Should You Soak Tomato Seeds Before Planting?


Soaking tomato seeds before you plant them can increase the rate at which they sprout and germinate. Ultimately resulting in healthier and stronger tomato plants. Letting your tomato seeds sprout on a damp paper towel is another great way to keep the seeds moist, increasing the rate at which they start sprouting.

Seed soaking is a green-thumb trick used by many experienced gardeners. But why is it so efficient? Let’s take a closer look at seek soaking.

Why Should You Soak a Tomato Seed Before Planting It?

Seeds are designed by mother nature to withstand horrendous and sometimes unforgiving weather situations. There are three main reasons why it’s beneficial to soak your tomato seeds before planting them:

1. BREAKS DOWN NATURAL DEFENSES

Over time, a seed will build up natural defenses against harsh cold and hot temperatures and extremely dry or wet weather conditions. In some cases, seeds even withstand acids within an animal’s or person’s digestive tract. Once excreted, it can still germinate and grow into a tomato plant.

The reason why experienced gardeners soak seeds before planting is to break down the strong exterior of a seed. Allowing it to germinate much faster.

2. BREAKS DOWN GERMINATION INHIBITORS

Studies have proven that tomatoes have natural germination inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting while still within the fruit. These inhibitors are known as ABA (Abscisic Acid). For the seeds to start germinating, they have to be removed from the fruit and placed within the optimal moisture content.

Even when a tomato falls from the tree and rots within the soil, it can take a very long time before it germinates. Natural rainfall isn’t enough for the seed’s internal gauge to signal that it’s safe to start germinating. Soaking tomato seeds that have been taken out of tomato will speed up this process.

3. CREATES THE OPTIMAL MOISTURE CONTENT

A natural ability of a seed is to distinguish between harsh weather elements like raining and snowing. Once the optimal moisture level has been reached, the seed’s internal gauge will be active. A kind of signal that alerts the seed that it is safe to start sprouting.

When you soak a seed, the optimal moisture level is increased and accelerated. Because the moisture content around the seed has been increased and stabilized, it also speeds up the sprouting process.

How Do I Soak Tomato Seeds Before Planting?

Basically, you’ll only need two ingredients: water and tomato seeds.

CONTAINER

Use a small container or shallow plate/bowl and fill it up with water. Seeds should be covered in water but not completely submerged. Instead of a bowl or container, you can also use a sealable plastic bag. Add just enough water in the bag, add seeds, and seal it airtight.

HOT TAP WATER

Don’t use boiling hot water, damaging the outer seed tissue and killing the seed. Hot water is a good choice as it doubles as a disinfectant and won’t damage the outer seed tissue.

After your container is filled with hot tap water, add seeds into the water and allow it to sit inside the water until the liquid has cooled down.

There are many different water solution types that you can soak your tomato seeds to speed up the germination process. Some gardeners use weak coffee or tea solutions because it contains some acidity that speeds up the process.

ACIDIC SOLUTIONS

Using acidic solutions that imitate stomach acids is another option.  These solutions can either be a few tablespoons of weak tea and coffee or regular kitchen vinegar. Briefly soaking seeds within these acidic solutions won’t kill the seed but rather activate it.

Because strong animal tract acidity can damage a seed, using this method is only for those who know exactly what they are doing, especially regarding soaking time, acidic levels, and water to acidity ratios. Hot tap water is the safest and cheapest way to soak your tomato seeds.

SCARIFYING

Scarifying is basically a process where the gardener will make small incisions on the seeds’ hard shells. This allows it to germinate much faster. You can also do scarification by gently tapping the seeds with a rubber hammer to crack them or rubbing it on sandpaper with a fine grain. Once the seed’s coat is damaged, it will have a small opening that will allow for faster moisture absorption.

Since tomatoes take only between 5-10 days to germinate, this method isn’t essential. But worth a try if you want to speed up the process even more

Can You Over Soak Tomato Seeds?

