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How To Nick Seeds in 8 Easy Steps

Nicking seeds helps speed up the germination process by removing the seed’s outer layer. Learning how to nick seeds is important for anyone who wants to plant their seeds.

Although most seeds may be spread on bare earth, a few varieties can germinate (sprout) more quickly if you do a little more work before planting.

Some seeds have extremely hard seed coverings that are visible simply by gazing at them. You may need to nick and soak the seed before planting them for the most effective (and fastest) germination.

Before planting, nicking seeds allows them to absorb water, signaling the plant embryo to initiate the germination process. Plant seeds can be nicked and then soaked in water to speed up germination and help your garden grow faster.

Scarification is another name for this procedure. Scarification is the process of weakening, opening, or changing a seed’s covering to promote germination.

Scarification can be done in various ways, including manually, thermally, and chemically. Many plant species’ seeds are impermeable to water and gases, preventing or delaying germination.

How to nick seeds is a simple process that requires a few household supplies and patience. Nicking is especially beneficial to seeds having an impenetrable (waterproof) seed coat.

Scarification is typically required for hard or large, like okra, beans, and nasturtium to germinate properly. Most tomato and morning glory plants have impermeable seed coats, which helps them germinate effectively after scarification.

Seeds with a poor germination rate or those that are in short supply should be properly nicked to boost the odds of sprouting.

How To Nick Seeds
Nicking Seeds via Youtube

A Guide on How To Nick Seeds

Nicking seeds for planting is easy and only requires two household items that are probably already in your kitchen.

Soaking seeds for better germination is a great way to help speed up the process, but it only helps the most delicate seeds. For naturally hardy seeds, nicking them will do the trick without wasting water.

By taking a knife and piercing a single slit or two into the seed, you allow water to penetrate through the outer shell more easily. How deep you nick the seed can depend on what type of seed you’re dealing with.

How deep you cut will also determine how quickly the seed germinates – for faster germination, make the nick a bit deeper. Although many seeds may not need to be soaked before planting, it can help if you place them in a cup of water and leave them overnight before planting.

  1. To start, moisten the seed and carefully cut a single slit into the seed along its ‘equator’ (the center of the seed). You may need to make two cuts depending on what you’re growing.
  2. To avoid damaging the seed, you should take care to cause as little damage as possible. Carry on with the process for the rest of your seeds.
  3. Rub the seeds between your fingers or file them using sandpaper or nail filer. Sandpaper can also be used to nick seeds easily. Rubbing seeds together in between two sheets is a simple way.
  4. Place them onto a piece of moist, dark fabric. The seeds will be easier to plant if you first mark where they should go.
  5. Allow the seeds to soak overnight in a dish of warm water. Remove the seeds from the water as soon as they begin to swell.
  6. When the seed swells, remove it from the water. Then, remove the outer shell with your hand and plant them as soon as possible.
  7. To simulate a cold, rainy spring, place your seeds with damp peat moss and store them in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight (or longer).
    1. This method is known as stratification, and it is widely used.
    2. This step isn’t necessary if you plan to plant native wildflowers or types that necessitate cold stratification in the fall.
    3. During the winter months, nature will do best, and cold stratify the seeds automatically. Many native types must be cold stratified before ever being planted in the spring.
  8. Carefully place the seeds into their marked spots in slightly damp soil but not wet. 

How To Nick Seeds: Pro Tips

  • Not all seeds require nicking before planting, but many do – it’s best to consult gardening books or website articles that cover specific types of plants you are trying to grow. Make sure to nick seeds only before planting, as the knife can damage them if used any other time.
  • Some plants that require nicking include morning glory, sweet peas and larkspur. However, most plants will sprout without being nicked – it’s up to you whether you want to take this extra step.
  • Don’t nick seeds for indoor planting if they are delicate or need cooler temperatures to sprout. Cooler soil is also beneficial for nicking, but not necessary if the seed you’re growing is hardy. Nicking isn’t always essential for most types of common seeds, but it can be helpful mostly for increasing germination rates.
  • Pocket knives or X-ACTO knives work especially well for nicking seeds. Be careful not to cut the seed in half, as this type of damage can destroy it. You may decide to purchase a nicking kit that contains a flat, round file with diamond-tipped edges for sanding your seeds.
  • Alcohol may damage the seed, so it’s best to avoid using this method of nicking.
  • Leather gloves are recommended when nicking seeds to prevent cuts, which can cause the seed to rot.
  • If you nick your seeds, make sure they are well-labeled to avoid confusion.
  • If you nick the seeds before planting them, make sure to mark where they should go.

Final Remarks

You may have observed that nicking seeds before trying to germinate them is a smart idea. Some seeds require nicking to germinate.

Other seeds may not necessitate nicking, but they will help them germinate more reliably. Before you start your garden, you should learn how to nick seeds.

By learning how to nick seeds, you’ll increase your chances of increasing the number of plants that germinate.

You should follow any other instructions required by certain types of seeds, including moistening or soaking. You should also pay attention to the type of tools you might need for this process, as well as your safety.

Nicking seeds can be done by cutting the shell, sanding the seed or rubbing the seed on some moist leather. You should make sure to mark the spot where you should plant the seed after nicking, as well.

Make sure that none of your seeds rot or die using these instructions. This process should only take a few seconds for each seed, and it can be done either indoors or outside, depending on the type of plant you are growing.