Seeds forum: Testing seeds to see if they are still good

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Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 9, 2013 8:58 PM CST
My Dad gave me some seeds that he's had for a few years, and I'm wondering if there is a way to test them to make sure that they are still good, before I try to grow them. I really don't want to waste time, or space, if they are no longer good. I've seen a web site that listed seeds and how long they are still viable, but I'd prefer testing them instead, if that is possible. Is there an easy way to do this? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Natalie
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Sep 10, 2013 12:15 AM CST
If they are seeds which just need warmth-place a few in a moist paper towel in a ziploc bag.
If the seeds need stratification place the bag in the 'frig.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 10, 2013 12:21 AM CST
Thanks so much Caroline!

For the seeds that need stratifcation, should they also be in a moist paper towel? Seems to make sense, since they would need moisture to germinate, but I have a very limited supply of a couple, and don't want to waste any!
Natalie
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
Kindness should be a lifestyle!
Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hybridizer Birds Seed Starter Cat Lover
Pollen collector Morning Glories Greenhouse Bookworm Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
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Xeramtheum
Sep 10, 2013 6:13 AM CST
What kind of seeds are they? If they are hard coat they are probably ok .. if not and they are big enough cut a sliver off of the seed coat and see if the kernel is still moist .. if it is then plant .. but again, what kind of seeds are they.
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

[Last edited by Xeramtheum - Sep 10, 2013 6:15 AM (+)]
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Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 10, 2013 9:48 AM CST
It will take me a while to sort through all of them to figure out which ones are the older one, but if I remember right, none had a hard coat, like a morning glory, and some of the others were really tiny. I'm sure that doesn't help much! Rolling on the floor laughing I'll post them later.
Natalie
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Sep 10, 2013 6:52 PM CST
Yes, it helps to know exactly what seeds are to be tested.
I think that there are some chemical tests too,but I think those are done by seed testing labs and cost $$$.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 10, 2013 7:07 PM CST
If I only had a few seeds of something I treasured, i would do my germination test at the right time to put any germinated seeds into the ground, or under lights indoors for later transplant.

1. cold-moist stratification on wet coffee filter if needed: - - - S weeks
2. attempted germination on wet coffee filter - - - G weeks
3. grow indoors under lights until big enough to plant out - - -L weeks

Therefore I'd start the germination test S + G + M weeks before i expect warm enough weather to harden them off or plant them out (if necessary, plant them out under plastic or in a cold frame.

This way, you only waste the space for a baggie with a coffee fitler until you see a sprout.

By the way, I don;t use baggies. I have some nesting glass bowls that stack up, and I add water a few times per week. Also, I imagine that root hairs don't cling to coffee filters as tightly as they do to paper towels.

I think it was Dr. Deno who popularized the paper-towel-baggie method.


Persistent URLs for Dr. Deno's book
"Seed Germination, Theory And Practice"
and supplements:

http://hdl.handle.net/10113/41278 (1993)
http://hdl.handle.net/10113/41279 (1996)
http://hdl.handle.net/10113/41277 (1998)

Those are permanent links to reach specific documents at this website:
http://agspace.nal.usda.gov/
National Agricultural Library (NAL)
NAL Digital Repository
Digital Documents Repository (DDR)
"AgSpace": a centralized location for USDA publications

under:
Other Agricultural Collections
Other Agricultural Research and Information



Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 10, 2013 7:21 PM CST
Had to run to the city today, which takes almost all day to do, so I'll hopefully find time tonight to look through the seeds. We're in the middle of fencing in part of our property, so I have almost no free time at the moment.

None of these seeds are anything cherished, or rare. Just seeds that you can probably buy anywhere. I just hate wasting seeds though!
Natalie
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Sep 11, 2013 1:01 AM CST
I know what you mean---Good Luck with them.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 11, 2013 1:28 PM CST
I think the Deno paper-towel-baggie method is more work than seed starting in flats or cells, unless the seeds need stratification.

Then the Deno method is easier than anything except winter-sowing.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 16, 2013 9:15 PM CST
I finally looked through the seeds, and see that I have some new seeds from some of the same plants, but like I said, I hate to waste seeds!

