How to Scarify Seeds for Faster Germination

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Scarify Seeds
Author avatar By Parker Curtis
January 05, 2022
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The number one goal of cultivating crops is to see a budding harvest in the fastest possible time. Jump-starting the germination process encourages progressive sprouting. To successfully do this, we need to scarify seeds.

Cannabis seeds have hard outer coatings to protect themselves from cold climatic conditions, so they don’t sprout before the right time. Scarifying seeds controls the sprouting of seedlings during germination.

There are various ways to do this, with the most used method being mechanical scarification of seeds. Let’s get cracking with the what is, how to’s of scarification so you can start your cannabis cultivation in a nick of time.

Cannabis seeds
Cannabis seeds

What is scarification

What is scarification? It weakens the hard outer shell of seeds allowing water and oxygen to reach the embryo. The tough outside layer of cannabis seeds prevents early detection of moisture around them and, therefore, won’t begin the germination process until it does.

When scarifying seeds, you’ll be cutting, penetrating, or softening the skin in a way that isn’t harmful to the inner nucleus. Once the outer shells are open, the seeds can begin germination.

Why do you need to scarify seeds? Germination of seeds could take longer than anticipated when you’re excited to start the growth journey of your cannabis crops. Due to the hard nature of these seeds, they need a nudge to promote a prompt start.

A cannabis seed consists of two parts:

  1. The embryo—the taproot that first appears during germination—is the main stem of the cannabis crop.
  2. The hard protective shell—the part that protects the embryo from unfavorable environments.

Scarifying seeds open up this protective shell to allow nature to take its course and start the production of the seed.

What you need to know about seeds germination

A good way to start your crop’s life cycle is knowing how to germinate marijuana seeds properly to ensure the process is effortlessly successful. To scarify seeds is only the beginning of progressive growth for your cannabis plants.

Germination is the foundation phase of a plant’s life. The process ends the hibernation of marijuana seeds and starts the growth process. Once optimal conditions surround the seeds, they begin germinating. 

The taproot only breaks through the shell once it receives enough moisture. This is why scarifying seeds is necessary—so that you don’t have to wait on the natural process of germination to begin.

For seeds to begin germinating, they need to receive moisture. They’ll start to grow in size, opening up the shell. If you’ve scarified your seeds, the time frame is reduced for the shell to crack open before you start seeing a tap root.

Two important things to consider before starting the process is:

  • Quality of seeds
  • Environment for germinating
Marijuana Seed Germinating
Marijuana seed germinating

Quality of seeds

The type of seeds you use determines the longevity before germination begins, whether you’ve applied scarification methods or not. Selecting mature seeds that are hard and brown with prominent stripes on the shell is a good choice. Avoid green seeds with soft outer shells—they’re underdeveloped and either take a long time to sprout or don’t at all.

Since you’re speeding up the germination process by scarifying the seeds, you might want to consider cultivating fast flowering strains. This way, you’ll reap your rewards sooner, from sowing the seeds to harvest.

Environment for germinating

It’s vital to provide an optimal environment to ensure the successful germination of seeds. You can germinate seeds inside or outdoors. Doing it indoors provides a more controlled environment with regulated temperatures.

Scarified seeds need the following conditions for germination:

  • Water
  • Humidity/heat
  • Air

Once you’ve got your quality seeds and prepared your environment for them to start their life cycle, you may now proceed with germinating them. 

There are various methods to use. The favored one among cannabis cultivators is the following:

The paper towel method

An easy method to germinate your scarified seeds.

You’ll need:

  • Two plates
  • Four paper towels
  • Distilled water
  • Scarified seeds
  • Tweezers

Method

  1. Dampen the four paper towels with enough water to moisten but not saturate.
  2. Place two paper towels onto one of the plates and gently put the seeds on top using the tweezers (try not to handle the seeds using your bare hands).
  3. Close the seeds with the other two paper towels and cover them with the other plate to create a dark environment.
  4. Store the plate in a space with a temperature of 70–85℉ and humidity not exceeding 90%.

Due to the scarification of seeds, you’ll notice a change within a day as the taproot starts to surface. Transplant them into soil once this main root is approximately 0.2 inches long.

