These tips can help newbie gardeners or those who can’t sprout anything no matter how hard they try.
One of the most recommended steps for sowing seeds is soaking.
Since soaking should be done at least a few hours before planting, and preferably overnight, impatient gardeners may wonder if this step is really necessary, or if it is just one of those details that won’t change much in the long run. .
Today we are talking about how to soak seeds and why it is so important in the germination process.
Should the seeds be soaked?
As we all know, wild seeds germinate perfectly without our help. They have evolved over millions of years to reproduce without the care that humans receive.
This means that your seed planting efforts can be successful without this extra step. Just sow in containers or in the ground, water and wait for the first shoots to emerge.
However, soaking offers a number of benefits that make it worthwhile.
Although you can germinate some seeds without soaking them, your chances of success and the speed of germination can be greatly increased if you do. It can mean the difference between one or two germinating seeds or almost the entire batch when done correctly.
Reasons to soak seeds before sowing.
As we already know, seeds need moisture to germinate.
Different seeds are activated with different levels of humidity, depending on the rainfall in their regions of origin. Once the rain has raised the humidity around the seed to a sufficient level, the plant knows it is safe to start germinating.
If you soak the seeds before you start, you can turn on this moisture indicator on any seed to encourage it to start germinating. You don’t have to wait for the starting seed mix to reach this level, which can take longer.
Instead, they’ll be ready to go as soon as you plant them.
By activating germination before you put the seeds in the ground (or in containers), you can drastically reduce the time it takes for your seeds to go from sowing to preparing for transplanting.
There is no moisture barrier to cross, which means your seeds should germinate as soon as possible.
Using hot water also speeds up this process.
Although they have humidity levels that must be reached before they can germinate, the seeds also have temperature sensors. These prevent seeds from germinating when it is still too cold, risking damage to vulnerable new growth.
Hot water adapts to the temperatures needed to initiate germination and provides the ideal environment for the fastest possible germination. This, combined with a heat mat to keep the soil warm (especially when dealing with early seeds), will get you seedlings much faster than expected.
It’s also great for late season planting, as it gives you that last push when the weather is against you, allowing you to plant your seedlings in the ground before it’s too late.
Eliminate sprout inhibitors.
Although it may seem contradictory, some seeds are surrounded by germination inhibitors. This is designed to prevent them from sprouting inside the fruit at the wrong time.
These inhibitors are usually removed naturally by wind or rain, but the natural process can take time. Soaking your seeds will remove any material that may inhibit germination, increasing your chances of success.
Break down natural defenses.
Seeds are used to being abused and beaten before settling into their final resting place. Either by being transported by the wind, or by the rain, or by surviving the stomach acids of the various animals that ingest them, they are accustomed to the hard life before germinating.
Many seeds have a hard shell that allows them to withstand these elements. By soaking your seeds, you can break down these defenses in hours, rather than the days or weeks it would take Mother Nature to do so.
After soaking, they will be ready to plant without anything getting in their way.
Increase the odds.
Plants produce billions of seeds each year. But not all of them will germinate, due to the many obstacles we mentioned earlier.
They put so many seeds in the hope that only a few will remain, which means that not all of them need to germinate to reproduce successfully.
When you’ve spent money on rare or expensive seeds, or even normal seeds, relying on luck to germinate them won’t be enough.
Although seeds can germinate without soaking, soaking greatly increases the germination rate (depending on the plant). If you want more reliable results, this extra step is worth it.
How to soak the seeds.
Now that we know the why, it’s time to move on to the how.
- Start by getting a sterilized jar or a clean bowl. Fill it with the seeds you have chosen and cover it with lukewarm water, it is best if it is as hot as possible while still touching the water. Do not use boiling water, as these temperatures are too hot for most seeds and can inhibit germination.
- Leave the seeds in the container in a warm place for at least 8 hours.preferably at night. You can soak the seeds longer, but most shouldn’t be left in water longer than 24 hours. The optimal soaking point is 8 to 12 hours.
- Scarification. If the seeds you have chosen have a very hard outer shell, they may benefit from a process called scarification. It is abrade the outer shell in some way before soaking to allow water to penetrate. Scarification can be done with fine sandpaper, a sharp knife or even a hammer. But you have to be careful and take care not to overdo it so as not to damage the seeds irreparably.
- After soaking, plant the seeds immediately in moist soil. You cannot let the seeds dry out again after soaking or they will not germinate. Be sure to keep the soil moist until the seeds have fully germinated to avoid wasting the soaking effort.
Which seeds are suitable for soaking?
Typically, small seeds do not require soaking, unlike larger, hard-shelled ones. The small seeds tend to stick together during the soaking process and are incredibly difficult to separate, resulting in clumping.
Larger or hard-shelled seeds are often the most difficult to germinate and are best soaked before planting. Among them are:
You can also soak onions and garlic cloves to speed up germination before planting them outdoors.
Seeds that should not be soaked.
Some small seeds become unwieldy and space out when soaked. Avoid soaking these seeds before planting:
Soaking will dramatically increase germination rates and the speed of the process.
But, after planting, seed care is still important. Be sure to keep the floor moist and the tray warm enough to keep up with the hard work you put in at the start.