Seed Germination Testing at Home

Are you saving your own seed and wonder if they are viable? Or, do you have seeds stored from one year to the next and wonder if you need to save or purchase more? Here is how you can test for germination using household supplies!

You will need to reference this Guideline sheet for specific crops: Specific Guidelines for Home Germination

Germination Testing at Home: Small Seed

Materials:

  • flat-bottomed Tupperware container with lid OR sealed quart-size, plastic bag & small plate
  • 2 unbleached coffee filters
  • spray bottle with filtered water
  • 50 seeds
  • tweezers (optional)
  • popsicle sticks and pencil
  • masking tape

Process:

  1. Prepare labels for your seed test by writing the seed variety name, number of seeds in your test, and the date (that you are beginning the test) in pencil on a popsicle stick.  You can reuse your popsicle stick for future tests by erasing this information and updating it.

EXAMPLE OF TEST LABEL TEXT (what you would write on your popsicle stick)

Lettuce – variety: Kalura

Test started on: August 21, 2017

# of seeds: 50 seeds

# of germinated seeds each day: 20 + 17 + 8

# of germinated seeds at end of test: 45

2. Soak the coffee filters in filtered water.  They should be dripping with water.

3. See “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test” to determine whether seeds go between coffee filters or on top of a stack of two coffee filters.  Place wet coffee filters on a plate or Tupperware container, then place seeds evenly apart on coffee filter (tweezers can be helpful).  *The important thing is to lay seeds out in an organized fashion so that no seeds touch one another.  We suggest a 5×10 grid of seeds if space allows.

4. Cover seeds with Tupperware lid, or gently place plate in a sealed plastic bag (Ziploc is advised).  Tape popsicle stick label to plastic bag/Tupperware (tape the popsicle stick in a place where it will not interrupt the growth of the seeds).

5. Place seed test in temperature-appropriate conditions (see “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test”).  Each day check the coffee filter to ensure that it has not dried out.  If it has, gently moisten it with a spray bottle.  Reference “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test” to determine when you should begin checking the seeds to see if they have germinated.  Once seeds have sprouted remove them from your test, but record the number of newly sprouted seeds on the back of your popsicle stick.

6. Reference “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test” to determine when to end your germination test.  When it is finished, calculate the germination rate by totaling the number of seeds that had germinated during the test.  Divide this number by 50 and multiply by 100 percent.

 

Germination Testing at Home: Larger Seed (Cucumbers, Squash, Beans, Peas, Melon &Corn)

 Materials:

  • sealed quart-size, plastic bag
  • 2 rubber bands
  • small, flat-bottomed dish (mug = fine)
  • 1 grocery brown paper bag
  • scissors
  • 50 seeds, if possible
  • popsicle stick and pencil
  • spray bottle with filtered water

 

Process:

  1.  Prepare labels for your seed test by writing the seed variety name, number of seeds in your test, and the date (that you are beginning the test) in pencil on a popsicle stick.  You can reuse your popsicle stick for future tests by erasing this information and updating it.

EXAMPLE OF SEED LABEL TEXT

Beans– variety: Provider

Test started on: August 21, 2017

# of seeds: 50 seeds

# of germinated seeds each day: 20 + 17 + 8

# of germinated seeds at end of test: 45

 

  1. Cut front and back panel out of brown paper bag, ending up with two distinct pieces, each approximately 1’x1.5’
  2. Soak brown paper bag sheets in filtered water, one at a time.  Moisten so that they are dripping.  Lay them on a flat surface, one on top of the other.  Fold the top one down in half, so that the bottom is three layers deep and the top is one layer deep.
  3. Place seeds on the top (single) layer in a 5 x 10 grid.  *The important thing is to lay seeds out in an organized fashion so that no seeds touch one another.
  4. Fold bottom up over the top so that there are now 3 layers of brown paper bag covering the seeds.
  5. Gently roll brown paper bag from left to right – don’t wrap it tight, as the seeds need room to sprout.  The final product should resemble a loose cigar.  The top should have four layers of paper, but the bottom should be the folded end to prevent seeds from falling out.  Wrap one rubber band (not too tight!) around the “cigar” and place upright in a plastic bag.  Place your popsicle stick label on top of the plastic bag and wrap another rubber band (still not too tight) around the entire thing and place upright in a small dish or mug in a safe place (reference “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test” to determine temperature-appropriate conditions for the specific seed type). Each day check the “cigar” to ensure that it has not dried out.  If it has, gently moisten it with a spray bottle.
  6.  Reference “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test” to determine when to begin checking on seeds.  Once seeds have sprouted remove them from your test, but record the number of newly sprouted seeds on the back of your popsicle stick.  When you have finished this, spray the seeds to rehydrate if the brown bag seems dry.  Repeat step number 6 to fold up the test and place in a safe spot to allow seeds to continue to germinate.  Once you begin checking on the seeds, continue doing so every day or every-other day until the conclusion of your test (as determined by Reference “Specific Guidelines by Seed Type for Home Germination Test”).
  7. When your germination test is finished, calculate the germination rate by totaling the number of seeds that had germinated during the test.  Divide this number by 50 and multiply by 100 percent.