Yes, it’s definitely possible for seeds to be oversoaked and then drown. Even though some seeds are built to survive long exposure to wetness and soaking, others aren’t. In the same way as too much water for a tomato plant will cause problems, you shouldn’t let the seed rest in the water for too long either. Leaving it for too long will drown it or let it rot and never germinate.

How Long Should I Soak Tomato Seeds?

You shouldn’t soak tomato seeds for longer than 48 hours. It is advised that you soak seeds at a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 24 hours, definitely no longer than 48. Many farmers and gardeners have stated that they’ve left their tomato seeds in water overnight, ready to be planted the next day.

Keep in mind that tomato seeds aren’t as big and dense as other seeds like pumpkin or beans. Therefore, these seeds might need soaking a little bit longer.

It’s worth mentioning that seeds will only start germinating once they have been planted in healthy soil. Therefore, leaving them in water for too long will slow down the growing process and put them at risk for rotting and ultimately dying.

What Are the Benefits of Soaking Tomato Seeds Before Planting?

There are many different benefits to soaking tomato seeds before planting them. Benefits include:

  • The time that goes by while waiting for germination will be reduced
  • Tomatoes will start sprouting much faster
  • Overall, plants will be much happier and stronger
  • Softens the hull of the seed, assisting the sprout in breaking the seed’s tough exterior
  • Disinfect and remove any harmful bacteria
  • Strong seed shells will soften and swell, making it easier for the embryonic selves to come out.
  • It breaks down the seed’s natural defenses allowing for faster sprouting
  • Creates the optimum moisture level for seeds to activate internal gauge
  • Activates internal gauge that signals growth spurt

What is an Alternative to Soaking Tomato Seeds?

An alternative to soaking your tomato seeds in warm tap water is to put them in a moistened paper towel. This is not only an alternative to soaking but also the initial stages of germination. Here is a step-by-step guide: here

STEP 1

Place your tomato seeds a few inches away from each other on a dampened paper towel. Seeds shouldn’t be touching one another and evenly spread. The paper towel shouldn’t be drenched in water or soaked, but rather moisten and damp to the touch.

STEP 2

Close the seeds with a paper towel by folding or rolling them up. Place the damp paper towel in a glass jar and close it. Condensation will take place, creating a warm environment for seeds to germinate much faster. Tomato seeds might start sprouting in as little as 24 hours when using this method.

STEP 3

You must replant your little tomato sprouts into soil containers with adequate lighting and moisture – to ensure they continue growing strongly. Removing them too late will result in sprout roots growing into the paper towel, making it difficult to remove. Broken roots will damage the little seedling and might halt the growing process entirely.

What Shouldn’t I Do When Soaking Tomato Seeds?

Here are a few things to avoid when soaking your tomato seeds:

  • Don’t leave seeds too long in water as they will drown or rot. Between 12 – 24 hours are enough, but never longer than 48 hours.
  • Don’t use boiling water to soak your seeds in. A high temperature might result in seeds cooking and ultimately killing them.
  • Don’t leave the water and seed-filled container in a cold room or, even worse, a refrigerator. Make sure it’s placed in a warm space to create optimal temperature.
  • When scarifying, avoid completely crushing, bruising, or damaging the seeds
  • Please don’t wait too long after soaking your seeds to plant them in the soil. Once you’ve taken them out of the water, you can immediately plant them in healthy soil or planters. Remember to keep your little seeds well moistened after planting them to encourage further efficient growth.

Other seeds that can also benefit from pre-soaking are the seeds from beetroot plants, basil, corn, chard, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, and peppers.

Now you have mastered soaking tomato seed before germinating, why not check out the complete growing guide I wrote a little while ago. You can view that here

Conclusion

Many gardeners are using this technique to speed up the germination process. Presoaking tomato seeds are one of the top secrets to healthy tomato plants. As long as you use the right temperature water and not over soak your seeds, you’ll be able to speed up the germination process and witness sprouts growing out of your soil in no time.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter and long-term gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process, so you are more productive

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