Planting time is coming. Gardeners and vegetable growers are increasingly look through their seeds and check stocks. There’s some seeds have not yet been bought. Many packages with seeds that have been lying around for over a year.
Everyone knows that the longer the seeds have been buried, the worse the germination will be when they are sown. That is why experienced gardeners check not only the range of seeds in winter, but also their quality.
How to check the germinating of seeds, we will discuss in this article.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CHECK THE GERMINATION OF SEEDS?
One of the main indicators to measure the quality of seeds is the germination rate of seeds. It depends on the number of seedlings, means the seedlings of future vegetables and flowers, in the seedbed.
The density of plant germination. The closer the germination rate is to 100%, the less seeds are needed for sowing.
Unfortunately, it can also happen that seeds germinate at a very low rate or not at all. To ensure that the work of preparing the soil, sowing, and watering the seeds is not wasted, it is necessary to check the sowing performance of the seeds. This check will help to conclude if there is enough seed or if more needs to be purchased.
According to the USDA, germination capacity is the ability of a seed to send out normal seedlings over a period of time (for each crop) under optimal germination conditions. Germination rate is determined as the percentage of germinated seeds to the total number of seeds sown.
There is a concept of laboratory germination rate, an indicator that is determined by the seed inspector under optimal conditions and is indicated on the seed package. We can also determine what is called glasshouse germination.
This is determined under greenhouse or indoor conditions and is always lower than the laboratory germination rate since ideal conditions for each crop are difficult to obtain at home. Therefore, there is a discrepancy between the information on the seed package and our tests. When we sow the seeds outdoors in the spring, the conditions for seed germination will be more demanding and it will be field germination.
Seeds of different crops have different survival periods. For example, celery and bindweed seeds have the shortest shelf life (up to two years). Flower seeds of chrysanthemum, delphinium, primrose, salvia, verbena, and divine will lose their viability quickly.
Seeds of dill, parsley, and onion can be stored for 2-3 years. Seeds of leafy vegetables, carrots, leeks, radishes, and peppers can retain their seeding characteristics for 3-4 years. Seeds of eggplant and tomatoes can be stored for 5 years. Seeds of zucchini, cucumber, squash, cabbage, melon, watermelon – 6-8 years.
The germination ability of seeds is influenced not only by their age but also by storage conditions. Because of this, “old” seeds may sometimes germinate, while in the normal shelf life not germinate. This is why it is recommended to check seeds for germination before planting.
DO I HAVE TO CHECK ALL MY SEEDS?
The horticultural hobby has its own peculiarities. If a farmer cultivates an entire field with certain varieties, sows for more than a day uses machinery and many people, it is essential to know the quality of the seeds used.
Amateurs often grow many varieties, but each variety has a few plants. If you buy a packet of tomatoes or cucumbers for a lot of money and there are not many seeds in it, then it is not economically viable to spend some of them for experimentation.
In this case, it is better to sow these varieties early so that if they do not germinate well, there is still time to sow some more. And when it comes to crops to be sown in whole beds (carrots, sugar beets, herbs, flowers with a large number of seedlings, etc.), then in this case it is better to check the seeds with a problematic germination rate.
METHODS OF CHECKING SEEDS
There are two main methods of testing seeds for germination – preliminary germination of seeds and testing in a salt solution. In any case, it is necessary to sort the seeds before testing: remove weak and obviously non-germinating seeds – small, broken ones. Even if such seeds will germinate, their yield will be very low.
CHECKING THE GERMINATION OF SEEDS WITH THE GERMINATION METHOD
It is very important to note that the germination method only determines the germination rate of seeds that germinate within the first three to four weeks, i.e., they do not germinate well enough to warrant stratification.
The most common method for determining seed germination is to germinate the seeds in a damp cloth. The seeds are placed on two layers of damp cloth, paper towels, or on a saucer between two damp cosmetic trays.
The dish is tightly covered with polyethylene film or a bag and placed in a dark, warm place. Keep the cup with the seeds at 68°F (20-23°C) for several days. Check the cloth periodically to make sure it is always moist, but not wet, or the seeds will rot.
Depending on the crop to be germinated and the quality of the seeds, the first shoots may appear within 4 to 5 days, but in general, it takes 7 to 14 days for different crops to germinate.
