Feb 22, 2012 GERMINATING DORMANT SEEDS Many plants have dormant seeds as a biological mechanism to ensure that seeds will germinate at the right time and under conditions that are favorable for the growth and survival of the next generation. There are two types of seed dormancy: Exogenous (seed coat dormancy) and Endogenous (embryo dormancy). Some seeds have hard seedcoats preventing water absorption and the exchanges of gases. Without water absorption and gas exchange, germination would be impossible. There are several treatments to break dormancy for the purpose of inducing germination. Scarification and Soaking are two pretreatment techniques that I have chosen to highlight. They are simple and effective and I use them for overcoming physical seedcoat dormancy. The objective of a pretreatment is to open the seed coat in order to make the seed permeable to water and gases, without damaging the embryo and endosperm within the seed. In nature, Scarification occurs naturally when a bird swallows a seed that then passes through the digestive system. Acids eat through the tough seedcoat. When the bird eliminates the seed it's ready to germinate! Generally, the plants that produce hard seedcoats and need pretreatment are hardy shrubs, flowers, and trees, not vegetable seeds. Your seed packet instructions should tell you what is required for germination, and I encourage further research to become your own expert. Most vegetable seeds have soft enough seedcoats and don't need aid in germination, an exception to that rule would be the legumes, such as peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, etc. These vegetables do need aid in germination but it is not in the form of scaring or soaking, it is in the form of inoculating the soil with cultures creating a symbiosis bacteria, referred to as Inoculant. These bacteria cultures are plant specific, so be sure to choose the correct type of inoculant. Inoculants are available at garden supply shops and are added to the soil at the time of sewing the seeds. Always check to see if the seed you are germinating requires pretreatments. Scarifying a seed that doesn't require it can kill it, so it's best to check a good reference if you have a tough seed that looks like it might need help germinating. If your seed does require both scarifying and soaking it needs to happen in that order. This procedure might alarm you the first time you do it, but it's really not frighting. You simply want to scratch the seedcoat just enough so that water can penetrate it. You can do it by nicking with a sharp, small paring knife or by scratching it with sandpaper. Nick or scratch the side of the seed to avoid injuring the hilum, or "eye" of the seed, where the first root and shoot will emerge. Timing is everything when it comes to soaking seeds. If a seed soaks too long, it will rot. If you are not sure how long you seeds need soaking, err on the side of caution and don't soak it over 8 hours maximum. If your seed requires to be soaked longer, strain the seeds every 8 hours and continue soaking in fresh room temperature water. After soaking, strain and plant immediately. At this point you may already notice the hilum, or "eye" of the seed unfolding! Have fun, stay fascinated, and happy growing! *If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions please do share by leaving a comment, I will be sure to write back!