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Seed Germination Tests

If you save seeds to grow next year, it is important to know, that they will sprout in the spring when you want them to. Whether it is seed you saved, or those received from a gardening friend, make sure to do a germination test sometime before spring planting time. If they are not going to sprout, or if the germination rate is low, it's best to know now.

Performing a seed germination test is easy. It is a fun activity to do in the middle of winter. If done in January or February, it offers a gardening activity to help make the winter go by just a little bit quicker.

We've got two methods for you to try. Both are simple and easy. Are you ready? Good, read on....

Sprouting in a Baggie

  • Moisten a paper towel.

  • Drain off excess water.

  • Place a few seeds on the wet towel. Make sure to record how many seeds you are testing.

  • Fold towel in half over seeds.

  • Press, but don't squeeze the paper towel, so it is firmly in contact with the seed.

  • Place the paper towel and seeds in a baggie and seal it.

  • Place the baggie in a warm place.

  • After several days, check to see if they have sprouted.

  • Count the seedlings that sprouted and calculate the percentage that sprouted out of the total tested. This is the expected germination rate.

The Old Fashioned Way

  • Plant some seed in a pot. Make sure to record how many you are testing.

  • Add water to moisten the soil.

  • Place pots in a warm location in your house or on germination mats.

  • After they sprout, count the seeds that sprouted and calculate the percentage that sprouted of the total.

Note: You will find the baggie method is the easiest by far, and my personal choice for seed tests. But, the old fashioned way is definitely the most rewarding. And, if tested in pots, you may try to grow the plants indoors for a while, or all winter!

Seed Germination Rates

Germination rates are simply the percentage of seedlings that sprout. If you test ten seeds and nine seedlings sprout, the germination rate is 90%.

You can still plant seed with a low germination test. To get the number of plants you want to grow, you will need to plant more seeds, accounting for the percentage that will likely not sprout.

For example, if you want to have 10 plants, and the germination rate is a low 70%:

Calculation: Number of plants desired divided by the germination rate equals the number of seeds to plant

  10 / .7 = 14.28  Therefore, plant 15 seeds.

How many Seeds to Test

Ideally, you should test 10 to 20 seeds of each kind that your save.  If you have a lot of seeds, test more. If your supply is limited, test as few as five.

Tip: If you only have a one or two prized seeds, it is no practical to test any of them. .


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