Picture of Sprout Seeds Overnight...with Scarification!
How would you like to sprout practically any seed overnight?  Of course you would!

I like to mess around with plants, but I have always had a hard time getting seeds to reliably sprout, or germinate.

Yesterday I was poking around the web trying to learn more about how to get seeds to sprout with more success, and I found a reference to something called "seed scarification".  This is a fancy way of describing the method of nicking, sanding, or clipping off part of the seed's shell so water can get to the inside part to activate germination.  You can search YouTube to see a selection of videos on this topic.

The reason that seeds take varying lengths of time to germinate is not because the inside of the seed takes more or less time to activate.  It is simply because all seed shells are somewhat water-resistant.  The germination time has to do with how long it takes water to penetrate and permeate the seed shell or coating and get to the inside part of the seed.  Once the water reaches the inside of most seeds, they all activate and grow immediately at that point.

Yesterday when I found this method, I tried sanding one edge off each of ten pumpkin seeds.  The previous two attempts at germinating these same commercial pumpkin seeds resulted in only one sprouted seed from the 20 that I attempted to germinate.  But of the 10 pumpkin seeds from the same package that I sanded one edge off and started germinated yesterday, already today 6 of the seeds have sprouted with up to 1/2" long roots!  That is less than 24 hours!

So although this is a very simple Instructable, I hope that it will help a lot of you that like to grow plants from seeds.

Let's get started, shall we?
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Step 1: What You'll Need...

Picture of What You'll Need...
You will need:

  o  Seeds, dried
  o  Some way to damage the seed shell (I used 220-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, but you can also use nail clippers or fine metal file, etc.)
  o  Water
  o  Paper towel (optional)
  o  ZipLock sandwitch or snack bag (optional)

That's it!

Step 2: Now Damage the Seed Shells...

Picture of Now Damage the Seed Shells...
Grab one of the dry seeds and damage the side of the seed shell by sanding through the shell with sandpaper, or by nipping off a tiny piece of the seed shell, or by filing the side of the seed shell.

You don't want to sand or cut ot file past the seed shell.  When you reach the inside part of the seed, you have gone far enough.  The idea is to allow water to enter the inside of the seed shell by capillary action to distribute the moisture.

If you sand or cut or file too far into the inside part of the seed itself, you might damage the seed and then it will not germinate.

Trial and error is required until you get the hang of it.

Step 3: Water the Seeds and Germinate Them...

Picture of Water the Seeds and Germinate Them...
You can do this step a lot of different ways, but the way I like to do it is as follows:

  o  Moisten a paper towel with water and then ring it out so it is damp but not dripping.  It should be fairly dry.

  o  Arrange the scarified dry seeds on the folded paper towel.  I usually do two rows of 5 seeds for a total of 10 seeds.

  o  Carefully place the paper towel with the seeds on it into a ZipLock sandwich or snack-sized bag.  Squeeze all the air out and seal the bag.

  o  Put the bag with the seeds in it in a warm area.  I have a proofing oven for bread that I like to use, which keeps the temperature at about 90 degrees F which seems to be optimal for most seeds.

  o  With luck, you should see your seeds sprout roots within 24 hours.

I hope this helps you find more success in germinating seeds!

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nmesser1 month ago
LOVE this idea !!!
Dracoraptor made it!2 months ago
it took a few tries (clipping bit by bit off the shell, wetter paper towel, soaking overnight ) but after 3 days my melon seeds had finally sprouted!


Will this work for Lemon seeds? Just curious.
Tarun Upadhyaya...Absolute failure free for lemon seeds. Take seeds out of your lemon. Pop them in your mouth. I sucked excess juice off seed and just roughed them up a lil with my teeth. Don't chew them just scraped seed with teeth. Put in wet potting soil and were growing thru soil within a few days. Been doing it for years. Great grandmother's lil easy secret

Thats great, thank you so much.

