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updated: 3/5/2014 12:41 PM

Soaking seeds helps speed germination

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By Mary Boldan

Q. I have heard that soaking seeds helps them germinate quicker. Is this true?

A. Soaking seeds is an old-time gardener's trick. When you soak seeds before planting, you can significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for a seed to germinate.

In nature, seeds encounter harsh weather conditions and their coating serves as their defense to survive.

When you purchase a packet of seeds, they have been pampered. By soaking the seeds, you help break down the seed's natural defense and speed up germination.

To soak seeds, fill a small bowl with hot water, and place the seeds inside the bowl. Allow the seeds to stay in the water as it cools down.

It is recommended that you soak most seeds for 12 to 24 hours and no more than 48 hours. After soaking your seeds, plant as directed.

Large seeds or seeds with particularly hard coats such as morning glories and nasturtiums can benefit from scarification before soaking.

Scarification means to damage the seed coat so that the water is better able to penetrate the seed. The easiest way to do this is to rub the seed on fine grain sand paper or a nail file to help crack the seed coat. Scarification is not needed for small, fine or straw-like seeds.

Q. The heavy snow is weighing down the branches of my evergreens and bushes. Should I remove it?

A. When heavy snows weigh down evergreen branches down, softly brush away snow but don't pound the branches with a broom. Don't shake the branches as this may cause them to break. This is especially true for evergreens which can collect excessive amounts of snow. To prevent snow from piling up and causing heavy loads on branches, remove snow after each snowfall.

If ice accumulates on branches, just let it melt naturally to prevent breakage. Branches that are bent to extremes will often rebound as soon as the ice melts.

• Provided by Master Gardener Mary Boldan. Master Gardener Answer Desk, located at Friendship Park Conservatory, 395 Algonquin, Des Plaines, is open 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays. Call (847) 298-3502 or email

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