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Natural Stratification for Seeds (Cold Treatment)

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

At some point you have likely purchased seeds in spring, eagerly excited to get it growing that summer. You simply cannot wait, so you turn over the seed packet to read, "these seeds require refrigeration or cold stratification for 2-3 months before planting." Bummer!

Likewise, you may have eaten a delicious piece of fruit and thought "I wonder if I could grow a tree from this pit." So you research online to find out it needs a cold treatment as well.

Unfortunately, there is no way around a cold treatment, and you may just have to wait.

Most of the time, modern gardeners will recommend placing some moistened peat into a bag, and leaving it in the back of the fridge for a couple of months. Some "experts" will even have you spray poison (fungicide) on them because they are rather prone to molding while in the refrigerator.

I am here to tell you that there is no need to follow this procedure, and doing things with a natural method may even prove to be more productive!

When you find that a seed needs to have a period of cold stratification or cold treatment in order to germinate, simply wait until fall and sow them directly where you want them in your yard. Cover them with a a little soil, and let nature do the work!

The process of freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing and so on over the course of the winter will help to break down the hard outer shell. When warm temperatures arrive, your seed will be raring to go find that sunshine!

In the fridge, your seed will maintain a constant temperature and may never germinate properly due to the lack of temperature fluctuation. Not to mention the constant fight with mold and fungus that you and your seeds will endure.

In the wild, the plants go through the cold treatment process quite simply and naturally. When a plant is ready to reproduce, it generates seeds that in turn dry over the course of the summer. In the fall they will be knocked off near the parent plant. After the cold months of winter new seedlings begin to sprout!

Plants are intelligent beings and usually know when to begin sprouting. So doing the stratification process in the natural way will give them that freedom.

If you are worried about young plants coming up too soon, you can also sow the seeds into cold frames or place them in a small pot and bury it for easy transplanting in the spring.

Right now (mid-late October) is the time to do this,

before winter really sets in and the ground becomes too hard to work.

I believe plants (especially in seed form) are major data stores, and the information that this plant collects over its lifetime about its environment (water availability, weather patterns, etc.) will inevitably lead to stronger generations of this plant in the future!

Of course this method will only work if you live somewhere with a proper winter. Which at this High Altitude Homestead, that is definitely the case.

So instead of going through the weird and unnatural process that you may know as Cold Treatment in your kitchen refrigerator, next time have some patience, and give your plants their best chance by allow them to cold stratified outdoors, the natural way.


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High Altitude Homestead!

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