Teach, Save and Sow

by Cindy Pantea

old seed packets to germinate for viabilityOkay…you’ve come across some old seeds — in a drawer, in the garage, in a box — somewhere…and now you’re saying, “Oh gosh, I forgot about these.”

Well, don’t throw them away because you may be throwing out money! Some seeds can be viable up to five years!

Rather, grab some friends and/or family members and have some fun learning by performing a simple germination test.

Germination Test

gerninating seeds

Picture borrowed from HTG Supply Pennsylvania, a site which not only talks about germinating seeds using the paper towel method but also the glass method. Click on picture to go to site.

Follow these simple instructions for a germination test with a paper towel:

  1. Moisten a paper towel with tepid tap water, wringing out excess liquid.
  2. Lay dampened paper towl flat.
  3. Place 10 seeds on the the damp paper towel.
  4. Fold or roll the paper towel with seeds inside.
  5. Place rolled or folded paper towel with seeds in a plastic bag.
  6. Mark the plastic bag with seed type and date so you can keep track.
  7. Place in warm place. Hint: On top of your water heater is a nice spot.
  8. Check the seeds for sprouting every day (this allows air to circulate so mold doesn’t grow) and make sure that the paper towel is moist. Hint: If you need to dampen, a spray bottle of water works nicely.
  9. Optional: Track your results.

If the seeds do not sprout, it’s time to buy more seeds.

If they do sprout, you’ll want to do some math to figure out how viable the seeds actually are.The number determines how thickly you may have to sow them.

Seed Viability Math

Take the number of seedlings that germinate on your paper towel x 10 (the number of seeds you placed there) to get the percentage of viability. If you have at least 8 seedlings sprout, the math would be: 8 x 10, which equals 80 percent germination.

If you get at least 80 percent germination then you can more than likely sow as normal. Anything less than 80 percent, then you should probably prepare to sow your seeds thickly, by placing a large amount of seeds in one area, in order to generate a plant. Or make the decision to throw away the seeds completely.

Planting Your Germinated Seedlings

young seedling

“Young Plant” image courtesy of amenic181 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Click on picture to be taken to site.

You can and should, of course, plant your germinated seedlings.

You do this preferably when you begin to see the tiny leaves open and a root formed.

At this point, however, getting the seedling off the paper towel may become a challenge, but DO NOT PULL for risk of breaking off the root. Rather, tear the towel around the seedling and plant the piece of paper towel with the root, because the paper towel is biodegradable.

Side note: A paper towel is also compostable material. You can always put paper towels in your compost pile as long as they do not contain oils or soap residue.

More Science Experiments

If all this learning and growing makes you crave more, you should try out different processes while germinating and track the results. For example:

  • Put seeds on a moist paper towel that lines a foil pie pan. Leave the paper towel open, cover the pie in with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the wrap, and place under a light source. Compare this method with the process mentioned earlier in this post.
  • Try soaking the seeds and compare germination rates with seeds that are not soaked.
  • Try freezing seeds before germinating and compare with microwaving them.
  • Try starting off all seeds in a warm spot, but then take half the seeds and place in a cold area to see what the temperature change does.
  • Does it make a difference if you talk to your germinating plants? Do an experiment.

Let your imagination go and have fun. Let Keep Akron Beautiful know how your experiments turn out by commenting. Just click below on Leave a reply.