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How to Prime a Vegetable Seed

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017
Grow healthy seedlings from primed seeds.
planting the seedlings image by starush from Fotolia.com

Priming helps improve germination rates with many different vegetable seeds. When you prime a vegetable seed, you are encouraging it to break dormancy quickly and to begin sprouting. Not all vegetables require this treatment. Those that normally germinate quickly, like radish and lettuce, do best when directly seeded without priming. Seeds that take longer to germinate, such as squash and corn, benefit the most from priming. Work out your planting schedule so you have time to prime the seeds the day prior to sowing.

Fill a bowl with hot water that is between 170 and 210 degrees F. Use distilled water, or fill the bowl with water two days before you plan to prime the seeds and let it sit uncovered on the counter. This allows any chlorine in the water to evaporate.

Place the seeds inside the hot water. Allow them to soak overnight or for up to 24 hours.

Prepare seed-planting pots while the seeds are priming. Fill the pots to within ΒΌ inch of the rim with a sterile potting mixture. Water the mixture until it is just moist.

Plant the primed seeds in the potting mix to a depth twice that of their width. If the seeds have begun to crack or sprout during soaking, plant them so that the crack or sprout is facing upward.

Place the pots in a warm, sunny windowsill and keep the soil moist at all times. Seedlings should emerge from the soil within a week.


Things You Will Need

  • Distilled water
  • Bowl
  • Seeds
  • Plant pots
  • Potting mixture


  • Chitting, or pre-sprouting, is another method of priming seeds. Seeds can be pre-sprouted in damp paper toweling inside a plastic bag. Be sure to plant the seeds as soon as growth appears so roots do not grow into the paper toweling.
  • Some seeds may require additional priming, such as having the seed coating sanded off on one side or scarified, which involves making an incision in the seed coat. Check the seed packet to see if this treatment is necessary.


  • Bean seeds rarely need to be soaked. These have a tendency to split but not germinate when soaked, leading to rotting.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.