Like so many gardeners, well, those of us in the northern hemisphere, I have decided to use the cold winter days to review my stash of seeds before the 2012 season truly arrives. As I'm sure many of you realise, I'm not the most organised and efficient gardener and so, my seed stash is also not particularly well organised or efficient. I have a large collection of seeds, many of which I have saved myself, in a huge catalogue of containers, ranging from rather dainty tiny plastic pill boxes to simple paper coffee filters, where, the seeds, once dried, have never actually been transferred to a better container.
This is one of the reasons I lose quite so much of my seed to mice! The labelling of this wealth of material is equally haphazard, some being very neat and tidy: I have in front of me a rather nice glass jar labelled "Pasteque de Laspissotes saved September 2009", so there's not much doubt there, but I equally have an open box of bean seeds with a note in it that simply says "Poletschka Sept 10" . Even that is ok, except I'm truly certain it should say September 2011, as I remember saving the seed before going away on holiday last year!!!
All this vagary has led me to decide to carry out a germination test to check whether any of these seeds are ok.
I'm using a simple method I've used very successfully before.
I spread about 10 to 20 seeds on a damp paper kitchen towel. I put them about 5cms (2") apart, so that there is no contamination if one or two start to rot. Then I place a second paper towel over the top of the seeds and carefully roll the whole thing into a tube. Once I have the damp tube of seeds I put it into a plastic bag and seal it, before placing it in a warm spot. I have just the place, as my central heating boiler has the luxury of it's own little room and, although well ventilated, it still keeps at a very pleasant temperature. I note when the seeds went in and check every day for signs of germination. I expect most seeds to germinate in about 5 to 10 days, but it varies from variety to variety. I let them carry on for a couple of days after the first shoots appear and then count the number of seeds that have successfully germinated. Something over 80% is what I look for, but if it's only 50% I make a note to sow twice as many seeds at each station to compensate. Remember to keep the paper damp or they won't germinate!
In the past, I have tried to plant on the germinated seeds and have had some success, but it's often a bit early for me to keep them going.
I'll let you know how I get on