Sprout Seeds Overnight...with Scarification!

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Introduction: Sprout Seeds Overnight...with Scarification!

About: I'm the Founder and Chairman of TechShop.

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?

Step 1: 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...

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...

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!


4 People Made This Project!

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158 Discussions

I wonder if the quality of municipal water has an effect. Ours has a lot of chloramine and probably other residues.

10 replies

I'VE BE TOLD THAT IF YOU LET MUNICIPAL WATER STAND UNCOVERED THE ADDED CHEMICALS WILL EVAPORATE . MAYBE SOMEONE ELSE WILL BE BETTER ABLE TO ELABORATE ON THIS . I ALMOST ALWAYS USE "CITY" WATER AND HAVE DECENT LUCK , ESPECIALLY FOR SOMEONE WITH A " BLACK" THIMB !

municipal water is full of chemicals . I let water stand in the sun covered to keep out insects , for a week to let chlorine and chemicals dessipate . It is then safe to use even for fish without adding extra chemicals . Interesting facts about municipal water especially where it is recycled is that it has been through 9 sets of kidneys before you get to drink it . Hormones are very difficult to remove from recycled water and some suspect that this , especially hormones found in birth control and menopausal medication could be causing changes in men's sexuality ? . ( iIt has been suggested ) and that ! Lastly , Londons water has detectable amounts of cocaine in it . Nice !!!!

I boil "distill" my water and cover with a paper towel while it is cooling to room temp. That way I get all chemicals out of it. I've been doing it for years (since a teen) and I use the water for my dogs drinking bowl, to water my urban garden, for myself and for my betta's water. Never had an issue and I've even done the experiments between bottled water, tap water and boiled water. So far, boiling the water wins every time when it comes to my betta's being happy and healthy(they don't get that slimed skin and other health issues) and my garden is always lush, green and when it's time to bear vegetables and fruit, mine grow big and tasty. Of course I also add food to the soil but my hydroponics with just water do fine.

Hi. I just want to mention that boiling the water is fine, it will kill bacteria, but "distilling" it means turning it completely to vapor and re-condensing it through a cold coil, which is the only way to create distilled pure H2o, which is NOT good for pets or humans. Trace minerals are necessary in the water we drink. It is always a good idea to have your water tested for what it contains, especially after the Flint, MI fiasco. You should try that before and after you boil it to see what if any differences there may be. Any urinalysis lab can do it.

In recent news, our local school board in Hillsborough County has allowed lead tainted water in schools.

Are there home tests for water out of the tap? I am atuned to soil contamination never thought 2x about h2o - I feel rather dumb

No wonder Londoners have 'high' water bills

Actually chlorine is a very Volatile chemical and should evaporate in one day left UNCOVERED it can not evaporate if it is covered.

Hi CLEM2, While it is true that letting water stand open in sunlight for 24-48 hours will cause chlorine (toxic to plants) to dissipate, it will will do almost nothing to address chloramine (also toxic to plants and used in place and/or in addition to chlorine by most municipal water services for years now). Running tap water through a water filter that contains activated carbon and KDF elements will greatly reduce chlorine and chloramine levels. You can eliminate the remainder of chlorine and chloramine in your water by adding a small amount (~ 1/4 tablespoon per 10 gallons) of sodium ascobate powder (a specific form of vitamin-C available online and in local nutrition stores). -- Happy Growing! -Joe D.

In any significant concentration, chloramine is not good for living things. It sounds like your water is tested for, which means it is likely below the problematic limit. But we know from Flint, Michigan that is not always the case.

Thanks! Definitely going to try this.

I am so dense despite my IQ!! I've nicked my Morning Glory seeds & soaked overnight for years because their outer covering is extremely hard. I've used razor blades & utility knives. It never crossed my mind to use clippers, which I'm sure are stout enough to cut through the hard shell. Thank you for posting.

U r a genius

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Anne46

2 years ago

Thanks :-)

I have apple seeds I'm going to try this with...sounds great!!!!

I will need to take a look at this, since I have some upcoming projects that involve plants, and this could fasten some stuff! Thank you!

You learn something new every day. I grow tomatoes, peppers, cucs, squash and other stuff every year. In recent years I've realized that the store-bought tomato plants come with tomato wilt virus or tobacco wilt virus. So, I started using seeds about 4 years ago. Like you said, it has always been a challenge getting seeds started, especially in winter. Down here in south Georgia you can't start seeds too late or it'll be too hot for the small plants to tolerate. I'm definitely going to try this scarification. I was wondering if you could put them in a jar with fine sand and shake them up. May not work on small seeds, because you may not be able to find them. I guess some window screen might filter it.

I collect rain water in 5 gallon buckets for my seedlings. My garden is too big to collect that much water. I use county water. I think all they do is dump some chlorine in it. Anyway, it works.

I built strawberry planters years ago from 6 or 8" PVC pipe which were originally deer feeders. I cut a round board to fill the bottom then used shelf angle brackets to make feet so they would stand up vertically. I cut 1.5" holes in the sides with a hole saw, filled it up with dirt and poked strawberry seedlings in the holes. I stuffed a little pine straw around the holes to keep the dirt in. They worked great, but I couldn't keep the birds from ruining the strawberries before I could harvest them. They ruin plenty of tomatoes but I plant a lot of them to offset the loss.

2 replies

I know what you mean. I used to live in Ocala,Florida and during the winter,in order for me to grow tomatoes,peppers,beans,pumpkins,etc. I had to make an indoor greenhouse. I took an 8' x 8' corner of my house (an area that got morning/noon sun), removed the carpet and with some 2 x 4's I made the garden. Of course I made the floor and area was safe from dirt and water and when it was time to bring in the plants and vines I would bring in one of each or grow from seeds and I had fresh veggies,key limes and strawberries all winter. Come Spring time I would prepare my yard, transfer them out and the mini greenhouse would be prepped and stored for next winter. It worked for me every time and maybe you could do this this coming winter. Doesn't have to be big, maybe a 12" x 12" for 2 varieties of tomato plants or one tomatoe and one cucumber/pepper.

Actually I've got a little greenhouse I bought at a Fred's store a few years ago. It's about 2.5' X 2' X 4' high. It's pretty good for starting seeds, but you have to be careful. Can't leave 'em outside if it's gonna freeze and if it gets too hot it will kill the sprouts. I try to keep it on one side of the patio which doesn't get much sun until late afternoon.

Ideally, I would love to have a green house big enough to grow some citrus and have some 'maters during the winter!