"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away?"

Author: Unknown

Friday, February 19, 2010

Testing Seed Germination

    Have you ever saved seed for several years because you lost it or forgot about it? Then wondered if they were still good, or should you just toss em? Who wants to go through the effort of potting seeds up, and then wait, and wait, and..... well you know. If they dont come up, you wonder if they are bad seed, or if they need a cold period , or if there is something else wrong. It's very easy to check germination . If you want to figure a "germination rate", then simply check 10 seeds at once. Otherwise, use whatever amount you want.
Place your seeds on a paper towel or napkin .

Fold the napkin around the seeds.

Place napkin containing seeds into a ziplock baggy. Add a very tiny amount of water, just so the napkin soaks all of it up to moisten it only. You dont want any free floating water in your bag.  Now close the baggy and set in a warm place, such as on top of your refridgerator.  Check your seeds about every 3 days for about a week or two. If after two weeks you still do not see any germination, then place baggy in the fridge for a week, and then take back out and try again. If there is still no germination, then the seeds are probably bad.

Here is what a germinated seed will look like. You will see small whitish roots coming out. Now on the right of this shot, you see there are several seeds that have not germinated yet. I started with 10 seeds, 3 germinated, so that means I have 30% germination rate. Not great, especially if they were newly  bought. However, these were not. I saved these from some yellow apples we had eaten. During the first 2 weeks, I had no germination. then I placed them in the fridge for a week, then took the baggy out and placed it back on top of the fridge. Then this morning ( a week later) I opened up the bag, and found these 3 sprouts. I will pot these up later today.

This is a close-up of the germinated seed. You can click on any of these for a larger view. You can check any seed in this manner. There are some seeds that require special considerations to germinate. Some seeds require darkness to germinate, such as: Bachelor's Buttons, Butterfly Flower, Forget-me-not, Larkspur, Nemesia, Painted Tongue,  Phlox, Poppies, and Pansy.

Unlike seeds of annuals, some perennial seeds may require a cold period or stratification period. Some of these are:  Monkshood, Penny Black Nemophilia,Sage,and Lily of the valley. Winter sowing is an easy way to handle these guys.

Some seeds also require scarification or nicking  to help with germination. These are usually the big hard seeds such as Canna's, and Brugmansia among others. This involves taking a file and filing some of the hard black coat off in a small area , or by snipping a small piece off with toenail clippers. Just be careful what ever method you use, you dont want to hurt yourself if you slip. These coats can get rock hard.
A good helpful site on germination is located here: The Seed Site.

Try growing seeds from other store produce, such as cantelopes, watermelons, grapes, peppers, cucumbers etc. Just think of the fun your missing out on.


  1. I really loved what you did with the seeds. When I taught we used to do this with the children and they were so excited to see them sprout.

  2. Thank you. It was my 20 yo dd that wanted to try the apples. My kids are all grown, but this is something we have played around with for many years. its a great learning experience for kids.I still get excited over it,lol.

  3. Interesting! I use "wet napkin" method to prepare pea and some other seeds for planting.