Commence Germination Testing

Commence Germination Testing

I love this yearly ritual. It’s always the first gardening thing I get to do each year to kick off the growing season. Especially in my climate, when in January a garden seems so far away (it is currently -20C and snowy as I type this), but this is something I can do right now that scratches a bit of that itch.

I don’t germinate test everything I have – that’d be an impossible task with hundreds of varieties. Instead I pick and choose. Sometimes (like these beans), I’m testing germination to see if their grow out can get bumped to another year. These, ‘Thibodeau du Comte Beauce’ beans have 100% germination, so while I had planned to grow them this year, I’m going to actually put them away for a future year so I can focus on another bush bean variety that is much older and needs the grow out.

Sometimes I do a germination test just to see how many I should start. If I’m aiming for just a few plants, I’ll usually start around 6 seeds. But if I’m unsure how well something will germinate (like ‘Aji Chinchi Amarillo’, which I’m growing out this year) I’ll do a test to see how many I should oversow to make sure I get a good number of viable plants.

And then sometimes I’m just seeing how well they’ll sprout; I’m testing marigolds and poppies as well to see if I should oversow or sow the number I plan for.

I don’t do anything fancy. I take a paper towel (or coffee filter), wet it, put seeds on it, fold it in half and stick it in a ziploc bag. I write the variety, date, and number of seeds in the bag. I’ll set it aside, checking every day until the first sprout. I then make note of that day, and for vegetables, I’ll give them about a week (some flowers I go for longer, and peppers I’ll give up to 10 days). After that’s done I note how many germinated and that’s how I get my germination rate.

I like to germinate at least 20 if I can. That’ll give me a good idea, because the larger the sample size, the more realizstic your germination rate will be. For example, if you test 10 seeds and 9 germinate, that gives you a 90% germination rate. If you test 20 seeds and 19 germinate, that gives you 95%. The number gets more exact the larger your sample size.

I have a log where I track all my germination tests, and that information goes in there. That way in future years I can look back and see what my rates were, and either decide a grow out can be pushed another year, or sometimes, go ahead with another germination test.

It’s not exactly the most exciting garden task, but in the depths of winter, seeing those little sprouts come to life it’s incredibly satisfying.