Q: I purchased three different kinds of bean seeds from various local garden centers. Some of the seeds came up quickly and others still have not germinated. What is wrong with the seed?
A: The ability of seeds to germinate or sprout is called viability. Often the seed packet will give you a percentage of the number of seeds you can expect to germinate. The higher the percentage rate on the packet of seeds the greater chance of the seeds sprouting. Some seed come coated with fungicides to protect them during their early development stages if they are susceptible to fungal diseases.
Viable and dead seeds in some plant species can be separated by placing the seed in water. Living seeds will sink but dead, empty seeds will float. This is a good means of identifying dead oak and pindo palm seeds, but it does not work with all plants. Seeds of many plants can be stored and germinated weeks, months or even years.
Factors affecting the viability of seeds during storage include the plant’s own genetic make-up, moisture content of the seed, temperature and humidity. It is important to know how long the seeds are stored on the shelf as some seeds may lose viability after a few weeks or a year, again depending on the plant. Most seeds prefer to be stored in cool, dry areas.
You might consider ordering your seed from a reputable seed catalog company if you have had poor results from local garden centers. Propagating your vegetables from seed has a long history with vegetable growers throughout the county and a source of great pride. Be sure you choose vegetables that grow well in our area. There are certain varieties that grow well in our hot, humid summers; others do not prosper as well. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021