Tomato, cabbage, radish, and pumpkin seeds (zucchini, cucumber, etc.) are the first to germinate. Seeds of carrots, parsnips, onions, and dill take longer to germinate. Usually, this germination takes 3-4 weeks.
The older the seeds are, the later they germinate. Many gardeners know that “their” seeds germinate faster than store-bought seeds. This is due to the fact that agricultural companies specialize in drying seeds to certain values for better storage.
At the end of the trial period, the germinated seeds are counted and their germination rate is determined. If 16 out of 20 seeds have germinated – then the germination rate is 80% (16:20). Also – the faster the seeds germinate, the more energy they have to germinate. This is the second important indicator of seed quality.
The germination rate of crops with large seeds: zucchini, pastry, cucumber, squash, peas, and corn can be determined by germinating their seeds in sawdust. To do this, the sawdust needs to be scalded with boiling water 2-3 times.
It is then moistened into a low container or box and the seeds are sown. Cover the seeds with sawdust, tamp it slightly and cover it with aluminum foil. The container should be placed in a warm place.
As with the previous method, you need to control the humidity of the substrate daily. As with the previous method, after a certain amount of time, you will be able to count the number of seeds that have germinated and determine the percentage of germination.
The “rolling” method uses paper such as a school notebook to check the germination of seeds. A 10x10inch (25×25 cm) square sheet should be placed in water for a few seconds, removed, and allowed to drain excess water.
Place the sheet on a table and spread the seeds in one or two rows on it. Seeds should be pre-counted. Roll up the sheet and place it in a container with water in a dark place. A necessary condition is that the seeds in the roll should be above the water level. After a specified time for each plant, the roll is removed from the water and the germination is counted.
Another method of checking is to sow the seeds. Pour a layer of soil into a box or container, sow the seeds, and cover with a small layer of soil. Wet the seeds, cover them with film or glass, and then they need to be placed in a warm place.
As with all previous methods, the humidity of the substrate needs to be checked regularly and condensation needs to be removed from the glass or film with a cloth. The result is also determined by the ratio of germinated and sown seeds.
When using this method, experts count not only the number of germinated seeds but also the number of seedlings that stop increasing by more than 1-2% within two days from the appearance of seedlings to the number of germinated seeds. Based on the obtained figures, it is possible to determine the germination of seeds in real conditions in the open field (i.e. to determine the field germination rate).
CHECKING THE GERMINATION OF SEEDS IN A SALT SOLUTION
The second method to determine seed viability is to use a solution of common table salt. Usually, this method is used to test seeds of tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, radishes, and cucumbers.
Usually, the test is performed a few days before the expected sowing date. The seeds are placed in a container containing a 3-5% salt solution (1 teaspoon of salt per 1 liter of warm water) and mixed thoroughly. after 30 minutes, all floating seeds are discarded. Seeds that have settled to the bottom are suitable for sowing.
The seeds should always be washed with running water and dried in the sun. Note that there may be errors in this method when very dry but viable seeds also float up. If sown, they will germinate, but it will take longer to germinate than others.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE TEST RESULTS?
Knowing the germination rate of the seeds, you can calculate the sowing rate correctly and find the seeds that germinate absolutely badly in time for a replacement. A seed is considered conditional (suitable for sowing) if the number of germinated seeds is 90% or more.
Such seeds do not require any method of germination promotion. Although modern means of pre-sowing seed treatment also have a preventive effect – increasing the resistance of seeds to diseases and different growth conditions.
If the germination level is within 50%, experts recommend doubling the sowing rate.
When the indicator is below 30%, sowing is inappropriate. Of course, if we are not talking about valuable or rare plants, these plants are bound to be saved.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO INCREASE THE GERMINATION RATE OF SEEDS?
You can improve the germination rate of seeds by applying some techniques:
- Soaking them in a solution of growth regulators – preparations such as “plant growth stimulant”, “potassium humate” or “sodium humate”.
- Soaking in melted water, aloe vera juice, honey solution, tincture of ashes are effective folk remedies.
- Soaking in water (soaking in oxygen-saturated water), as well as hardening of the seeds, also increases the seed germination rate.
If you have a large stock of seeds, do not rush to throw them away. Instead, test them for germination before the hot spring. You may still need them, so you don’t have to spend money to buy new ones.