February 11, 2010

Testing For Seed Viability

My seed orders have been sent off, and my saved seeds are safely stashed away. In going through my seeds though, I discovered that I had some old seeds tucked away, collected from several years ago. I'd forgotten all about them.

Still, I wondered if the seeds (echinacea, marigold, and leek) were viable and decided to test them.

Testing echinacea seeds for viabilityI placed ten seeds (echinacea in the above photo) on three layers of damp paper towel.

I rolled the paper towel up and then rolled that in an old wet wash cloth.

This was placed in a plastic bag and labeled. I set it aside in a warm place.

Sprouted leek seedsAfter three days I took a peek. The leek seeds (above) had sprouted, six of them, giving me a 60% germination rate. The echinacea and marigolds hadn't sprouted, but not to worry. Echinacea takes a good 10 to 12 days anyway. [It should be noted that after several days I did remove the damp rag, as it was beginning not to smell so good. The seeds remained moist in the damp paper towels.]

Unfortunately, even after more than two weeks, neither the echinacea nor marigold seed had sprouted. The marigolds were labeled 2007, so that wasn't a surprise. I'm not sure how old the echinacea seed is, probably about the same. Obviously it needs to be replaced.

Happily, my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalogue just arrived in the mail! Now I can do a supplemental seed order to pick up anything I missed previously, including replacing my dead seeds. :)

Testing For Seed Viability text and photos copyright 11 February 2010 


Theresa said...

Great! I love leeks! Too bad on the marigolds. Were they some special variety?
Oh, it's chicken day tomorrow isn't it? How fun!!!
If there was a bird I could free range and just feed I'd have it. Until then, Gene's motto is fowl are foul. sigh...

bspinner said...

Wonderful!!! I love leek soup. So nice to see something growing instead of all this snow.

Renee Nefe said...

cool! can't wait to see all your lovely crops.

Leigh said...

Theresa, I'm not sure about the marigolds, the seeds were just picked from our apartment driveway. I've never grown leeks before, so this will be a first.

Yes, chick day is Friday! If Dan was against having chickens, we wouldn't have them either. We agreed that we both need to agree on anything we undertake here. Otherwise we don't do it.

Barb, do you have a recipe for that soup???

Thanks Renee. Peas will go in as soon as the ground is dry enough to till!

Julie said...

I have several packets of seeds that I purchased last spring and didn't get planted. I will try this and see if mine sprout.

Woolly Bits said...

I just sent out my seed order today (I know, rather late:(() - and I can only hope that some of my seeds will grow despite not being superfresh. I had not time to check viability anymore:(( I think I remember though, that Echinacea have better germination when fresh... still, I am looking forward to green seedlings again very soon:)) in the meantime it's cress, alfalfa and mung beans in my sprouting jars!

Benita said...

I always wondered how long seeds last. Hmmm... Maybe I ought to test some of mine just to be sure.

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

If it's the same Bakers Heirloom Seeds there just about thirty miles away from the Ponderosa. I save seeds but have never tested them like that. Good idea!

God bless and have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!!

maggie said...

ooooh... I need to test my seed stock too.*sigh* And pull out the seed shelf. And lights. And a crazy scheme that just might work to keep the cats and dogs out of my seed trays for once.

Leigh said...

Julie, I've got my fingers crossed for you!

Bettina, I didn't realize that about the echinacea seed, but my experiment obviously supports that. What I'd really like to get is echinacea augustifolia rather than e. pupurea, which is the most common. I've only seen one place that carries those, so I may have to make a special order.

Nezzy, lucky you! What fun. I would love to live that close to them.

Maggie, *lol. How true, how true. Getting my seed starting set-up ready is one of the next things to my gardening to-do list.

Woolly Bits said...

Leigh, if you're looking for medicinal herbs (in the widest sense) you can't get better than here: http://www.horizonherbs.com

this is a family business with excellent quality seeds and plants. I had about 95 % of germination from them, ie. only one single plant,notoriously dificult, didn't germinate! they never sell old stuff and have a very wide choice (they even do dye plants:)). and in case, this wasn't the one you meant - they do offer e. angustifolia!

Leigh said...

Bettina, I love Horizon Herbs! In fact I have a link to them in my sidebar (Gardening Links.) Seeds of Change is the other place I've seen e. augustifolia seed. It takes some special treatment to plant though, but still, it will be worth it.