Improving vegetable seed germination with chemical pretreatment

Some vegetable seeds, particularly many exotic chilli pepper varieties and some Asian eggplants are tricky to germinate. After trying the obvious things - cold-induced forced dormancy (cold stratification), abundant moisture, high humidity, and temperatures over 80F, I’ve found that some seeds simply do not germinate with much success at all. But having read a number of articles on this problem, we decided to try an intensive chemical process to see if we could achieve better results. And it looks successful.

Here’s the process:

  1. A 24 hour soak in 2% potassium nitrate (2g potassium nitrate/100 ml water) at 85 degrees F.
  2. A 2-5 minute immersion in 3% hydrogen peroxide.
  3. Remove seeds an place on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel and insert into a plastic baggie.
  4. Mix a 15:1 aqueous solution of hydrogen peroxide (the 3% that is commonly available) and pour just enough into the baggie to saturate the paper towel.
  5. Seal and place on a heating mat at 83-87F.
  6. Check daily for a week.
  7. After a week, replace the hydrogen peroxide soaking solution.

Above, is a photograph of Ping tung (eggplant) seeds germinating after 4 days. In general, using standard germinating practices in ordinary media and without pretreatment, these seeds require 10-14 days. So, the method shows a lot of promise.