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Pre-treating seeds?? Which ones how?

 
C Jones
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Pardon if this has been discussed on permies before, but the search terms are so general I thought it better to not try to wade through the gazillions of hits.

Everyone (well, almost everyone, I'm sure someone on these forums will disagree :-p ) says that some seeds will do better if pre-treated.  Scarified, stratified, soaked hot or cold, etc. etc.  My books tell me that, the class I took, internet.......but what I'm missing is WHICH seeds do best with WHICH method, or don't need anything special?  Most places so far give at most a couple of examples of each method.  Does that mean a seed not in one of their examples doesn't really benefit from some pre-treatment?

It seems like it can't be that hard, a simple table for gardening newbs like me......but I couldn't find one.

So tell us, do beans need to be scarified, do squash seeds need to be soaked,  (the two most important to me right now since I need to replant failed three-sisters), etc. etc.  Anyone know a good reference?

Thanks!
 
R Ranson
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Propagation Handbook by Geoff Bryant may be the book for you.  It includes in-depth lists on propagation method by species, including seeds.

Generally I look at it as imitating nature.  If it is a seed that overwinters like maple, then it will probably want a cold spell to germinate.  If it's a plant that requires the aid of a digestive system to spread it's seed, like Origin Grape, then stratification or fermentation may be needed.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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In my world view, the commonly grown vegetable varieties entered into a mutual contract with humans which goes something like this: "We will give up our natural inhibitions against germinating at the wrong time, if you agree to plant us into favorable conditions." What that means in pragmatic terms, is that the commonly grown vegetable seed will pretty much grow whenever they are planted: No pretreatment required. 

Seeds of species that are not domesticated tend to have germination inhibitors of some type or other that can be lessened by pre-treatment of one type or another.
 
John Polk
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As a general rule of thumb, I would say that most annual seeds can be planted as-is.
Perennial seeds seem to fall into the category of needing special treatments.


 
Casie Becker
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Some of it may depend on conditions. If it is large enough to be easily handled when wet, I am coming to the habit of giving a good soaking (couple of hours to overnight) before planting in hot dry seasons. Corn, bean and squash all respond well to being soaked. Carol Depp recommends presprouting corn in the resilent gardener.

Good luck with your three sisters garden. I was experimenting with that myself this year. The results weren't perfect, but certainly good enough to keep experimenting.
 
R Ranson
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Talking about domestic veg like beans and squash, I noticed a lot of people like to soak or pre-germinate their seeds before planting them in the soil.  I was worried I was missing out on something good, so I did an experiment where I planted half my row with pre-soaked seeds and half with dry seed.  There was no perceptible difference except it was easier to plant with the dry seed.  This leads me to the conclusion that other people may be living in conditions that are favourable to pre-treating their seeds but the only way to know if it's worth the effort is to try it (over several years) to discover if it's worth the effort. 

Other people may be pre-treating their veggie seeds, not because it helps the veggies, but because it makes them feel more useful to the garden.  They read about how it helped someone somewhere, so they pre-treat their seeds, but they haven't done an experiment to see if it does any good or harm to the growth rate in their conditions.  So really these people are doing it because it makes them feel good - which is a perfectly reasonable reason to do something like this in the garden. 

There are times when pre-treating my seeds helps me.  This is usually when I am pushing the boundaries of the growing season.  This winter I planted squash in the ground in March (regular time to do this is at the end of May start of June).  The seed I pre-soaked did better than the ones I planted dry.  This is because the pre-soaked seeds had a chance to start germinating at room temp for about 36 hours (2 nights, 1 day - I changed the water about every 6 hours) whereas the ones I planted directly had to deal with some frosty nights right from the get go.  Carol Deppe talks about this in the Resilient Gardener.  If memory serves she doesn't soak the main season seeds very often but likes to soak the early planting of chickpeas.  I think she also said it is worthwhile to experiment and discover what works best in your garden.


