Re: [gardeners] Seed Starting in Coffee Filters

Kay Lancaster (
Wed, 21 Jan 1998 13:17:16 -0800 (PST)

On Wed, 21 Jan 1998, Cheryl & Erich Schaefer wrote:

> I've got a question, and anyone might add his or her two cents here. When
> you don't know how a particular seed needs to be treated and can't find out
> for one reason or another, is there a rule of thumb you follow for first
> try, second, etc.? I've got some mystery shrub seeds from Italy that didn't
> respond to the ordinary 1/4 in. deep treatment. TIA. Cheryl

Start cool, get warmer is my rule.  I usually make a wild guess based
on the origin of the seeds and where the plant is native, and start
with approximately winter conditions in those areas if the area is
not frost-free.  

I'll usually split a lot of seeds that I have no real clues about:  one
gets a prechill treatment in damp sand for 6-8 weeks then 15oC night
temps, 20o day temps; one gets about 15-20oC constant temp, and another
gets 20oC night, 30oC day temps alternating.  In practice, this works out
to baggie in the veggie drawer of the refrigerator, top of the
refrigerator, and cool bedroom under growlights during the day.  Planting
depth is immaterial for most seeds, as long as you keep them evenly moist.

If none of those treatments work in a reasonable length of time, I look
at the seeds.  Are they mushy?  If so, they're dead.  Are they not
plump looking?  If so, they haven't imbibed, and I need to pierce or
scarify.  If they look ok, just aren't doing much, I'll try a warmer
germination temp and see if that does it.  It's rare that one of those
maneuvers doesn't work when you actually have viable seed.

The reason that I don't start with the warmest temperatures and go to
cooler if they don't work is that too warm temperatures push some seeds
into a deep secondary dormancy that's a real problem to break. 

Kay Lancaster