Monday, May 15, 2017

Seed Germination Test

Earlier this spring I went through a bunch of our old seed.  Even though we store our seed in the refrigerator, many types of seed will not germinate after several years.  Rather than waste a lot of time and energy planting something that would not come up, I did a germination test.  

A seed germination test is easy, only takes three to four days and might save you some time and garden space.  So, here's how to do it.

First wet a paper towel and fold it in half.  Then, lay 10 seed on it.

Beginning at one end, carefully roll the towel up.  If you germinate more than one type of seed at a time, be sure to label them.  I just used some plant ID stakes I had available.

You will have a roll, like this.

In this test, I was germinating a type of gourd that is edible when it is young, commonly referred to as "climbing okra", Blue Bonnet seeds, and Hyacinth Beans that are grown more for the flowers they produce than for their beans.

Place the seed rolls in a plastic bag.  Leave it on your kitchen counter for 3 to 4 days. 

After a few days, unroll them and see if any of the seeds are starting to sprout.  If not, then roll up for another day or two.  If after a week, there is no sign of life, then you can assume that the seeds are "dead" and discard them.

When I opened the climbing okra roll, this is what I found.

As you can see, seven of the seeds have small sprouts beginning to form.  Therefore, I could assume that for every 10 seed I planted, 7 of them would produce plants.  Hence, this batch of seeds has a 70% germination rate.

Rather than waste the sprouted seed, I went ahead and planted them.  Because they were already germinating when planted, they came up quickly.  I only had room for a few of these plants, so 7 was plenty.  But, if I were going to plant a whole row of them, then I would have known to plant 30% more seed in order to get the desired number of plants.

So, before you throw out old seed, take a few days to do a germination test.  You might be surprised at the results.

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