Re: [gardeners] Seed Starting in Coffee Filters (
Sun, 25 Jan 1998 02:21:06 -0500 (EST)

>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
>Cheryl Schaefer

In the 'Better late than never' Department---------

Our first suspicion would be that the seeds need light to sprout.  Very few
plants have a 'dark' requirement to germinate, and more than you would
intitially suspect, need light to germinate.  If you can dig the seeds up,
re-plant them by gently pressing them into the soil surface, re-water, and
cover with plastic wrap, etc.  It is possible to just put the seeds in a
coffee filter as well (in a plastic bag)--obviously light would reach them.

Depending on the seed's geographic origin, it may need temperature
cycling--meaning a re-creation of the conditions present in nature--most
notably, that of a Winter cycle.  Temperature changes cause chemical
germination inhibitors to break down, thus allowing the seed to sprout.
You don't say where in Italy the seeds are from, but we would suggest
keeping them at room temperature (70F) to start with.  Be vigilant in
monitoring moisture, etc.  If the seeds do not germinate in a month's time,
you would then put them in the fridge for 3 months--thereby creating a faux
Winter cycle.  Keep an eye on possible germination, and again, monitor
moisture.  Our experience has been that any light requirement is met during
the 70F phase--so you need not worry about it being dark in the fridge.

At the end of the 3 month period, remove the seeds from the fridge, and
keep an eye on them.  Initially, it would probably be preferable to slowly
bring them up to room temp--any sudden changes could rot the seed.  A cool
window sill (no sun--it might fry them) would do, or, you could even put
them outside in a low light area--the natural temperature fluctuations
outside generally work very well--and of course, greatly depends on your
zone (where are you?).

GA-3, chipping of the seed coat, and additional cycling may also be
necessary, but without an actual ID on the genus, it would be impossible to
say what extra steps might be needed.

We recommend starting the seeds in a warm cycle (70F) first, and base this
on information from the Jelitto Seed catalog.  Arrowhead Alpines goes
further, explaining that those seeds which ripen early in the season,
should have the warm cycle first, and that seeds which ripen late, should
get the cold treatment first.  Seems logical, but is virtually
innapplicable in this case.

We have read (but now cannot locate the source for attribution) that it is
always 'safer' to start with a short ( 2 weeks to a month) warm
cycle....apparently, choosing the wrong temp at the start can set up a
complex set of germination inhibitions in seeds.  The idea of starting with
the warm cycle is that at the warmer temps, micro organisms which will help
breakdown impermiable seed coats are more easily grown, and therfore help
start the germination process.

Hopefully, this makes some sense.

Bill & Harvey
SKID Plants  Zone 6  CT  USA