Edmonton Native Plant Society
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Advanced Seed Cleaning Techniques
by Cherry Dodd on November 4th, 2010

So, the cold weather has been here for a while. You've repotted all your indoor plants and cleaned all your seeds too, but you just want to play with plants some more. If this sounds like you, you might enjoy experimenting with these advanced seed cleaning techniques.

The first one is easy if you can find a very fine mesh sieve. Tea strainers are often made from a fine mesh. Once you have found a suitable sieve you can run all your seeds through it in small batches. The seeds will be left behind in the sieve, but all the dust will fall through. It's amazing how much easier it is to see the seeds once the dust is gone! This method will work for all seeds except the really tiny ones. Look at the seeds while they are in the sieve. The remaining chaff  tends to stay on top as it's lighter, and sometimes it's easy to just pinch off most of the chaff as you process each batch of seeds.

The next method, which will take out most of those final bits of chaff, is a little more complicated and involves a form of winnowing. In this case your breath provides the wind power. Cover the table with a layer of newspapers and find a dinner plate that has a small rim. You can also use a metal pie plate. Put the seeds to be cleaned onto the plate, and hold it over the table at about chin or mouth level. Gently blow across the plate (not into it), and the chaff, being lighter, will fly over the rim while the seeds are left behind on the plate. It helps to gently stir the seeds at the same time. This method takes quite a bit of practice and can't be used with very fine, light seeds. The first time I tried it I ended up with most of the seeds on the table along with the chaff! In time I became more accomplished, and so will you. You won't get rid of 100% of the chaff - you need a professional seed cleaning kit for that; but the results will be good.

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