Seed Sense #9

Its week 4/5 BLF date.

Besides taking advantage of the 2 over 50 degree days we had and direct sowing Arugula, Radish and Carrots, have you checked the viability of your saved seeds yet?

What? You ask.  What is it and why should I?

Well, it is a germination credibility test for the seeds you or your friends saved from favorite plants.  Or just checking to make sure those old seed packets are still good.

Why should we check them?  A seed is a seed right?  Wrong.

There are many things that can go wrong with saved seed.

  1. The seeds may have been harvested at the wrong stage of a seed’s development.
  2. Seeds may have been stored incorrectly.
  3. Seeds are too old and past their viability stage. Many seeds are short lived.
  4. Seeds are from a sterile plant.
  5. The test will assist in determining how many to sow or start indoors.

Testing will save time and resources.

I have a bag of saved Zinnia seeds I harvested last Fall.  I simply cut off the dried flower heads and threw them in a paper  bag.  This Spring, I shredded them from the flower head and placed in a plastic baggy.  There is a lot of crap in with the mix.  It was a quick and lazy last minute thought for saving the seeds.   However, I have a bag full of stuff and I want more Zinnias.  So I’m going to test the viability before I fill any trays with soil to start the seeds.

Depending on what type of seed you are testing, you will need to determine if there are any pretreatment methods such as scarification, soaking, or stratification ( temperature cycling) that are required first.

If you want to get a germination percentage rate, you sort out a sample of 10 seeds to be used.

In my case, there is so much other crap in the bag, I am not certain which is a seed and which is a dried petal.  So I am using a sprinkling of whatever is there.

  • Wet and wring out a paper towel.
  • Place the seeds on the paper towel and fold over.
  • Spritz a bit with water and date.
  • Place in a plastic bag and wait.
  • Check periodically to make sure the seeds are still moist and if any have germinated.

Note: It is helpful to know what the average germination times are for each seed you are testing. ( If it is 5 – 14 days and after 14 days nothing has germinated, you might want to compost the seeds. )

  • After the maximum of recommended germination days, check and count  the sprouted seeds.
  • Multiply that number by 10 to come up with your percentage. If 4 seeds out of 10 germinated, you have a 40% germination rate.

At 40% germination rate, you will need to double the seeds you are starting or discard and start with fresher seeds.  Don’t discard the sprouted seeds though, plant them.

As for my Zinnias,  I just want to make sure my lazy method of harvesting will produce some results.  I’ll let you know in a week!