For the most part, common garden seeds don’t require any “special treatment” to get them to germinate. Just put them in soil, keep them soil moist and they germinate into seedlings. As you branch out in gardening into some of the more obscure plants, though, occasionally you run into some seeds that need certain “processes” to properly germinate.
For example, we’re raising a few more perennial asparagus this year to fill out our bed. We learned last season that we had a handful that didn’t survive their first winter. In this case, we know these seeds will germinate best if they are soaked for about 24 hours prior to sowing. This effort aids in emergence, provides immediate moisture and can often hasten germination times.
We also decided to sow some Moringa this year. This particular seed likes to be soaked for 48 to 72 hours for best results. There are a couple other common special practices as well.
Scarification is the process of scoring, or sometimes “roughing up” the seed prior to sowing. This is usually done on particularly tough seed, it helps the seed break apart once it attempts to germinate. Some gardeners perform this on common garden seed like squash, but we haven’t found it necessary.
The other common one, particularly prevalent in northern perennials, is stratification. This is where you chill the seeds, either in a fridge or freezer, for a particular amount of time. Typically what you’re doing here is simulating winter, a necessary experience for some plant seeds. The best temperatures and amount of chilling time can vary, depending on the plant.
When these processes are required, they will always be identified on the seed’s packet. That’s why we always recommended reading the back of your seed packets!