Kitchen Gardening

Seed Viability Test

Here’s a simple test to see if your seeds are ready to plant

Produced by: Greg Holdsworth

Here’s a simple test to see if your vegetable seeds are viable and ready to plant. The required items are most likely things you already have in your home: spray bottle with water, paper towel, plastic bag, and the seeds you wish to test.

  1. Put 10 seeds on the paper towel, spray them lightly with water.
  2. Cover the seeds with a second paper towel, or fold over the first paper towel in half. Place the moist towel in the plastic bag, seal it, then put it in a dark location at room temperature. Label each bag with the date and the type of seed tested, especially if you are checking multiple packets.
  3. Wait about a week to 10 days to see if any of the seeds appear to have sprouted in the bag. Only open the bag to see if it is still moist—every two to three days perhaps.
  4. Take the paper towel out of the bag, gently open it, and see how many seeds sprouted.

It’s a good idea to do 10 seeds at a time because they represent percentages to 100. If only three to four seeds (30 to 40%) sprout, for example, then you will have to either plant more or not use them at all. If at least six to seven seeds (60 to 70%) sprout, they are probably still good.


For more on articles and videos on starting seeds:

The Science of Seed Starting

Successful Seed Starting Beyond the Basics

10 Seed-Starting Tips

Jump-Start Your Seeds


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