Seed Cleaning

Whitsett, NC(Zone 8a)

I know I've read instructions in the past year or so that gave specific cleaning instructions for morning glory seeds, but for the life of me can't find them anywhere! There was something about soaking in an alcohol or peroxide mix for a few minues . . . but searching DG or the net . . . can't find anything. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Hope your 4th was good!


Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

To clean seeds for storage, all you have to do is separate the seeds from the little tan husks. No need for anything else...they need to stay cool and dry.

When you plant the seeds, some folks soak them in a water/peroxide mixture for a little while to help with germination. It's not necessary, but it won't hurt them.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If you're worried about mold or fungus, get them really dry before putting them near other stored seeds.

If you're worried about bugs, park them in the freezer after drying, for more than 3 days.

The pre-sowing soak should be with very dilute peroxide. If you start with plain 3% peroxide from a drugstore, dilute it 1:32

One and a half teaspoons peroxide per cup of water, or
1 tsp peroxide per 5.3 ounces of water
1 ounce peroxide per Quart of water.

This is also suitable for watering seedlings or misting plants. It's 0.1% H2O2

Even for spraying sick or fungusy plants, 0.2% is str5ong enough: 2 ounces peroxide per Quart of water.

Mount Sterling, KY(Zone 6b)

Does anyone have a good, less painful method for separating echinacea seed from the stickers and chaf. Besides picking through them by hand, I have already had to pick those stickers out of my fingers OUCH!
I put the seed heads in a paper bag and shake them out, but I still get a lot of "trash" in with the seed. I have a LOT of seed to separate, I could use some clever ideas. Anybody got any help for me?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

It may be too late, but I try to get some seeds out with a minimum of shaking. The less I break up the seedheads, the less chaff I have. If I can collect 20% of the seeds without creating much chaff, that may be enough seed for my needs.

Then I can just throw away the remaining seedheads and chaff, or save them for my own sowing while I trade the clean seeds. Direct sowing with a lot of chaff remaining is OK: it lets me know where I have or haven't put seeds yet.

Which methods are you already familiar with?

Blowing or puffing away light chaff ("winnowing")

screening through kitchen strainers, spice jar lids, window screening, fine wire mesh, tulle or nylon mesh in an embroidery hoop

rolling seeds around on a plate or in a bowl, trying to get them to roll while the chaff stays put, then picking the less prickly ones up on a fingertip or blowing the chaff into your living room rug

picking seeds out with tweezers

Mount Sterling, KY(Zone 6b)

Thanks Rick for the suggestions. I have tried most of those ,except the tweezers. I tried using a screen but it let the chaff through too. The problem is that most anything that has holes large enough for the echinacea seed also lets the chaff go through it. I guess the trick is to find the right combination that is the most effective.
So how is the best way to get the seeds out with a minimum of shaking or pricking of fingers? Maybe that is what I am doing wrong.
I have a bunch of seed heads to be cleaned. And expect I will have more this fall. So I need to get it down pat, ASAP. My echinaceas take up a bed 3'x15'. I will be pulling them up like weeds before long. They are reseeding maniacs!
I had not thought of the nylon mesh and a embroidery hoop(items I have around here somewhere) that would work for some of the smaller seed.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Screening doesn't work well when the range of seed sizes overlaps with the size of much of the chaff. That's why I try to make as little chaff as possible.

If you have many sizes of screening (like 18 mesh, 20 mesh, 24 mesh etc) you can "enrich" the seeds but that's all. Kitchen strainers seem to be only two sizes: 18 mesh and 30 mesh. "18" is pretty coarse and "30" is fairly fine.

You can use whatever screens you have to get most of the remaining chaff to be near the size of the seeds. Once you completely give up further screening, dry it REALLY dry, like with desiccant (never heat) then PULVERIZE the remaining chaff to the smallest size you can. maybe now you can screen or puff a little more of it away from the seeds with a very fine screen.

If you have lots of seed heads from one variety, try to shake them ONLY VERY GENTLY and get some of the seeds out cleanly. Dry more, shake again slightly harder. As soon as you have "enough" seeds, stop shaking. The easiest way to get rid of chaff is to avoid creating it.

Practice on plants that drop seeds fairly easily. When you get plants that cling tightly to seeds, it is tough.

Maybe try to PULL those heads apart as delicately as you can, removing a pinch at a time of mostly-seeds and leaving behind as much as possible of tissue that would become chaff if you rubbed it.

With some kinds of salvia, I had to pick seeds one at a time with tweezers. At that point, even saved seeds become precious. Also, the idea of saving seeds with some dried chaff becomes attractive. Just save them DRY to discourage mold.

