Monday, January 14, 2013

Testing Garden Seeds

Planting time is just around the corner, and if you're like us, you have seeds left from last season, the season before, or even the season before that.  You may be wondering if those "old" seeds are any good.

Today I set up some seed tests to find out about our seeds.  I gathered our old seeds...

and some paper towels, zippered sandwich bags (this is a good way to recycle/reuse them), a marker, and a spray bottle of water.

I laid out a paper towel and placed 10 seeds of the same variety on it.  I folded the towel and sprayed it with water.  It doesn't need to be soaking wet, but needs to be quite damp.

I sealed the wet towel and seeds in a zipper bag and labeled it with the seed variety, the seed company (so I know which packet I'm trying to germinate), today's date and how many days it should take for the seeds to germinate.  Except for the current date, all of this information was on the seed packet.

Once the packets are filled and labeled, I pinned them to my little "clothesline" strung above my south-facing kitchen window.  If I do more, I'll end up taping them to our south-facing back patio door.

If I keep the towels moist, within a few days to a week, the seeds should start to germinate.  When the appropriate number of days have passed, I'll count the seeds that have germinated in each packet of ten seeds.  If 7 or more seeds have germinated, the seeds are viable just as they are and should be planted spaced as directed on the original seed packet.  If 4 to 6 have germinated, I can still use them, but will probably want to plant with a heavy hand.  If 3 or fewer seeds have germinated, I will replace the seeds with newer ones.

Seed testing is a good way for us to save money by not buying new seeds if we don't need them.  On the other hand, it's a good way to save time by not having to replant seeds that were never going to germinate in the first place.

Do you test your old seeds before planting?
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