5 Tips For Germinating Old Seeds

Here are some good tips for germinating seeds that are hard to start or are having trouble germinating. Have some patience though as it could take anywhere from three days to three weeks for a seed to germinate. Some of these tricks I would only use if the seed has not sprouted after two to three weeks or if you have a few seeds in reserve from a batch that haven’t germinated.Seeds are comprised of an outer hard layer and an embryo which is inside the hard shell. The reason that older seeds don’t germinatem well is that the shell has become to hard and water is unable to penetrate, this process of imbibition is the start of the germination process. The seed will swell with water and eventually the shell will pop open and a small tap root will erupt.

One thing i wouldn’t do is to germinate your seeds on a paper towel. White paper is filled with bleach and other chemicals and is not a good thing for your plants. Use small jiffy starter blocks or a light soil:

1. Dilute 10ml (roughly one tsp) of Fulvic acid per litre (33 oz) of water. 

2. Scuff the outer shell of the seed with some sand paper. Roll up a small cigar or sand paper or line a match box and gently shake the seeds over it. This will create micro abrasions letting in more water.

3. Use a lightly carbonated water. The extra Co2 will help the water penetrate the seed.

4. Use a light enzyme or seed booster, Plagron Nutrients has a very good one. 

5. Finally if all else fails use an Exacto knife to slightly slice the seed open down the spine of the seed. This will make it easier for water to penetrate the shell.


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  1. M. Wolf Segal

    By Michael Wolf Segal

    This is an excerpt from “How to Grow Wiser: a Cultivator’s Handbook of Sustainable Cannabiculture” Permission is conditionally granted to reproduce this for non-commercial purposes but only with attribution to “The Farmer in the Sky.” All other rights are reserved to Michael Wolf Segal.

    It may seem strange but following the procedure below will result in significantly higher yields than plants which are not started this way but otherwise grown identically. I originally encountered it on page 70 of the 1979 revision of “The Cultivator’s Handbook of Marijuana” (Bill Drake, 1970) and have slightly revised it.


    First, Soak one weight ounce of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) in 1 cup of de-chlorinated water overnight. In the morning, pour the water off of the legumes.
    This is the water you’re going to use to germinate them in. It is Mama Nature’s perfect broth of enzymes, aminos and carbohydrates for newborn plants.

    Second, throw the seeds into 3 % hydrogen peroxide for about five minutes. This is to kill any pathogens that might be lurking on the shell.

    Third, using unbleached paper towels, three thicknesses below and three thicknesses above (Okay, I may be a little OCD.), place the seeds in the middle and pour the legume-water onto the towels with the seeds in the middle of where you pour the water.

    You want the temperature to hold steady at 75-80 degrees until your seeds open. Doing it this way you should see a crack appear in one of the ridges which run up the sides of the seed. This will be at the pointy end of the seed. Unless it’s from something really special, or years old, I throw away the ones which take more than 48 hours to crack.

    Fourth, as soon as you’re sure you’re seeing a crack, plant the seed 1/8-1/4 deep, pointy end up, in the medium you’ll be growing in.
    The root will end up coming straight out at first but turns and heads down. The resistance the plant meets as it pushes its little helmet up through the medium seems to result in significantly better stem strength later on in life. (I’m an organic dirt farmer and I start my plants in 2 gallon cloth pots which have been folded down to hold 1 gallon of dirt.)

    Once the heads have opened up to expose green, use light which is in the color temperature range between 5500 and 7500 Kelvin.

    Finally! An explanation of why this works that makes sense.