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Victory Heirloom Seed Company - Preserving the future, one seed at a time!

 "Preserving the future,
one seed at a time."

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Simple Seed Germination Test

Depending on the type of seed and as long as your seeds are properly stored, they can remain viable for years.

It is important to know that the seeds you are about to sow are healthy and viable.  Purchasing fresh seed from a reputable seed company, like the Victory Seed Company is one way.

However, if you have old seeds or are curious about the quality of seeds that you grew and saved, taking the time to do a simple germination test may be time well spent.

For each test, you will need:

  • Paper towels

  • Sealable plastic bags

  • An indelible marking pen

  • A notebook for recording information


  1. Moisten a paper towel.  The goal is to reach its saturation point.  Wet but not dripping.  Using a misting spray bottle is useful.

  2. Choose a sampling of seeds representative to the whole lot you are testing.  That is, do not select all the best looking seeds or your results will be skewed.  Additionally, the more seeds that you can spare to do the test, the more accurate your result average will be.  Ten seeds should be considered an absolute minimum.

  3. Although not absolutely necessary, rinsing the seeds in a bleach solution (1 part beach to 10 parts water) will help prevent fungal and/or bacterial growth during your test.

  4. Place seeds to be tested on one half of the damp paper towel and fold the other half over the seeds. 

  5. Place the towel with the seeds into a plastic bag and partially close the bag.  Using the marking pen, write the variety name of the seed, the date you are starting and the number of seeds onto the bag.  Also write this information into your notebook.

  6. Keep the bag in a warn, dark place.  A kitchen cupboard on an inside wall is a good place.

  7. On a daily basis, remove the towel and check on the results.  Keep it evenly moist and note seed progress.  Seed germination times vary by type.  Click here for some general guidelines.

  8. After several days, your seeds should begin germinating.  If a seed molds or looks rotten, count it as dead and discard it.  If it looks like it is growing into a plant, count it as good and discard it.  In your notebook, keep a running count of the good and bad seeds.

  9. Refold the towel, place it back into the bag and check again.  At the end of an acceptable amount of time (10-14 days), or if all of the seeds have germinated, count the total number of good seeds.  If all of the seeds germinated, then you have a perfect germination rate - 100%. If it was less that perfect then divide the number of seeds that germinated by the number you started with and you will determine the % germination rate.  For example, it you started with ten seeds and only nine germinated, then 9/10 = 0.9 or 90%.

  10. If the germination rate is low but still vigorous, you can still go ahead and plant it.  It just means that you need to sow extra seeds to get a good stand.  For example, if the germination rate is 50%, sow twice as much seed.  However, if the seeds are slow to germinate on top of a low germination rate, it is probably best to purchase fresh seed.

One note from personal experience, you do not have to throw away your tested seeds.  If you are careful not to damage the sprouted, tiny seedlings, go ahead and plant them.


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