It can be challenging to know how to nick a seed for planting. As Seeds are small and fragile, it’s hard to figure out how they work or what to do for them.

Nicking seeds involves removing the seed coat prior to planting. We can aid in the germination process by nicking seeds by removing the seed’s outer layer.

Through this process, water can easily penetrate the seed pelt and reach the seed embryo. Nicked seeds also have a higher rate of survival because their protective coating has been removed from around their delicate germ!

Below is a guide to explaining how to nick seeds, so you can start nicking!

What is Nick Seeding, And Why Should You Do It?

What Is Nick Seeding

Nick seeding is a technique by which you take a small amount of seed and cut it into pieces. These pieces are then mixed with sand and scattered over the ground to be sown for planting.

Nick seeding is perfect for those who do not have large quantities of seeds but still want a good return on their investment. It’s also a great way to distribute multiple varieties of the same plant.

In addition, it is a good way to have more control over spacing and weed management since you can simply take your hand and spread the pieces as evenly as possible.

Finally, it’s also a good thing because it could be very difficult for birds to find all the tiny pieces!

What Type of Seeds Can You Nick?

Especially useful for small seeds such as lettuce, carrots, spinach, and other greens. These are the ones that require a lot of attention and time to grow.

A problem with the larger seeds is that they often do not fit into a typical pruning machine. These are more difficult to nick since you must cut them manually or use an electric grinder, which can be quite expensive.

You can also nick slightly larger seeds like zucchini, cucumbers, and beans. However, in this case, they must be fresh and not ripe (or at least firm).

How to Nick the Seeds Correctly?

In the past, many gardeners have been frustrated when their seeds did not germinate, or they ended up with a poor stand. 

When you nick a seed at planting time, you are cutting off the top of the radicle end of the seed. This enables the plant to break dormancy and start germination.

There are three methods for nicking seeds: abrasive, knife, or scissors.

Abrasive Method

Abrasive Method

Sandpaper or sanding screen used dry is an effective nicking tool. It can be wrapped around a block of wood with the seed in the center and rubbed across the sandpaper to nick the seed.

You can also use an electric drill with a metal drill bit and wrap the seed in a heavy-duty emery cloth. The drill will also be effective because it doesn’t tear the end of the grain-like scissors or knives. You can nick about six seeds at a time.

Knife Method

A knife is another good way to nick your seeds for planting, but you must be careful not to cut too deeply into the kernel, so germination does not occur before winter storage.

If you plan on storing your seed overwinter in cold storage, abrasive nicking or sanding is best since it will do less damage to developing embryo root growth.

Scissors should NEVER be used when nicking seeds for planting! They will definitely do more damage than good.

Scissors Method

Using a pair of sharp scissors, choose a spot on the side of the seed about 1/8 inches from the end. Hold it in your left hand and use the tip of the scissor blade to nick through the hard outer coating of the seed by holding up pressure on one side and then rotating it around and cutting into that section again.

Repeat this action for each corner of that triangle. You can also just cut halfway through if you don’t want to bother with all steps and go straight for planting time!

Take care not to cut too deeply into the kernel, which will kill germination before winter storage, but remember, if it’s YOUR choice to store them over winter, this method should NOT be used!

You can also use a lighter to make a small hole in the seed instead of cutting it, but remember, if you do this, not to let the heat damage/kill the embryo within.

Even if a fire engulfs a seed and turns it into ash, it will still prevent germination before winter storage. When finished, make sure no embers remain!

You will need the following:

  • Seeds (of course)
  • A knife (preferably a sharp one)
  • Sandpaper (not needed if you use the drill and emery cloth method)
  • A lighter (if using the hole making method)

Related: What Are the Flowers on a Coleus Plant?

Nick Seeding: Things to Consider

Nick Seeding

1. Collect your seeds. Cut some sheets of paper (preferably white ones). The seeds are best planted when they are very fresh, so make sure that you plant them as soon as possible.

4. Fold the paper into halves, and then use it to line your pots or just place the seeds on it and fold it back again so that you can cover your seeds with it. Again, this is optional, but if you want to hasten seed germination, you should put some toilet paper on top of the seeds.

5. Place your seeds in a warm area, where they are sunny most of the time, but make sure that they do not get too much heat or sun exposure.

6. When you see some leaves growing on top of the paper, then remove them by cutting back and forth with your knife just an inch above the seed.

7. Keep the seeds warm, and water them every day.


So, there you have it! How to nick your seeds for planting. It is a simple process that just requires a bit of patience and some careful cutting.

As long as you keep an eye on your seeds and make sure they are getting the right amount of water and warmth, then you should see germination in no time!

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