Mar 172011


A DIY Germination test

Do you have seeds left from last year or the year before? While some seeds (like parsnips and onions) are good for just year or two, many seeds will still grow when they are several years old, if they have been stored where it’s dry and not too warm. It’s easy to test older seeds to see if they are still good.


You probably have most or all of the things you need to get started. You will need:

  • a paper coffee filter or a piece of a paper towel
  • plastic bag
  • masking tape and pen to label the bag
  • water
  • and, of course, seeds.
Step 1

Write the seed name on a piece of masking tape. Stick the label on a plastic bag.

Step 2

Moisten the filter or paper towel. Don’t get it too wet. Aim for damp, not soaking wet. Squeeze out any excess water. Then smooth the filter or towel.

Step 3

Sprinkle the seeds on the filter or towel. If you are doing a home germination test, use 10 seeds to make it simple to figure the percentage of seeds that sprout.

Step 4

Fold the filter or towel and place in the plastic bag. Blow into the bag to provide some air. Then close the bag.

Step 5

I store my bags in an open show box, near a window.

Step 6

Check the seeds every couple of days until they sprout.

Step 7

After the seeds sprout, you can transplant them into pots or a seed flat. Handle the baby seedlings very gently. You might try a toothpick to lift the seedlings to their new home.

This simple way to sprout most seeds has lots of uses beyond a DIY germination test:

  • You can use this method to start seeds indoors in the winter.
  • It hastens the sprouting of slow-germinating seeds like parsley
  • Try sprouting lettuce and other seeds indoors during summer’s hottest days when the outside temperature is too warm for seeds to germinate.


sprouted pea seeds

Some pea seeds, newly sprouted, with 100% germination