How To Test Saved Seeds


Like many gardeners, I like to save some of my seeds from year to year.  Whether it is an heirloom variety or something new, a simple germination test can tell you if you should order replacements.  Since your house is warm year round you can do the seed germination test before growing season to see if you need to buy more seed because not enough are sprouting.

  1. Moisten two or three layers of papers towels.
  2. Take about 25 to 50 seeds and place them on the towels and gently roll the towels loosely.(Or if have less than 250 seeds take 10% of what you have to do the test.)
  3. Place the paper towels in a plastic baggy.
  4. Keep the towels in a warm place such as your kitchen counter.
  5. Remember that different plant species have different germination times. Radishes generally germinate in 2 or 3 days, while peppers can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.
  6. Observe the seeds every other day to determine the degree of germination you'll likely get with the other seeds you took the sample from.

If your stored seeds perform poorly when tested, consider ordering replacements.  However, don't throw out the bad seeds if a few germinate.  When I plant my replacements, I then oversow the area with my saved seed.  That way any of the seeds that were still viable have a chance to be enjoyed.  Also, this will help mix the genetics if you are planning on saving these seeds too.  I've ended up with some unique varieties over the years using this technique (some better than others).  This also reminds me to remind you that saving seeds from hybrid plants is a bit of a gamble.  The offspring almost never resemble the parent plants because they are specially bred for just that particular generation / growing season.