How to Figure Out If Old Seeds Will Grow — Germination Test

Oh my! You have a cobweb in your hair. Were you digging around in the dark recesses of the basement again?

I see. Oh, look what you found! Some old seed packets from another year of over zealous gardening.

Will they grow?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. Give it a whirl.

Here’s how:

We will use the example of corn for two reasons.

1. Corn seed looses it’s viability quickly. So it can always use pre-sprouting anyway.

2. I passed on some old corn seeds to my son’s 1st grade class for a little hands on math and science project.

Okay, let’s begin.

Most large seeds appreciate an overnight soak to plump them up and get them ready for sprouting. I just dump them in a mason jar and cover them with water. They will really suck it up and expand so don’t fill your jar more than 1/3 full of seeds. Then, fill it to the top with water.

Grab a tray or cookie pan.

Cover the tray with a layer of wet ( not really drippy, but good and damp ) paper towels.

Spread the seeds (corn, in this case ) in a single layer on top of the wet paper towels.

Cover with more damp paper towels, because corn prefers darkness to germinate.

Keep them moist with a spray bottle of water.

Note: Be careful and read the seed packet some things need light to germinated and therefore don’t get the top layer. These are trickier because you need to give them a little spritz of water more often so that they stay damp.

Wait and watch.

Plant whatever sprouted and you’re off.

Now you know what that germination percentage means on quality seed packets. 87% germination would mean that 87 seeds sprouted for every 100 attempted.

This is also a great demonstration of turning fractions into percentages. Kids dig it.

Tada! You did it yourself.

What is the oldest seed packet in your house?


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh doesn’t that just break your heart. Last time I did that I felt like having a quality toddler tantrum. Now, I test.

  2. About a month ago we planted some seed packets from 2007! We got a pretty good sprout rate but then again, some six packs were nearly empty. 😦

    ~ Stephanie

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