Simple Seed Germination Test

Simple Seed Germination Test | Grow a Good Life
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As I eagerly wait for spring, and the stores begin to roll out their seed starting supplies, I find myself drawn to the seed displays. Before I know it, I usually have a few packages in my hands to purchase. Sometimes I arrive home to discover that I have duplicate seed packages.

Luckily, depending on how the seeds are stored, most seeds can last several seasons or more. They do lose potency over time and will have a decreased germination rate the older they are. Some seeds like onion, parsnip, parsley, and chives are not likely to sprout a second year. Even if they do germinate, they may not have the vigor to produce healthy plants like when they were new. When in doubt, it is best to purchase fresh seeds rather than jeopardize your crop’s success.

Fedco’s Seed Viability Chart will give you a general idea how long seeds will last. Use this chart as a guideline because I have experienced onion seeds still sprouting after three years and lettuce seeds only lasting over one year. It all depends on the quality of seeds and how they are stored.

Simple Seed Germination Test

Before you throw those old seed packages away, test them to see if they are still viable using this simple germination test.

Simple Seed Germination Test | Grow a Good LifeMaterials:

Paper towel cut in half
Zipper bag
Seeds
Water
Marking pen

Procedure:

Simple Seed Germination Test | Grow a Good Life

1. Moisten a paper towel and squeeze out excess water. The towel should be damp, but not dripping wet.

2. Spread the damp paper towel out on a clean surface and fold in half.

3. Select at least ten seeds from the package you are testing.

4. Spread the seeds out on one-half of the towel, so they are not touching.

Simple Seed Germination Test | Grow a Good Life

5. Fold the towel in half sandwiching the seeds between the two layers. Press down gently to make sure seeds come in contact with the damp paper towel.

6. Place the paper towel and seeds in a zipper bag and seal it to keep it from drying out.

7. Mark the bag with the date and variety of seed. Place the zipper bag in a warm place away from direct sunlight.

8. Every three days, check to see if the seeds have sprouted. Re-moisten the paper towel if it dries out.

After the predicted germination period, count the seeds that successfully sprouted and calculate the percentage that germinated out of the total tested. Example: if 9 out of 10 seeds sprout, you have 90% germination rate.

If the germination is greater than five sprouted seeds (50% percent) I will use the seeds knowing that I will have to pre-sprout the seeds or sow a little heavier to make up for the lower germination rate.

Seeds that do germinate are planted so I can observe the seedlings as they grow. If the plants are slow to grow or not healthy looking, I will throw them out and buy a fresh package. I want my seedlings to have the best shot at success.

After this simple, quick test, you will know if you need to buy new seed because the leftover seed will not sprout, or if you need to plant heavier to make up for the reduced viability.

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30 thoughts on “Simple Seed Germination Test

  1. daphnegould

    I should do this with my carrot seeds. But I rarely ever do. I tend to use the new packets as I don’t trust carrots. It just takes so long to get them up in the spring if they aren’t viable I’m so not happy. And strangely both packets of my three year old onion seed germinated very well. I was so shocked. Onion seeds aren’t supposed to last.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Post author

      Daphne, I agree with you on the carrots. Even after testing the seeds and finding them viable, I still have problems getting them to all sprout in the garden. I was shocked by the onions too. In the past, I ended up with way too many onions because I felt the need to plant all the seed I had on hand or it would go bad.

      Reply
  2. Thomas

    I have to admit that I’ve never been good about doing this. Which is probably why I get frustrated when seeds don’t germinate! LOL. However, I do pre-sprout a few veggies in paper towels like Artichokes or any other temperamental veggie to start from seed. There’s nothing more frustrating then having only 50% of your soil blocks or cells germinate.

    Reply
    1. Grow A Good Life

      Thomas, I like to know if my seed will sprout before placing my seed order. One year I ran around town looking for Anaheim Pepper seeds when my stash failed to germinate. I ended up with a brand that I wouldn’t normally buy. I also pre-sprout most of my other seeds too then move them to waiting soil blocks. It does help to eliminate the empty blocks in the tray.

      Reply
  3. Monica

    This is such a great idea! I just found some seeds I had held back and didn’t use last year. I was wondering if they would still be good. I guess now I can find out!

    Reply
  4. Marla

    Thanks for the tips – I have some seeds and I am not sure how old they are so now I can test them to see if they are still plantable. Visiting from Simple Homestead blog hop

    Reply
  5. amanda

    Great tips! I just planted some pepper seeds over the weekend that are 3 years old. I’ll have to do this sprouting method to see if my lettuce seeds are still good! Thank you for sharing with us at Merry Monday!

    Reply
  6. Lynda Hardy

    I’m excited by this tutorial – I have so many seed packets I’m unsure of! Thanks so much for linking up to Awesome Life Friday – I hope we’ll see you again this week!

    Reply
  7. jesthepilgrim

    Good morning! Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays last week! This post has been *featured* today on our blog. We would love for you to share again this week! Happy Monday to you! 🙂

    Reply
  8. JES the Pilgrim

    Hello there and Good morning! Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays last week! This post has been *featured* today on our blog. We would love for you to share again this week! Happy Monday to you! 🙂

    Reply
  9. Deborah

    Nice tips. I usually just plant a few of each inside in containers during the winter to make sure they will be good. It’s kind of nice to have a mini garden inside during the winter.

    Reply
  10. earthzenmama

    I am doing his to presprout some seeds. I tried planting seeds and placing them in my greenhouse (dirt year for that) and many haven’t spriuted yet, 14 days later. I am trying to presprout with this method for tomatoes, pepper, and cilantro. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    1. ©Rachel Arsenault Post author

      Anna, Yes, you can. It is a good idea to plant and observe the seedlings as they grow. If the plants are slow to grow or not healthy looking, I will buy a fresh package of seeds. I want my seedlings to have the best shot at success. I also use a similar method pre-sprout a lot of my seeds before planting: http://growagoodlife.com/presprouting-seeds/. This saves some time and you only plant the seeds that sprout.

      Reply

Thank you so much for your comments. I love hearing from you!