Smart action. Well done.

i hope we all know that plants mass(wood or green parts) is not from water or soil.
besides of water, plants are made of carbon atoms. coming from carbon dioxide (CO2) as a part of air. even the roots need some fibre not only water. if u seal the ziplock bag without air, the seed does not have enough carbon sources (co2) to grow even a root. in one litre of air there is rally small amount of co2.
Not true. A seed relies on water and 100% of its contents to sprout. At this point it does not need co2.
tparamo6 months ago
Thank you, this was a very informative 'ible. I choose an interesting 'ible to read each morning and today my mind was blow away by this. I'm trying it today!

What about seeds that require long cold soaks in the fridge to break dormancy? Do I need to still do the 90 days keep it 40 degrees, then sand off one corner or can I go straight from the envelope into the germinanting bag and into the ground. I have several tree seed varieties that I would love to get started now, not in 90+ days. Anybody got any experience with this issue?

Wheelchair Bob

TechShopJim (author)  robert.beckett.16110 months ago

HI Bob...

Sorry, I don't know about those seeds. Try one!

I only did this with pepper seeds, pumpkin, and a few others.

Let us know...thanks!
4oz peroxide to the gallon of water. the peroxide kills spores, germs and viruses so you clean up the seeds before they sprout. peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water delivering oxygen to roots. peroxide is cheap so i soak seeds and water cuttings with it.
Do you mean Hydrogen Peroxide?
EvilDefman1 year ago
Brilliant! Thumbs up! Thanks!
Mmmm, I'm going to try this, -Thanks!
Very helpful.
i wish i knew this then i did my G4 project , we used electroculture and tested ifs effects on plant growth but all the seeds took forever to germinate
Groaker2 years ago
This is a standard method for seeds that have very hard outside seed coat. A small fine triangular file is also a good tool for cutting through the seed coat. Soaking the seeds overnight in water is also helpful, except for those seeds which disintegrate. Most seeds have a hormone which prevents them from sprouting until it is leached away. One "Amateur Scientist" experiment I saw in Scientific American decades ago used water to soak grass seed to absorb this hormone, which allowed the grass to germinate more quickly. The water was then used to soak grass seed, which germinated more slowly because of the presence of the hormone in the water.

Another way to get seeds to germinate more quickly is the use of the plant hormone gibberellic acid, which can continue to have both positive and negative effects after germination depending on species and concentration used. It acts like the plant auxins. It will tremendously increase the yield of Thompson grapes for example, But can also cause premature flowering and death (of the plant) You can both read about it, and buy it on the web.

Special thanks to TechShopJim for bringing up this topic, and demonstrating a good method of quickening germination.
Yet another 'odd' technique uses a silicone ice tray and water !Put one or two seeds in each cell and fill with water and pop into the freezer.No more than overnight[8hrs]....but pretty much anytime after the ice cube is solid.The expanding water causes micro fractures in the seed hull and the melting cube waters in the seed into the soil.I use it on the notoriusly hard to sprout okra seed.I walk along and stomp the ice cubes into the ground and kick a little dirt over and >BAM < okra plant every time!I have used some 'one teaspoon to a gallon of water MiricleGro powder' to make the ice cubes but have no real evidence this improves anything^_^
Yes, there are many strange requirements in the life cycle of seeds. I never tried your okra trick, probably because I don't like okra. But there are many seeds which require freezing for up to a couple of months before planting. Others which need temperatures near freezing for a couple of months after being planted. Some need relatively high temps (70-80F) until germination then 50-60 for a couple of weeks. Fascinating world of never ending variety.

I have had to give up my garden. Too many animals have become habituated to where it was, and the bears had no qualms about knocking down fences to get at the berries.
When I think of animals invading the garden, I usually think of nothing bigger than a deer. But wow. Yeah, I'd at least move the garden, or put up a bigger fence. Good luck to ya!
The garden is 200' away, but bears are curious animals. We sometimes see them looking in the windows, and often find their nose prints. I quickly learned to take down the bird feeders when it got warm, before the bears left their dens.

