I live in the Chicago area, which more or less means I could start the day in a bikini and end it in a snowsuit. Case in point…on April 25, it was 73 degrees F, on April 27 it was snowing. Yes, snowing. On April 28, the rain was relentless and the thermometer barely reached 45 degrees F. Bitter. My growing window is unpredictable and I often don’t set anything out until at least Mother’s Day. Even then, I’m leery and hold some things like tomato seedlings until the last week of May.
Direct sowing tomatoes, jalapenos and ground cherries (some of our favorites) is impossible here. A narrow growing window means the time it takes directly sown seeds to germinate, produce flowers and finally fruit brings me to the first fall frost and zero chance of enjoying my hard work. So I resort to starting much of my vegetable garden and a good portion of my flower garden from seed, many of which I receive from All-America Selections, a seed trialing organization that sends me seeds to test in my zone 5 garden.
With a much narrower growing window than, say Kentucky or Alabama, I have to resort to other methods to ensure I can enjoy certain flowers like morning glories and moonflowers for as long as possible. They take a bit longer to germinate due to their armor-like seed coats. The seed coat exists to help the seed withstand all the abuse Mother Nature can muster. From a critter’s acidic digestive tract to extreme environmental temperature fluctuations, a seed needs protection to survive.
Pre-soaking the seeds is the trick to softening up these little guys and it’s a piece of cake!
How To Soak Seeds
Fill a bowl(s) with hot water and add the seeds. Soak for no longer than 12-24 hours. I soak morning glories and moonflowers for approximately 24 hours, give or take.
Once the soaking process is complete, plant the seeds immediately. You may be able to direct sow them based on your climate (lucky you!), but if not, plant them in small pots based on the planting depth instructions you’ll find on the back of the seed packet. Avoid potting mixes for seed starting. Unlike seed starting mixes, potting mixes aren’t sterilized and often come with fertilizers that could destroy the seeds. I’ve used Burpee’s Organic Seed Starting mix for the last several years with great success.
Once they’re potted up, I cover with a bit of plastic wrap and secure it with a rubberband. The makeshift mini-greenhouse helps retain the moisture in the soil. At the first sign of life, remove the plastic. You’ve just shaved several days, possibly a week, off the germination period.
Do you soak seeds? Which ones?