Testing seed germination

– Posted in: Garden chores, Recommended Links

My daughter Talitha, principal vegetable gardener for Purdyville, was wondering how to know if last year’s seed would be good for this year’s planting, or if she should order more. I suggested she do a germination test: put 10 seeds on a damp paper towel and enclose in a plastic bag. Put them in a warm place (our gas oven with the pilot light on works well) and see how many sprout. The results have been gratifying, and I think our seed order will cost less this year as a result.

Of course, vegetables are some of the easiest seeds to sprout. If you want to get an idea of how difficult some seeds are to germinate, read the Germination Topics at Gardens North, “an internationally respected Canadian seedhouse offering an eclectic collection of rare, hardy, perennial and woody seed, detailed germination instructions and an exemplary level of personal service,” as they describe themselves. I bet Lynda and Judy already know about this place, it’s truly for fanatics. I didn’t find a more specific definition of “hardy” on their website, but since their own grounds experience lows of -31 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a safe bet most of their offerings will be hardy for you as well.

But getting back to the reason for the germination test, I’d be interested to learn what criteria other gardeners use for culling their seed collection. Anyone who starts their own seeds for more than a year winds up with a collection of half-used packets, and a desire to order something different this year. Then what? Do they lay around and molder? Do you throw them out? I know what Rose does–she gives them to us! What do other gardeners do? Readers of this blog can click on the word “Comment” at the end of this post and share their solutions as well.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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