Even if “germination rate – 98%” is written on the package with seeds, there are always fewer real seedlings than sown seeds. What is it, the manufacturers are misleading us and deliberately overestimate the indicators? Or not? Let’s talk today about seed germination. Let’s figure out how to check seeds for germination and whether all seeds need such a check. Let’s find out whether it is worth throwing out the seeds floating in the water or is it just another myth. We will find out in what ways to increase the percentage of germination and whether it is one hundred percent. Go!
Such a different germination
Seed germination is the ability to form normally developed seedlings in a certain time at a certain temperature. It is expressed as a percentage of germinated seeds to the number of seeds sown. We affirm with absolute certainty: there is no 100% seed germination.
Even laboratory germination is about 95-99%. Yes, these are the very high rates that a seed producer can indicate on the package. And you can’t call him a deceiver: in ideal laboratory conditions, the results are really high. It is impossible to achieve an optimal microclimate at home or in a greenhouse, so the percentage here will be completely different. This is the so-called greenhouse germination, which is always lower than laboratory germination. We can check it at home. But there is also field germination of seeds. It is measured in real outdoor conditions. And this figure is usually even lower.
So testing seeds for germination is a good thing. It will allow us to understand whether we have enough seed for the planned planting or if we need to buy more. It will save our time and nerves for preparing the soil, planting and waiting for the first shoots from seeds that are not known to be similar. But do all seeds need quality testing? And if there are few of them, are they expensive or are we talking about a very valuable variety?
When germination determination is necessary
Of course, valuable and expensive seeds have to be planted without any checks. And from a dozen seeds in a bag, there is nothing to take for a sample either. In these cases, we hope for a trusted manufacturer and a declared shelf life. And just in case, we sow such seeds for seedlings early. If these seeds fail, there will be time to sow others.
But in some situations it is better to play it safe and check the sowing properties of seeds in advance.
- The seeds were stored for several years. Agree, every gardener has the remains of seeds from past years. It’s a pity to throw it away, at the beginning of the season you hope that you will finally drop everything. But the collection of remains is multiplying every year. Of course, some crops have a long shelf life. For example, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, or watermelons can last 8 years. Cabbage seeds remain viable for 6 years. Tomatoes and eggplants – 5 years. But the seeds of onions, parsley or celery will not survive even a year without loss of quality. However, no matter how long the shelf life is, the general rule is that the longer the seeds are stored, the worse they will emerge. Therefore, it is better not to sow old seeds without first checking for germination.
- Seeds are personally selected in our garden. We usually collect our seeds from a large supply. With such quantities, you will cease to respect yourself if you do not select the best ones for sowing. Moreover, there is enough material to determine germination.
- The seeds were shared by neighbors, relatives, acquaintances, farmers, etc. In this case, it is highly desirable not only to check the sowing properties, but also to pre-disinfect the seeds. Simply because we do not know anything about these seeds. If the quantity allows, we recommend assessing their germination before sowing.
- Seeds were bought in large quantities for the action. Well, what kind of person can resist promotions and sales? It’s so nice to take 5 sachets for the price of 1, even if you really only need one. It is likely that the seller reduced the price due to an expiring shelf life or storage breach. It is worth making sure in advance that the “sale” seeds will not let you down.
Seed calibration: floating doesn’t mean bad
Before moving on to methods of verifying germination, let’s say a few words about seed calibration. This is a kind of preparatory procedure that helps to immediately weed out clearly unusable copies.
When there is more than enough seed, first sort by appearance. Remove small, damaged, frail seeds. Even if something grows out of them, you still won’t get a decent harvest.
After visual selection, it is very often advised to discard the “dummies” by immersing the seeds in water or in a solution of sodium chloride. The recommendation is widespread, many do it because my grandmother taught. However, “water treatments” have several serious disadvantages.
First, if the seeds are purchased, be sure to read all the information on the bag. They can be treated with a fungicide or growth promoter. After “bathing” the seeds, all these substances will be washed off their surface.
Secondly, in modern varieties and hybrids, the seeds are soft in themselves. It was at the time of our grandmothers that the seed in a cucumber was difficult to bite, now we calmly chew them and do not think. Many seeds now do not sink in water, not because they are not viable, but because this is their structure.
There is one more thing. In order to increase the shelf life of seeds, almost all producers (both ours and foreign ones) dry the seeds to a very low moisture content. Dry seeds will float on the surface of the water – both viable and non-viable. It turns out that if the packing of the seeds is not broken, they remain dry, do not absorb moisture from the air, and there is little point in checking them in water.
So we advise you to calibrate the seeds for appearance only. And after rejection of the obviously unsuitable ones, check the remaining ones for germination. At home, this is done in two ways: by germination on a damp cloth or by trial sowing in the ground.