Artichoke seed disinfection

Asked January 15, 2021, 11:55 AM EST

I'm wondering how I'd go about disinfecting artichoke seeds. I started a handful of untreated artichoke seeds and a little less than half germinated. In two or three days, no additional seeds have germinated and maybe only half of those that did had healthy looking radicles. The remaining seeds are now showing signs of fungal growth so I imagine that I won't get any further germination. Before I start more seeds, I was hoping to treat them to prevent further fungal issues.

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for choosing Ask an Expert for help with your seed starting. From your description, it seems that you are starting the seeds on paper toweling or something similar. I say this because you wouldn’t really see the radicles, if the seeds were in the soil.

Starting seeds in a paper towel or in a plastic bag is generally used to just give them time to absorb the water that putting them in a well-drained soil might not be able to provide. Seed starting mixes are especially designed to balance drainage with water-holding. And I do recommend them.

If using the paper towel method, the seeds should be left in this high-humidity, high-moisture environment until they absorb water and puff up a bit. You might even wait for the seed coat to crack open, but then into the soil they go. Those conditions are not meant to sustain actual plant growth. The high humidity and lack of air encourages the growth of mold/fungus which could be present on the seed coat, but also present in the air.

If the source of the seeds was a commercial packet, I would be surprised that disease spores came along with the seed. Crops grown for seed are handled differently than those grown for fresh vegetables. Asparagus seeds are not especially known for being low germination seeds, but they will have a number of hard seeds that resist germinating for some time. However, if they were saved or shared from a past crop that harbored some disease spores, if they were not matured sufficiently before being harvested, or if they were not stored in cool, dry conditions, there may have been some reduction in potential germination.

All that said, asparagus seeds are generally planted ¼-inch deep, kept at about 75 degrees F, and germinate in 10 to 12 days.

Have a good gardening year,