Sunday, January 2, 2011

Testing Some Seeds and Getting Ready to Plan the 2011 Garden

The holidays are such a busy time for most of us. This year was no exception. I am looking forward to a slower pace so that I can sit down and begin planning the garden for 2011. I miss watching things grow, tending to the garden, and eating fresh veggies.

Earlier in December, I set up my seed growing area and planted some seeds under the lights. I wanted to test the viability of some older seeds and I was hoping to grow some lettuce, spinach, and some herbs for a few fresh greens. They sprouted and are growing:





Onion seeds are usually viable for only one year. I hate to waste seeds, so I am testing my one-year-old onion seeds using moistened paper towels in zipper bag.

Onion Seeds on Wet Paper Towel

This paper towel method can be used to test germination of most seeds:
  • Moisten a paper towel.
  • Squeeze to remove excess water.
  • Place 10 seeds on the wet towel.
  • Fold towel in half over seeds.
  • Press down to make sure seeds touch the moistened paper towel.
  • Place the paper towel and seeds in a zipper bag and seal it.
  • Place the zipper bag in a warm place.
  • Check to see if the seeds have sprouted each day, re-moisten paper towel if it dries out.
  • Count the seeds that sprouted and calculate the percentage that sprouted out of the total tested. Example: if 9 out of 10 seeds sprout, you have 90% germination rate.

If the germination is greater than 5 sprouted seeds (50% percent) I will use them knowing that I will have to sow a little heavier to make of for the reduced viability. I also want to observe seedlings as they grow. If they are not healthy looking, I will throw them out and buy a fresh package of seeds. I want my seedlings to have the best shot at success.

Seeds that do germinate can be planted. Just be sure to not tear the tender roots. If the root has grown into the paper towel, I just tear carefully around it and plant it paper towel and all.

The garden planning has begun. There are many seed catalogs arriving in the mail lately. Some from companies that I have never heard of and probably won’t order from, but it is fun to flip through the pages. I am also looking forward to reading about your 2011 garden plans.


  1. I've done germination testing in the past, but didn't at all this year. Anything that was suspect was bought. I'll probably end up testing before sowing though. Nothing is worse than not having your seed come up.

  2. I saved myself a lot of trouble last year by using this method of testing the seeds. I'm notorious for saving packets of seeds for years and years, but sometimes it just isn't worth it.

  3. So great to get going again, isn't it? I've been planning and reading seed catalogs today, it is heavenly! Happy New Year!

  4. Oh good I'm not the only one starting seeds ;-)

  5. Oooh, testing out seeds is such a good idea!

  6. I use this method too and even just jump start seeds this way - doing the papertowel germination until they just emerge and then planting them (carefully so as not to break the emerging plant/root). It's a great way to get young seedlings on a really good start - particularly medium to larger sized seed items.

  7. I've never tested my seeds! That's a good idea - takes out the guesswork. I'm still using mine from 2008 LOL. I think I'll run some experiments today on them :) .

  8. Happy New Year, GrafixMuse! I just got my year-end report from Wordpress with blog statistics for 2010 and learned that your blog is one of the top five sources of visitors to my blog. Thank you! -Jean

  9. I like your paper towel testing for the seeds. It looks very practical and easy. I need to try that on some of my older seeds. Thanks for posting.

  10. Daphne: I am really hoping to get another year out of my onion seeds. I hate to waste them.

    Granny: I had some lettuce seed mix that is rather old. The only thing that germinated was the arugula. This is ok if I want to grow arugula, but not so great if I was expecting a nice mesculun mix. At least now I know what to expect.

    Henbogle: It IS great to be growing something and planning is fun for me. I’ve been enjoying looking through seed catalogs and plotting things out too.

    Liisa: It’s early for Maine, but I like seeing things sprout. Reminds me that spring will be here eventually.

    Laura: I tried germinating tomato and pepper seeds using a damp paper towel. I liked it. Every seed that germinated grew once transplanted.

    Crystabel: I tend to hang on to seed packages for a while too. It’s a good way to test to see if any are viable before throwing them out.

    Jean: That is wonderful!

    Sande: Your welcome! I find it works very well.

  11. Your photos make me want to get planting!