A test to check the germination rate of old seeds

Have old seeds packets and wondering if the seeds are still viable to grow in the garden?

Many seeds will last for years if stored correctly in a cool, dry, indoor environment. Follow these simple steps to test your old seeds.

  1. Gather your supplies: A plastic sandwich bag, tape, paper towel, seeds, sharpie.
  2. Wet a sheet of paper towel and lightly wring out the water.
  3. Take out 10 seeds that you want to test and place them on the wet paper towel.
  4. Fold the paper towel to enclose the seeds.
  5. Put the paper towel with seeds inside a plastic sandwich baggy pre-labeled with the crop name and date. Close the bag ¾ of the way, you want to leave it open a bit to prevent mold. A little bit of water in the bottom of the bag will keep the paper towel moist.
  6. Put in a warm place (75-85 degrees). I like to tape mine to a window.
  7. Wait 3 days and check seeds. I like to check first by just looking at the paper towel, if I see sprouts then I will open the paper towel to get a better look. If many have not sprouted after 3 days, check again in 3-4 days. You can also check the days to germination on the seed packet to get an idea of how long it should take for each crop to germinate, some crops take 10-14 days to germinate.
  8. You can determine the germination rate by dividing the number of sprouted seeds by 10. For example, if 7 seeds sprout out of 10, you have 7/10=70% germination rate (which is just fine for old seeds). If you have a low germination rate, you can either plant extra seeds to make up for the ones that won’t do anything or purchase new seeds with a higher germination rate.

You can learn more here:



See table 2 for a list of seed life expectancy by crop: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/cv103

Here is a great demonstration video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Qhc_zkRiA

Information compiled by Susan Webb, Regional Specialized Agent, School & Community Gardens

Remember, our growing conditions in central Florida are different than other locations and UF/IFAS Extension Polk County and the Polk County Master Gardener Volunteers can help guide you and answer questions you have about landscape maintenance.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk. The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Give us a call or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida. The program extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.


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Posted: September 17, 2021

Category: 4-H & Youth, Fruits & Vegetables
Tags: Anne Yasalonis, Ayasalonis, Central Florida, Florida-Friendly Plants, Germination Test, Master Gardener, Master Gardener Volunteer, Polk County, Polkgardening, Polkmg, Seed Germination, Seeds, Swebb, Vegetable Gardening, Vegetables

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