Germinating seeds on paper towel
Germinating seeds on paper towel

Other germinating methods include:

  • Water germination 
  • Germinating in rock wool
  • Planting directly into soil

Sometimes, the taproot won’t appear fast enough, even after scarifying the seeds. You don’t need to dispose of these seeds—you can still attempt to revive them by applying a scuffing method. Separate them from the rest and put them away for approximately three weeks.

After this period, put them inside a matchbox layered with sandpaper to shake for up to one minute. The vigorous movement wears down a thin layer to improve absorption.

After scarifying the seeds, let them soak in water for 18–24 hours before using the paper towel method again.

Moving the seedling into the soil

The tiny taproot is the beginning of life for your cannabis plant, so handle it with care. It becomes the main stem of the crop, so any form of hindrance can affect the growth pattern. 

Using a tweezer, gently remove the scarified seeds from the paper towel and place them into a ¼ inch deep hole within potting soil—ensure the taproots’ facing down. Cover the gap with soil and sprinkle or spray it with water.

While you’re waiting for your seedling to break through the soil, keep these points in mind:

  • Check the moisture of the soil daily. Wet the soil using a spray bottle, so you don’t drench it with water—too much will drown the seedling, and too little will dehydrate it.
  • Ensure that the soil receives enough light absorption, whether you’re germinating the scarified seeds indoors or outdoors. Heat from the light allows the shell to open further so that other roots can start growing.

If your seedling hasn’t surfaced by the tenth day, it’s safe to assume that it didn’t survive.

Sometimes sprouting is delayed, here are possible causes:

  • Varying moisture levels—too much water restricts oxygen flow and obstructs sprouting.
  • Lack of oxygen—if the soil is too compressed or the scarified seeds are too close together, it causes an oxygen deficiency.
  • Extreme heat exposure—excessive heat exposes the seed to tension and increased aging.
  • Quality of the seed—immature seeds are fragile and break easily before the germination process can begin.

A good time of the year to germinate cannabis seeds for outdoor growing is at the onset of spring. Marijuana crops are annual plants and grow throughout spring and summer and start flowering toward autumn.

The germination process can take 12–72 hours to complete in favorable conditions without scarifying seeds. 

Sprouted cannabis seed in soil
Sprouted cannabis seed in soil

What are the benefits of the scarification of seeds?

Certain seeds have impenetrable outer coatings—it makes it difficult for water to pass through when needed. The seed protects itself with the hardened shell to prevent absorption and germination during colder winter months.

Scarifying seeds is beneficial to cultivators who have short growing seasons because:

  • It reduces germination time from 2–5 days to overnight sprouting.
  • The chances of all of your seeds germinating are higher than if seed scarification methods weren’t used.
  • It’s not an expensive process to speed up the development of your seeds and save time.
  • It can be applied to small or large-scale cannabis cultivation operations.

How to scarify seeds for faster germinating

Scarifying seeds is a costless process since you can use available tools in your home

There are various methods to use, but let’s discuss three of the most used ones:

  • Mechanical scarification of seeds 
  • Hot water scarification
  • Chemical scarification

Mechanical scarification of seeds

With mechanical scarification of seeds, you need to physically open the outer coating to allow air and water to infiltrate them. This method requires scuffing tools like nail clippers, sandpaper, a nail file, or a knife to break through the shell.

This method is suitable for experienced growers since it requires precision while cutting or nicking into the exterior of the seed. 

Using the above items, let’s discuss how you can scarify seeds using: 

A sharp tool for nicking

You’ll need:

  • A nail file, nail clipper, or sharp knife
  • Cannabis seeds
  • A bowl of lukewarm water

Method

  1. Look for the hilum on the seed—this is the small eye-shaped scar previously attached to its base.
  2. Nick the side opposite to the hilum on the seed by gently cutting through the shell until you see the inner layers appearing.
  3. Place the scarified seeds in lukewarm water.

Sandpaper method

You’ll need:

  • A small piece of sandpaper
  • Cannabis seeds

Method

  1. Gently rub the seeds until a small part of the outer shell is corroded using sandpaper.
  2. Stop rubbing once the inner layer becomes visible.
  3. Proceed with the germinating process immediately.

With both techniques, never penetrate too deep into the seed. It harms the embryo inside, and the seed won’t grow.

