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Scarification Clarification.

Seed Scarification - What Is It and How to Do It At Home.

Seeds have it pretty tough in the wild. Once they’re dropped into the big bad world by the mother plant they get exposed to extreme temperatures, water, and wind. Seeds in edible fruits get it even worse and have to deal with animal teeth and their digestive systems.


For a seed to get through all this and still be viable for germination, lots of plant species have evolved rock-hard outer coatings that gradually break down while conditions are tough. This hard coating acts as a sacrificial lamb and allows the seed inside to stay intact, ready to germinate when conditions improve.

Evolutionary, this hard outer coating on the seed is a great trait to have developed. But for home gardeners, it makes things a little tricky. If you’re fresh out of cold winter, running water, or animals to eat your seeds, then you can always try seed scarification.




Why Oh Why would I Scarify?


Scarification of seeds involves scratching the seed coat away with an abrasive surface to deliberately damage that tough outer coat. After enough damage, moisture will be able to enter the seed which will prompt germination to occur. Most of the time, these seeds will not germinate until that hard outer layer is breached.

When you’re researching seeds to buy, you should always check to see if the seeds need to be scarified. The internet is a treasure trove of experts who can give you the info you need on exactly how to scarify your seeds and the best abrasive technique to use.

If you’re not sure about what seeds you’ve got though and you want to know if they need to be scarified before germinating, you can place the seeds in some water overnight. Seeds that water can readily penetrate will swell up and look different after a soaking. These seeds won’t need to be scarified. Seeds with thick outer coats will look exactly the same, and you’ll notice that no water has been absorbed. If this is the case, you’ll need to look at scarifying the seed.

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Abrasive Personalities.

There are different methods of scarification that we can use as home gardeners. They differ in the methods, but they all result in an abrasive environment that breaks down or weakens the outer coating of the seeds.

Chemical scarification involves using a harsh chemical to break down the outer shell of a seed. At home, you can do this with regular bleach, but this method obviously comes with some safety concerns and is only really useful when you’re doing bulk loads of seeds.

Heat or thermal scarification uses a heat source to weaken the shell. You can do this at home using boiling water and letting your seeds soak overnight. You can also place seeds in the oven at a low temperature, or even expose them to direct flames with a blow torch or in a fire.


Physical scarification is the use of a physical agent to damage the seed coating. It’s by far the easiest and most common form of scarification and mimics situations like digestion, erosion, and strong winds.

At home, you can use nutcrackers, sandpaper, rock tumblers, jars of sand and gravel, and even just sharp knives to scratch and damage the seed. The goal is to damage the outer seed coat enough to allow water to penetrate.

Whatever method of scarification you decide on, it’s vitally important you don’t damage the inner seed otherwise all your hard work will be wasted.


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