Testing Seed Viability

A few weeks ago, I tested the viability of some older, packaged tomato seeds.  Then I realized that there might be some beginners out there who don’t know how to do this.

Seed packages aren’t too expensive, but when you add in variety – I like to grow seven different kinds of tomatoes at a minimum – buying new seed every year can get expensive.  And tomato seed can last for many years.  But what if you aren’t sure how old they are, or maybe they weren’t stored properly?  You can check.

bean seed sprouting
bean seed sprouting

These are some Emerite Bean Seeds that I saved from 2017.  I didn’t want to buy more if they were viable so I checked.  It’s easy to do.  The seed at the left of the picture is what they look like in the envelope.  To test, just wrap a seed in a wet paper towel, put it in a waterproof container and in a dark, warm spot.  The top of the refrigerator is classic. I tucked mine there under a shelf for the darkness part.  I started checking at about three days.

The picture was taken at more like a week because that’s when I around to getting the camera out. It shows a swollen seed that’s putting out a root system.  You can just see the base of the leaves, breaking out of the seed pod.

Now I know, the seeds I saved from two years ago are fine, and will make bean plants this year.

Some caveats:  Don’t wet the paper towel too much for small seeds.  Check sources to find out how long your seed normally takes to germinate; there is a lot of variation.  Warm and dark works for most summer garden seeds but not all; e.g., some seeds need a cold period before they will sprout.  Check your package or check for special conditions online.