Time to Test Your Seeds

January 22nd, 2015

Courtesy margaretroach.com

Courtesy margaretroach.com

By now, most of us are tired of winter, especially those eager to be outdoors and in the garden. While it may be too soon to start most vegetable plants indoors, one task you can do to chase away the winter blues is test seeds for germination.

Testing seeds is a great way to determine the rate of germination of seeds saved from the last growing season, or leftovers which you didn’t plant. Testing can eliminate lost time in the growing season if you know in advance that the seeds you have stored away are viable. According to Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, some stored seeds will last up to three years, while others are only good for one.

Testing the seeds is easy, and there are only three steps to the process, as laid out by the Extension Service.

1. Moisten some paper towel and place 10 evenly spaced seeds on it. Roll up the paper towel and place it inside a plastic bag.
2. Leave the bag in a warm location for two to five days, enough time for the seeds to geminate. 
3. After the allowable time, check for germination. If seeds have sprouted, chances are they will be fine to plant when the time is right. Seeds which haven’t sprouted should be discarded. 

“The percentage of seed germinating in the towel will give you a fairly good idea how the same seed will do in the garden,” Penhallegon advises. “If half the seed did well in the towel, half of the same batch of seed will probably do well in the garden.”

Examples of seeds that generally only can be stored for a year include sweet corn, parsnips, Swiss chard and spinach.  If you’re looking to store seed on a longer term basis, you’d want to look for varieties that include beans, carrots, cole crops, collards, squashes, tomatoes and turnips. When it comes to storing seeds, the Extension advises that it’s best to store them in a location with a cool temperature that hovers around 10C and has a constant humidity that is around 50%.


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