Tag: stratification

Seed stratification

I know my weakness. This time of year, when things are less demanding at work, and my roses no longer need daily attention, I’m particularly susceptible to the overtures of the seed companies. They send me catalogs with what I can only assume are lightly photoshopped plant pictures, and liberally embellished descriptions… and I don’t even bother to hide my wallet. Lisa knows what I’m up to.

Can you really blame me? I go outside to this:

Don’t get me wrong… I do love how the freezing rain looks encasing the remaining rose hips on our stock plants. However, there’s nothing like a six foot snow drift to remind me why spring is my favorite season, and gardening my favorite hobby. Seeds are my earliest and most hopeful connection to the upcoming season.

I made a quick video on starting seeds – particularly seed stratification. Here it is:

On the topic of seed stratification, the key points are these:

  • Not every seed needs pre-treatment. It’s more commonly required for temperate climate trees, shrubs, and perennials – and largely unnecessary for annuals and veggie starts.
  • The reason the seeds need to be treated is to fool them into thinking they’ve been through a winter outdoors. Some people skip the middle step, and simply sow their seeds into a prepared bed in the fall outside, letting nature do the work. I prefer to stratify seeds myself in my own containers – sometimes nature can be a bit inconsistent, even cruel. Outside, my seeds can be eaten by critters, before or after germination.
  • The most common treatment is approximately 8 weeks of cold stratification. That means placing the seeds in a moist (not soaking wet) sterile medium (sand, perlite or vermiculite usually) and keeping them in the fridge at around 2 to 4 degrees celsius.
  • Even though this is the most common treatment, research your particular seeds. Some benefit from a warm moist duration before cold. Others need two full winter cycles with a warm duration between. Be sure and check the seeds every now and again. My roses, for instance, quite often begin to germinate while in the fridge towards the end of their stratification period.

I’ve grown a few hundred varieties from seed – some easily, and some by trial and error. If anyone out there wants advice on any specific varieties, I may be able to help.