Hot water scarification

If you’re feeling jittery about scarifying a seed by nicking it, then using the hot water method is for you. It doesn’t require any cutting or penetrating the seeds’ shell. 

You’ll need:

  • A small pot
  • Water 
  • Marijuana seeds

Method

  1. Pour the water into the pot and bring to boil at 158℉ before removing from the heat.
  2. Place the seeds into the hot water and leave it there for 12 hours.

Chemical scarification

When nature takes its course with scarifying seeds, it usually happens when birds pass seeds eaten through their digestive tracts. The acidic juices then scarify the seeds, making them ready for germination once they’re back on the ground.

You can imitate this natural method by applying a liquid like vinegar to the seeds.

You’ll need:

  • Vinegar
  • Small glass 
  • Baking soda
  • Purified water
  • Cannabis seeds

Method

  1. Pour the vinegar into the glass and place the seeds into the liquid.
  2. Leave them to soak for 30–60 minutes.
  3. Remove the seeds from the vinegar and rinse them with purified water and baking soda to neutralize their acidity.
  4. Place the seeds back into the water until they begin to swell.

Scarification methods are meant to be applied to seeds you intend to germinate immediately. If you first want to test out these techniques with a few seeds, you can store the rest of them. 

Not sure how to store cannabis seeds? A few options are available. The most favored choice is to put them in an airtight plastic bag and place it in a cool, dry, and dark space like a frost-free refrigerator.

What seeds should be scarified?

If you’re scarifying seeds, it means you want to grow them. For satisfactory results, you need to start with high-quality seeds. The disadvantage to these is that they tend to have hard exterior shells.

What seeds need to be scarified? Any mature cannabis seed that’s brown with tiger-like stripes and a hard outer shell. Immature seeds aren’t worth scarifying since they won’t germinate.

Hybrid cannabis seeds seem to have a much harder protective coating. Scarifying these seeds would be optimal. 

Some hybrid strains which are among the easiest strains to grow include:

  • Lemon Kush feminized: An indica dominant hybrid that provides cultivators with a gratifying growing experience. If careful germination procedures are followed, these crops will provide you with tasty buds to satisfy your cerebral and sensory needs.
  • Critical Purple autoflower: This strain grows into resilient and beginner-friendly indica hybrid cannabis crops. Their autoflower characteristics enable them to progress into the flowering stage without any light schedule changes from their grower.
  • Purple Haze feminized: A well-known mood-boosting cultivar thanks to its sativa dominant traits. Scarification of these seeds speeds up the growing process even more since they initially germinate in a short space of time.

Scarifying seeds seems like an effortless process that anyone can do. However, probing too deep into the crusty shell will damage the seed’s embryo, leaving you with a dud, so take care. 

What to expect from seed scarification

After scarifying seeds, you can expect them to germinate and sprout within 24 hours. Applying scarification techniques ensures that every seed you’re germinating begins its life cycle and grows into robust crops.

When attempting to scarify seeds for the first time, you’re prone to make some irreversible mistakes. So it’s best to first try the methods on a few seeds until you get the hang of it.

Most of the time, during germination, not all seeds successfully flourish. Scarifying them ensures the sprouting of all. The taproot receives enough water and oxygen, allowing the progressive development of all other roots.

Cannabis seedling
Cannabis seedling

Scaring the seeds to life

Scarifying seeds is the order of the day when you’re looking for ways to speed up the germination process. It’s a low-cost, easy process that encourages germination and quick sprouting, and saves a growers’ time.

Breaking through the protective layer doesn’t harm the seed if the right pressure is applied, so be extra vigilant when applying any of the seed scarification methods.

By gently applying any one of the techniques, you’re on your way to a cannabis cultivation season in no time. The germination process will be a breeze as long as the environmental requirements are taken care of.

Don’t dispose of stubborn seeds that don’t germinate as fast as others. If, at first, you don’t succeed, dust them off and try again by re-applying the matchbox scarification method.

Get your scare on with quality seeds from the Homegrown Cannabis Co. seed store. Once you’ve got your stash, share your thoughts and growth experiences with like-minded cannabis connoisseurs by following our social channels.


About the author: Parker Curtis

Parker Curtis has around a decade of cannabis-growing experience, specialising in soil-less and hydro grows. He’s mastering outdoor, greenhouse, and indoor grows.

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