There is another thing to think about.  I save my own seeds.  I choose which plants to save seeds from based on which plants grow best in my conditions.  If I pre-treat my seeds prior to planting them, then I will be selecting for plants that grow best when their seeds are pre-treated (there may not be a perceptible difference the first year, but over several years, it will probably start to show).  I don't like having to do unnecessary work, so I don't pre-treat my regular crop seeds that I will be saving seeds from.  My plants are selected for thriving in a near neglect conditions.  Eventually, I hope to scale up my growing space and can't imagine having to deal with pre-treating an acre or five worth of seeds each year.
 
C Jones
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Thanks a lot for all the replies, everyone!  Sorry I went silent.....other things have intervened.  I did get a few more beans and squash planted, after soaking probably too long (distractions......), some of my beans came up, no new squash though. 

Anyhow, thanks again for the food for thought.
 
John Polk
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I would say that pre-soaking bean seeds might be a good idea:
It would help the inoculant to stick to them (if you are inoculating).

 
Galadriel Freden
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John Polk wrote:I would say that pre-soaking bean seeds might be a good idea:
It would help the inoculant to stick to them (if you are inoculating).



I tried sprouting my beans and peas before planting them out this year;  if I try direct seeding them dry, they generally don't appear (mice, birds, slugs?  who knows), but this way most of them grew quite well, and it was easier than growing transplants--which I have resorted to in previous years in order to get a crop.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Interesting question this.

Pretreatment should probably be separated into types of seed to reduce confusion.
Most vegetable seeds do not need "pretreatment", things with goo coating the seed (tomato for example) probably will do best if first fermented so the goo goes away.

Tree seeds are an entirely different thing, here almost all will need some type of pretreatment to germinate, if the fruit normally falls to the ground and sits around over the winter,
then stratification is probably going to be needed, especially if the seed is from a northern species.

If the seed has a particularly thick, hard coat, then you most likely need to scarify that seed or presoak it or it could need the whole ball of tricks (stratification, scarification and presoaking) prior to being planted.

The main trick to all of this is that you need to know; 1. what seed you have. 2. where the seed comes from naturally on earth mother. 3. normal, natural conditions earth mother uses to germinate the seed in question.
Once you have those answers, then decision time is much easier.

Vegetable seeds only need to be planted at the right time and in the right conditions, nothing else needs to be done to them, they want to sprout and grow.

Peach pits want a big shot of cold, then some scarification before planting, then they will sprout nicely.
Plum pits want the same.
Persimmon also want this but don't really need the scarification (it does help when done lightly though).
Pear,  wants to feel winter then get pushed into the soil under foot.
apples, like wise, a cold spell followed by planting.

This determination is very easy as long as you remember to be very observant about what the trees do in nature, they all want to survive naturally.

Redhawk
 
cesca beamish
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So how can you emulate passing through a birds digestive system? I am trying to germinate szechuan pepper and have been advised to soak in vinegar then a bleach solution. But I have no idea of concentrations. After a bit of web research I might try neat malt vinegar for 15mins then another batch that I also rinse in the bleach solution, 50% ? Then everything put in the fridge till spring.
Anyone any thoughts on concentrations please ?
thanks
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Easy way to get Szechuan pepper seeds germination ready.
Put whole peppers in a jar with three layers of cheese cloth rubber banded over the opening. (keeps bugs and mold spores out well)
Let sit until the peppers begin to break down (fermenting or as most would say rotting) then cover with water and let continue to sit.
Once you see the skins and flesh falling off you can get in there and remove the seeds, dry them then store them for next year.

Vinegar is a short cut but as you mentioned there isn't much out there about what concentrations to use, making it hit or miss.
If you really want to try the vinegar method Start with a 25% solution and work up from there, keep good notes on how each concentration works so you can repeat every year after.

Fermentation is what the vinegar replicates so why not just use natural fermentation from the start?

Redhawk
 
cesca beamish
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thanks for that, I shall experiment. I like the idea of letting the seed do what it was designed to do but in my jam jar!
Am I right in thinking that people wash seeds in a 50% household bleach /water solution to clean them of bacteria etc before sowing?

I've just downloaded the Norman Deno book, Seed germination theory and practice. It looks very interesting.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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