Germinating seeds in small quantities

Germinating Seeds, Small Quantities – Artichokes and ?

Q. We’ve been trying to germinate artichoke seeds for some time now, with very poor success. They are more difficult than anything else we’ve tried. Can you give us some ideas on how best to germinate small quantities of seeds, without losing most of them?

A. Place your seeds onto a folded, moist kitchen towel – paper towel, or coffee filter. Some folks even use the cheap sponges from the grocery store, cut into small squares (they stay damp well). And others use a few spoonfuls of dampened peat/vermiculite. Then put them into a plastic bag and place them where you can maintain temperatures of 75-80 degrees (some folks put them in the oven with just the light on). Check on the seeds every two or three days,. Make certain the towel, etc. stays moist, but not soaking wet. Dead seeds will be moldy, and can be removed. Healthy seeds will stay fresh and when they produce a long root, generally in 20-30 days, they can be planted in a deep pot (deep because artichoke grows a long taproot very quickly).

This process helps minimize the uncertainty of the long wait to see if seeds will pop up in pots or trays of compost, as well as reduce the fairly common practice of over-watering. It is especially good for special and rare seeds. Handling the tiny seedling must be done very carefully! It should be transplanted with everything under the surface of the soil in the pot. Use a dibble to make a hole large enough to accommodate the root without damaging it. Move soil around the seedling very carefully and lightly, then water to settle the soil. Do not over-water, but always maintain moisture in the soil mixture.