Seed Stratification

For most of the seeds that I have and will be starting indoors I have not been using seed stratification. Nicotania, Coneflowers, Tomatoes, Peppers, Annual Geraniums, Squash and Pumpkins have been started (so far) successfully in my windowsill without any fancy efforts – just sown in a fresh organic potting soil, in seeds starting trays, pots and recycled containers.

As I posted yesterday, I received some Perennial Geranium seed packages from Prairie Moon Nurseries. These native wildflower seeds require a stratification method to give them their best start. Many native seeds require a dormancy period to mimic seasonal variations in temperature and moisture. This dormancy period in nature keeps the seeds from germinating too early, for example before the weather is frost-free. There may also be a dampness requirement during this period – to prevent sprouting during a drought.

Seed packages from Prairie Moon Nursery

It’s quite amazing that this process has naturally evolved, but it makes extra work for gardeners. Prairie Moon labels it’s seed packages with Germination Codes which tell me which method of germination to use for my purchased seeds. They have 9 different codes! They are 1. No pre-treatment, 2. Hot water treatment, 3. Stratification (the most common, and the method I’m attempting), 4. Surface Sow, 5. Warm moist period followed by Cold Moist period, 6. Scarification (sounds scary!), 7. Legume Rhizoban Inoculum (sounds dangerous!), 8. Plant fresh or keep moist and finally – 9. best planted outdoors in the fall.

Coffee filters in a colander and steamer

To stratify my seeds I placed 2 dampened coffee filters in kitchen strainers (in this case my trusty colander, and my vegetable steamer pot). I had first briefly rinsed each type of seeds, then I placed the seeds in each of the coffee filter/strainers. I allowed the filters to drain any extra water and made sure the seeds were placed in a single layer. Then I loosely folded each coffee filter, and placed in a plastic ziploc baggy.

in a damp coffee filter in a colander

This time I remembered to label each baggy with a Sharpie! Of course I only had a gold/glitter Sharpie! The instructions also suggested that if there is too much moisture to put a dry paper towel in the package with the coffee filter – to wick some of the moisture away.

in dampened coffee filter in a steamer pot

The Wild Geranium (Geranium Maculatum) has a germination code of C(60), M – which means stratify for 60 days OR plant outdoors in the fall. 60 days seems quite a long way away, I wish I’d ordered the seeds earlier. The Carolina Cranesbill has a code of C(90), L which means stratification for 90 days (I know I can’t wait that long!!) or “refrigerate until planting or starting other treatment”.

Labelled damp coffee filters with seeds in plastic baggies

I placed the bags in the refrigerator – and importantly, I advised my husband and son not to eat or throw out my seeds! As instructed, I will be checking my refrigerator weekly for any signs of germination!

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