I have an L shaped deck. I heard two thumps, but the dogs ignored then. So I went out to take a look and saw the hindquarters of a cub disappearing around the corner. I immediately went back inside, and predictably the sow came onto the deck. Being between mama bear and her cubs is not a good place to be. Now I check the whole deck before I go out at night.

Bears are strong and fast. A 200 lb bear can take down a 200 lb stag.
WOW. Yeah, I don't ever wanna be near a cub. Because nine times outta ten, mama's around the corner, lol.
Birdy Jane2 years ago
There are some species of pine that require scarification by fire to germinate, kindly provided by nature with lightning-induced forest fires. The word 'scarify' comes from 'scare', as in to terrify. Scarification comes in many forms, as several of your commenters have mentioned: heat, cold, freezing, and mechanical, as in your nicking and sanding.
I recently nicked, then soaked moonflowers (Ipomaea). I nicked about half in the 'bud' end of the seed, and the other half in the opposite end. Further, I played with the depth of my nicks, , some only as deep as the tan outer, some I went deeper, past the white inner shell into what you might call the flesh of the embryonic plant. While I had 100 percent germination, I had wildly varying growth rates. The deeper the nick, the slower the growth.
The plant world is incredible. Road builders soak the ground with pre-emergent herbicides, because they know that an emerging seedling can exert thousands of psi (if you wanted to do further research on seed soaking, 'imbibation' is a term to use in your search)
whoofoto2 years ago
I'll try all your steps on a hachiya persimmon seeds. Over the years attempts to do something similar failed, I even refrigerated them to mimic cold weather conditions.
dragnit2 years ago
I use a small box like a wooden match box and glue a piece of sand paper inside. Then just put some seeds in and shake for a minute. Works great for smaller seeds that would be hard to handle.
Jakob28032 years ago
Thanks bruh gonna plant meth with this! :)
Thanks for sharing this, I have done this with some really hard cased seeds where it had
been suggested in a gardening book, the scaring part that is. This will be a garden must
next spring. Thanks again:)
jeroenbb2 years ago
Good stuff, I'll try it soon. It will probably be easier to spray water onto the paper towel, in stead of soaking it and letting it dry.
cporto-12 years ago
Thank you for sharing your skills
eyewalk2 years ago
Thanks for a great idea - did some seeds 3 days ago and still nothing sprouting :(
Will try your method next time!
I am grateful for sharing. I'm trying to plant some tabasco pepper seeds I bought, but few germinated. I hope that this method will be more successful.
Similar effects are usually produced by NaOH treatment. That's a pretty common practice in plant physiology labs.

Some seeds may need cold treatment (vernalization). So just keep them for few days or weeks in the fridge before germinating. This applies to plants typical from temperate regions that are dormant during winter. Also, you can do this for cuttings, e.g. grape vines
jellyhead2 years ago
What a great idea. Can this be done for fruit pits, i.e. cherries, apricots, peaches?
tn. jellyhead2 years ago
i plant those all the time and unless you remove that outer shell, it'll take months or YEARS for them to germinate! i use a bench-mount vice - by slowly applying pressure, i can crack the shell enough to remove it without damaging or crushing the contents. another thing i use is my dremel to grind off the seam. mangos are easy - just use a big knife, whack off the very edge (use a cutting board, do NOT try to pare it off!), and then crack it open like a book. it will take a couple weeks to germinate but once it does, step back because it grows like mad! mine only germinated on monday and already is four inches high!
lime3D2 years ago
I wonder if you could poke holes in the shell with a needle or pin.
tn. lime3D2 years ago
not without poking holes in your finger. best just to use a small file or rasp.
strship472 years ago
I wonder if seeds germinated this way will be as healthy,since you
are changing it's natural way of growth? thanks,Ron
tn. strship472 years ago
it's not changing the natural way of growth at all. it's exactly how the seed is supposed to grow - just skipping that whole "soak through the skin" part.
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