spring Planting