Your Old Seeds: Will They Grow? - gardenstead Skip to content

Your Old Seeds: Will They Grow?

Got seeds? Got old seeds? 

And wondering if you should plant them this year? 

Do a simple germination test. 

If you grow from seed, you’ll know how easy it is to accumulate packs and packs of seeds. Us gardening addicts often do a new order (or two, or three!) each year and those seemingly tiny packs of seeds start to accumulate a lot of space. Plant some old ones but before you waste your time and energy in planting old seeds, check to see if the seeds are viable using the straightforward steps below:

1. Moisten a thick paper towel with water so that it is damp, not soaking wet. 

2. Place 10 seeds* on one half of the paper towel and fold in half. 

3. Place in a plastic bag but do not seal up the bag – air flow is needed!

4. Put somewhere warm and check daily, re-dampen the paper towel if it is getting dry. 

5. Try not to peek until a couple days go by, most seeds will germinate around 5 to 10 days (different types of seeds germinate at different times, if the seeds are in their original package, it should state the approx. germination time) 

*Why 10 seeds?
I like to use 10 seeds because it makes for easy math. Therefore, if 4 out of 10 seeds germinate, that means the germination rate is 40%. For example, that means if you planted 10 radish seeds in the ground, only four would grow. 

How can you tell if they germinated?

If nothing sprouts and the seed looks exactly the same as when you started this experiment that means it didn’t germinate. 

(Note: I think the sprout is called a “hypocotyl.” But I’m not a scientist! Any botanists reading this?! Hit me up!)

The image above is an example of seeds that have all sprouted. On the left are peas and on the right, with pink and yellow sprouts, are two different types of beets. 

To Plant or Not to Plant?

If the germination rate is low, 50% or lower, consider buying new seeds or pre-sprouting the whole pack and only planting the seeds that have sprouted. This decision is completely up to you! 

Trust your instincts. Always! 

Any questions? Comment below!

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