Testing seeds

Are you starting vegetables from seed this year? This year, I have a place to put seed trays so I will be planting very soon, but that was not the case in previous years. Last year was a disappointing year for my seedlings. I waited until after our average last frost date (April 15) to plant seeds in my raised beds. And waited. And waited. Very few seeds germinated, so I had to scramble to find plants at garden centers so I’d have some fresh veggies to grow. I could have saved myself some time and disappointment if I had tested my seeds for viability before I planted them. Testing your seeds is easy and takes less than a week. If you’ve never tried it before, here’s how:

You will need: Paper towels, plastic bags, and seeds

seedstart 1


Moisten your paper towel and add seeds:

seedstart 2


Fold the paper towel, then roll it up

seedstart 3


Label your plastic bags with the type of seeds and the date, and set them in a warm place.

seedstart 4


Wait two to five days, then check for germination.You can calculate the percent of seeds that germinate and use this percentage to estimate the germination rate of the entire package. For example, if you test 10 seeds and 6 of them germinate, you can estimate that 60% of seeds in your package will germinate. If I had tested my seeds last year, I would have seen a very low germination percentage for a few of my seeds and would have opted to buy new seeds instead of planting what I had.

-Ann Barnes

Starting Seeds – Durham Garden Forum

Our regular February meeting will be on Tuesday, February 18, 6:30 – 8:00 PM at the Doris Duke Center, Sarah P. Duke Gardens.


Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens at Sarah P. Duke Gardens will present on the topic of Starting Seeds.  Most of you have probably received your seed catalogues and thinking about your planting schedule.  It is a perfect time to get some tips from Jason on starting seeds.

These lectures are free for Durham Garden Forum members, all others can attend for a fee of $10 ($5 for students).  As we have done in prior years any new members joining from January 2014 will receive extended membership through April 30, 2015.  Membership fee remains $25 ($15 for students).  Please inform family, friends, co-workers, neighbors of this special offer.