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?
Step 1: What You'll 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 Paper towel (optional)
o ZipLock sandwitch or snack bag (optional)
Step 2: Now Damage the Seed Shells...
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...
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!