Winter can be a fun time of year for gardeners. We get to browse seed catalogs and websites and dream of bountiful gardens without inconvenient truths like digging or weeding. As you're taking inventory of your seeds and have leftovers from past seasons, how do you know if they'll still sprout? Seeds age, and as they do, their germination rates decline. One thing you can do is look at the date on the seed pack. To quickly give you an idea of whether seeds are worth hanging onto and planting. But what if you don't know that date? Maybe you lost the original pack or got the seeds from a friend. There's a way you can check to see if your seeds are still viable with a germination test. In this article and video, I show you how to do a Germination Test: so you know if Your Old Seeds Still Good?
Why you Should Test Germination
As years go by your seeds age, the germination rate declines. Depending on the type of seed, their age, and storage conditions, seeds can last from one to 10 years, sometimes much longer. To find out if the seeds are still viable, it is best to perform a germination test. It’s easy, inexpensive and It’s also a nice way to bring some nature indoors.
Seed Packet Information
Seed packets typically state the planting year that the seeds were packaged for as well as the germination rate. Unfortunately, seeds that you received from a friend or seed swap usually have no date on them and it's unlikely they were tester for were germination rate.
Performing The Germination Test
First, take a paper towel and moisten it with a spray bottle. Place 10 of the seeds to be tested onto the paper towel, then carefully fold the wet paper towel over the seeds. Insert the paper towel and seeds in a plastic bag, seal it, and label the bag with the variety and the date.
Place the plastic bag in a warm environment. I like to place ours on a seed heating pad. After a few days, begin to check the seeds daily. Depending on the variety you are testing, the viable seeds could sprout in just a few days. Some varieties may take up to several weeks. This is where patience comes in. Typically jalapeno peppers are one of the longer seeds to sprout for us.
If nothing happens after waiting the appropriate length of time, you know the seeds are no good.
Calculating the Germination Rate
Testing with exactly 10 seeds makes the math really easy. With nine out of 10 seeds sprouting, the germination rate is 90 percent. If you test with more or fewer seeds simply divide the number of seeds that germinated by the number you planted. If you only have a 50% germination rate you can double up the number of seeds you plant. With less than 50% you will want to consider planting early in case you have to replant. The other option, of course, is to buy new seeds.
You can do the germination test at any time of the year. However, if your tested seeds have sprouted at their planting time, you can move them into pots or the garden. If you're ready to start your seedlings be sure to find out THE 5 MUST-HAVE SUPPLIES FOR STARTING SEEDS SUCCESSFULLY.
If you’re not sure of the benefits of starting your own seeds be sure to read: The Benefits of Growing Your Own Seedlings.