In the Garden:
Middle South
January, 2014
Regional Report

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It's easy to figure out the germination percentage when you test seeds for viability in groups of 10.

Seed Germination Testing

Is your green thumb getting itchy? Scratch it a little by sorting through your saved seeds and germination testing the seeds from old packets. Then you'll know what new seeds you need to purchase for this year's garden.

Shelf Life of Seeds
When stored in a cool, dry place, seeds of several vegetables and many flowers will remain viable for up to five years. Cucumber, melon and spinach seeds are the longest keepers, while beans, peas, and members of the cabbage, squash and tomato families remain viable for about 3 years. It's best to start with fresh corn, onion, and parsley seeds each year since their germination rate is always very low after only one or two seasons in storage.

Testing
Before planting any seeds more than two years old, it's a good idea to check the germination rate of a small sample of seeds. The procedure is simple. Place 10 seeds on a damp paper towel, fold it so that the seeds are snug, and place the packet inside a sealed plastic bag. If more than half the seeds germinate within 5 to 7 days at room temperature, keep them for planting. While you can plant seeds with less viability more thickly to compensate, the best course of action is usually to just replace them with fresh seeds. With very tiny seeds, you may need to use a magnifying glass to look for the tiny slip of root that emerges from the seedcoat first.


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