how long to soak seeds before planting

Is Soaking Seeds Before Planting Worth Your Time? How Do You Do It?

Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.

To soak your seeds or not soak your seeds prior to planting, that is the question…

Among gardeners, at least.

The short answer is that soaking seeds is a matter of personal preference, but I’m going to share with you why you should consider soaking them.

I’m also going to give you information on how to soak your seeds, the best seeds for soaking, and a few additional processes you can try when soaking.

Before you start putting too many seeds in the ground, take the time to review your research and make sure you give your garden what you feel is the best start.

Here’s what you should know about soaking seeds prior to planting:

Which Seeds Should (and Shouldn’t) I Soak?

All seeds aren’t created equally. You have some which are tiny and hard enough to handle when they’re dry and solid, such as carrots.

Yet, you have other seeds which are large and in charge. They’re big and have rough surfaces. These are the seeds which could benefit from a good soak before planting.

The seeds you don’t want to soak would be seeds like:

  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Celery
  • Turnips
  • Spinach

Seeds which could benefit from being soaked would be:

  • Corn
  • Pumpkin
  • Beans
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Peas

Why Soak My Seeds?

If you’re new to gardening, you may be wondering why even bother with soaking your seeds. The idea is to speed up the seed’s germination rate.

When seeds are in nature, they’re designed to be tough because the elements can be rough on a small seed.

Plus, seeds were designed to hold off on germination until the time is right. When soaking your seeds before planting, you’re doing many things:

1. Boosting Moisture Rate

Seeds know when it’s safe to germinate and when it isn’t. When you soak the seeds in water (or any liquid) it signals the moisture around them has increased.

Moisture is an indication which the seed needs, to know it’s okay to germinate, and they have a safe area to begin growing.

2. Removing the Protective Coating

Certain seeds have a protective coating around them. This coating is to stop the seeds from germinating when they live in the moist climate of the parent fruit.

When soaking the seeds, it gently removes this protective coating, and sends signals to the seed it’s outside of the parent fruit and free to start growing.

3. Softening the Seed

You soak your seeds because as the seed absorbs water, it begins to break down the outermost shell of the seed.

The shell is the hardest part of seeds because it’s meant to protect it. By soaking the seed, it enables the new growth from the inside to push through the hard shell and grow.

4. It’s Natural

In nature, seeds are frequently consumed by animals. Some of the best plants grow from animal scat. When soaking seeds, some people choose more acidic liquids.

Acidic fluids, as you would find with digestion, again aids in softening the shell. The seeds experience something similar to digestion and are encouraged to germinate and grow wonderfully.

How to Soak Your Seeds

You now know why you soak seeds and which seeds are the best fit for soaking. If you’re interested in trying this gardening technique, this is how you go about soaking your seeds:

1. Place Seeds in a Shallow Bowl

To begin soaking your seeds, place them in a shallow bowl. It doesn’t need to be deep because you’re going to cover them as you would beans you were presoaking for cooking.

Alternatively, consider placing the seeds into a plastic baggie. Put enough water in the bag to keep the seeds moist.

Once the seeds and water are in the bag, seal it. You can also allow seeds to rest between two wet paper towels; ensure to keep them constantly moist.

2. Choose Your Liquid

Once your seeds are in a shallow bowl, choose the liquid you’d like to soak them in. You can go with just water, or you can choose more acidic liquids like coffee or vinegar mixed with water

If you choose to add acidic liquids to the seeds, add approximately one tablespoon to the water you’re soaking the seeds in.

Also, if you warm the water the seeds soak in, this can speed up the germination process. Be sure the water is lukewarm and not hot, or it will cook them.

3. Let the Seeds Soak It All Up

You should allow the seeds to soak in the liquid for approximately 12 hours. If the water they’re soaking in is warm, it may take less time.

Keep an eye on the seeds because if they soak too long, they’ll begin to disintegrate. When the soaking is complete, it’s time to plant.

4. Watch the Weather

Before soaking your seeds be sure to check the weather. Make sure you have a good day to plant after the seeds are finished soaking.

The reason being, once the seeds are done soaking, they’re ready to go into the ground. If you leave them waiting around to plant, they could easily begin to mold or rot.

Therefore, don’t start the soaking process until you know you will be able to put them in the ground the next day (if you allow them to soak overnight.)

Tell Me More About Scarification

When dealing with extremely tough seeds, it’s a good idea to practice scarification before soaking them. Scarification is a process where the seeds are scraped to remove the outer layer.

However, you don’t scrape the seed to the point it becomes punctured. This will allow the outside of the seed to breakdown faster when soaking.

Again, this is an optional step, but it could help if you’re dealing with tough or wrinkled seeds which may be harder to breakdown.

If you’d like to practice scarification on your seeds, use a dull item such as a butter knife to scrape the outside of the seed without running the risk of puncturing the seed.

You now know why you should soak your seeds, which seeds are a good fit for soaking and which aren’t, how to soak seeds, and how to perform the scarification process.

Hopefully this will help you make an educated decision on whether soaking seeds is worth the added effort when planting your garden.

Plus, it’s our hope by knowing more about different gardening techniques, you can find what works best for you and have a lush garden with a bountiful harvest this year and for years to come.

By soaking seeds before planting them you soften the hard outer shell, and make it easier for the seed to germinate. Read about the process and some tricks.

How to Soak Seeds Before Planting

Related Articles

Seeds contain a fully formed embryo of the new plant. Before that embryo can grow, it needs moisture, oxygen and sunlight, but that’s not all. The tiny embryo needs to escape the hard seed coat, too. For many seeds, this is an easy task, as the seed coat softens quickly in moist soil. For some seeds, however, the task is not as easy. Flowers such as morning glories (Convolvulaceae) and sweet peas (Lathryus odoratus) have hard seed coats that benefit from soaking to soften. Vegetables such as peas and corn also benefit from soaking, even though they do not have a hard seed coat.

Place the seeds in a bowl that will hold two to three times the volume of the seeds. Large seeds, such as peas and corn, swell to double their size when soaked in water and need plenty of room to expand.

Pour lukewarm or tepid water over the seeds, filling the bowl to within 2 to 3 inches of the rim. As the seeds absorb the water and swell, they will displace the water in the bowl.

Allow the seeds to set in the water overnight, or the recommended time for your specific seeds. Peas, corn, beets, spinach and okra generally require overnight soaking, while other seeds may require less time.

Change the water for seeds that soak more than 12 hours. This helps to maintain adequate oxygen levels, and prevents the water from becoming stagnant and smelly.

Drain the water from the seeds, and plant the seeds immediately in prepared soil. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, to prevent the seeds from drying out before they have time to germinate.

  • Washington State University Extension: Some Corn-y Advice
  • Washington State University Extension: Tips for Novice Vegetable Gardeners
  • Always check the planting instructions for the type of seeds you wish to plant. While many seeds can be soaked before planting, fine seeds such as lettuce and carrots and many flower seeds should not be soaked before planting.
  • Do not soak seeds longer than the recommended time, as seeds will rot quickly if left soaking in water for prolonged periods.

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years’ experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

How to Soak Seeds Before Planting. Seeds contain a fully formed embryo of the new plant. Before that embryo can grow, it needs moisture, oxygen and sunlight, but that’s not all. The tiny embryo needs to escape the hard seed coat, too. For many seeds, this is an easy task, as the seed coat softens quickly in …