(P.S. If you save enough seeds, you'll eventually save some insect eggs. Some people add a pinch of diatomaceous earth (DE) and say that kills any that hatch. Others package the DRY, MATURE seeds inside double-bagged plastic and freeze it for a few days to kill insects and most eggs. But avoid condensation in the inner baggie! I like silica gel as a desiccant. Others used baked dry rice or powdered milk or oil-sorb.)

I haven't mastered the "puffing" method but people who do a lot of cleaning seem to manage. I tried puffing through a big soda-straw and just blew the entire contents out.

If you have a very steady, gentle breeze somewhere semi-sheltered, that might help. Doing it outdoors keeps the chaff and "oops" seeds out of the rug.

Maybe line a BIG box with newspaper or a plastic bag to catch the seeds that "blow away". Then pour seed + chaff from one small bowl to another, holding them over the big box. A gentle breeze may blow most of the chaff away while you catch most of the seeds in a bowl (or in the box if you miss).

I can't do that at all, but I do roll seeds + chaff around in a shallow bowl until mostly chaff is on one side, then I puff gently on the mostly-chaff and blow more of it out of the bowl than I blow seeds away. Or I puff and move only the chaff away from one spot. Then I can flick the mostly-chaff out of the bowl with a finger tip and keep working. Or I roll and then puff to get as many seeds as possible away from the chaff, and then puff to blow the mostly-chaff into my living room rug.

Large-scale people with big seeds (like edible crops) even set up a window fan and boxes or trays. They pour a thin stream of the threshed mixture through a fairly stiff breeze that blows the chaff and some seed quite far, while the heaviest seed falls down at a slight angle where 70-90% of it is caught.

You might try "settling" after screening as much as you can.. In some very narrow glass container (cordial glass? Tiny shot glass? Test tube?) very gently shake up and down your mixture. If the seeds are much denser than the chaff, they will TEND to settle to the bottom. Then you have to try to pour or scoop the light upper layer of mostly-chaff away from the lower layer of mostly-seed.

1. It helps if the chaff is very dry. Seeds stay a little heavy but dry chaff becomes almost weightless.

2. It is crucial to have mature seeds, aged and mostly dried "on the vine". If they were not fully mature when cut, they probably won't mature afterwards, so they won't have a heavy kernel, just a dry empty shell. Then, they are ALL chaff.

3. It is crucial to collect seeds from a non-sterile plant. Some hybrids are sterile besides "not coming true from seed".

4. It is crucial to have the seed heads well-pollinated, because pollinated flowers make no seed.

Since you do have lots of reseeding, you must have at least a moderate amount of viable, mature seeds.

Whitsett, NC(Zone 8a)

For morning glory seeds, it's really easy . . . (I know that's not the seeds you're asking about, but could work with adjustments) . . . I just pull the whole pod off. Once I've collected the pods, I kinda crush them by rolling between palms. What dried parts blow away, blow away. I put the seeds and pod parts into a strainer, and very carefully - like RickCorey_WA said - very gently take the hair dryer (on cool setting) on low and blow from the bottom - so the dry stuff flies out the top.

Works for me, anyway.

Mount Sterling, KY(Zone 6b)

Thanks RickCorey_WA,
That is a lot of good info. I 'll try them all! Something has got to work.
Syrumani- That is also good to know. I have done that with columbine, crushing the pod and blowing it away, it does take some practice, though. I had a lot of seeds flying around til I learned how hard to blow on the chaff.
I appreciate all the good advice! I will keep working at it.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

After you clean seeds indoors, be careful not to let your carpet get wet.

It may sprout and look like a Chia pet!

Mount Sterling, KY(Zone 6b)

That's Funny..Chia Pet!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I used to use plastic measuring spoons to divide up big seed packets and saved seeds.

However, I'm also clumsy, so I would get the spoon snagged on something and then SPROOOIIINNNGGG the seeds would catapult all over the living room.

If I ever shampoo that rug, I'll be indoor gardening whether I want to or not.

Now I have some stainless steel SMALL measuring spoons that are less springy. I really like them, especially the sizes like 1/32 tsp and 1/64th tsp.

Search Amazon for "small measuring spoons"


I like the "Norpro 3080" 5-spoon-set.

Mount Sterling, KY(Zone 6b)

Yeah, I need to find some small measuring spoons, about 4 sets, one for the kitchen,garage, greenhouse, and a spare in case I lose one of the others. I can't keep a full set cause my grandbabies like to play with all the cooking stuff! What can I say, It keeps them busy.
I will check those sites out, Thanks!

Post a Reply to this Thread

You cannot post until you , sign up and subscribe. to post.