Corn Poppies - an annual, but they are pretty, and tiny seeds
Large orange Poppies - sorry, don't know the name, but they are perennial, and have tiny seeds
Cornflower, which I think is Centaurea dealbata, or something very close. It's a perennial.
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea 'Nigra')
Rudbeckia, but I don't know which one
Echinacea, but I don't know which one

Dad has a way of collecting seeds, and then forgetting which plant it came from. So, these will all be surprises if they bloom. Well, other than the Hollyhock. That one is mine, and the seeds are at least 4 years old. I had forgotten I had them.
Natalie
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian Bulbs Winter Sowing Enjoys or suffers cold winters Lilies
Peonies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CarolineScott
Sep 17, 2013 4:59 AM CST
I would try them on moist towel warm first.
Then if no germination in a few weeks--place them in frig for a few weeks.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 17, 2013 10:03 AM CST
Thanks Caroline! I really appreciate the help! I'm sure that there were a few more seeds that I needed to find, so if I do that, I'll list them. In the meantime, I'll see how these do!
Natalie
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 17, 2013 11:03 AM CST
>> Dad has a way of collecting seeds, and then forgetting which plant it came from.

Me, too! Now I always make out labels for anything I plan to collect, BEFORE going outside. And I bring paper and pencil and spare bowls with me, since I often collect something I didn't plan to collect.

Memory? What is that? I forget.

Or you can bring just one big bowl or box plus many paper envelopes. Now I don't mind getting bills,because they often have return envelopes with unglued flaps. I save them for seed drying. I can even re-use an envelope that has been slit open, by folding it over and using two paper clips.

I will write the name on the outside of the envelope, but it is really handy to also have the name on a slip of paper, like cut from index cards or card stock, INSIDE the envelope. That way, while I clean them, I can pour the name-card right into a new container along with the seeds.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Sep 17, 2013 3:49 PM CST
I'm glad to say that Dad has improved dramatically since he first started collecting seeds. Part of his problem was that he refused to use plant markers to begin with, and would forget which kind of plant he was collecting from. His notes were more color based than anything! Rolling on the floor laughing Now he takes pictures of the plant, writes the photo number on the envelope, and takes a picture of the envelope, and the seeds inside the envelope. It's a pretty good method! That way, he doesn't have to remember all of the names. He can put the pictures on his computer, and compare them to the ones already on there with all the names attached. And, he doesn't get the seeds mixed up this way, since he has the photo number to go by. These seeds that I'm not exactly sure of were from before he got a little more organized. That is why I don't know as much about the seeds as I should, but I still don't want to waste them!
Natalie
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
Kindness should be a lifestyle!
Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hybridizer Birds Seed Starter Cat Lover
Pollen collector Morning Glories Greenhouse Bookworm Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
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Xeramtheum
Sep 17, 2013 4:41 PM CST
I just checked my records and have had Poppy seeds as old as 8 years germinate .. about 60% success rate and Hollyhocks as old as 5 years germinate with about 75% success rate. The seeds were stored indoors in a cool room.
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
Kindness should be a lifestyle!
Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hybridizer Birds Seed Starter Cat Lover
Pollen collector Morning Glories Greenhouse Bookworm Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Image
Xeramtheum
Sep 17, 2013 4:43 PM CST
Forgot to add that you might take one each of the seeds that aren't poppy and cut them in half and see if the kernel/embryo is still moist or totally dried out.
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
Image
Natalie
Sep 17, 2013 5:03 PM CST
Thanks Anne. If it's moist, that would be better, right? Or maybe it's rotten if it's moist? I have no idea! Good to know about the poppy and hollyhock seeds! Those are ones that I'm really excited about!
Natalie
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
Kindness should be a lifestyle!
Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hybridizer Birds Seed Starter Cat Lover
Pollen collector Morning Glories Greenhouse Bookworm Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Image
Xeramtheum
Sep 17, 2013 7:06 PM CST
If it's moist it's probably still viable
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
Image
Natalie
Sep 17, 2013 7:12 PM CST
Thumbs up
Natalie

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