Seed Viability Test

garden diaries, Uncategorized

Ever found an old package of seeds lying around, but you weren’t sure if they were still good.  Ever planted a package of seeds and they just never came up, and it was too late to order more and replant.  A seed viability test is simple to do, and uses things most people have lying around the house.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Paper towel
  • a zip lock bag
  • a label
  • a marker
  • a package of seeds
  • a little water
  • optionally 1 chamomile tea bag

If you have a chamomile tea bag lying around.  Brew a weak tea and let it cool to use in place of water.  This will help kill bacteria and fungus, and is especially helpful with seeds that take a long time to germinate like pepper seeds.

Take a portion of the seeds, you decide how many you want to sacrifice, it should be enough to give the test a fare chance, but if you only have so many seeds you may want to use less.  In my case I had a full package of kale seeds so I used approximately 55 seeds.

seeds viability kale(G)

In my other package I only had a few so I used 4 seeds,

seeds viability new zealand spinach(G)

but I might run the risk that somehow these 4 were all duds and the rest of the package was fine, but the chances are pretty slim that it is the case.

Place the seeds in the center of the sheet of paper towel, fold it into a rectangle and wet it.

seed viability2(G)Place the wet paper towel containing the seeds into a ziplock bag and close it.  Label it with the type of seeds and the date.seed viability(G)

seed viability new zealand spinach2(G)

That’s it, usually in a matter of a few days, in my case with the kale it was 4 days, but some seeds may take a little longer than others, I had my sprouted seeds.

seed viability3(G)

50 out of my 55 seeds germinated, that is 90.91%.

seed viability4(G)

So now I know I don’t have to buy any more Dwarf Kale seeds this year, I can spend my money on other seeds instead.  It took very little effort on my part but year after year the saving add up.  It is also a great project for little children.  They will need very little assistance in doing it for themselves and will in return get great joy out of seeing whether their seeds grow or not, and you can teach them about percentages in a very tangible way. Also if I really wanted to and the seeds were precious I could plant these sprouted little seeds in some dirt and allow them to continue to grow.

This is especially helpful with pepper seeds.  They can be so unpredictable with how long they take to come up.  I usually say when you are ready to give them up for dead, they will come up and surprise you.  You can use this method to speed up the process, and guarantee the seeds you plant will grow.  When they have just begun to break forth from their little seed shells plant and cover them with 1/4 to 1/2 an inch of soil, and water.  You can continue using a weak solution of tea to water every once in a while to continue to fight fungus, and disease.

So go ahead grab a package of old seed and try this seed viability test on them.  You will never have to look at  that old package of seeds with mystery and apprehension again.

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2 thoughts on “Seed Viability Test

  1. This was very helpful. I have never done this at all, and, yes, have thrown away many seeds thinking they were too old. Not any more. Thanks for this info.

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