I almost never throw away seed packets.  Every year I buy some more, so I wound up with a pile of seed packets.  I've kept them stored in my storeroom, which is cool and dry.

I want to see what is viable before planting them.  If a packet proves to be nonviable, I'll compost it.

I do this every couple of years.  I like it as a winter ritual.  Not exactly Solstice, but January is colder and more gloomy here, than December, so a ritual of impending Spring is good.

This method works for me.  I sprout them on a labeled paper towel.  Ballpoint pen works as a marker.  The size of paper towel that we use, is a good fit for a ziplock sandwich bag.  Just using the paper towel is hard to handle, so I cut a piece of kitchen wax paper the same size, and lay the paper towel on the wax paper before beginning.

I don't care about the exact percentage that grow, so I don't count the seeds.  I place a few in each square.  Then I moisten the paper towel with a spoon of water, over each bunch of seeds.  That makes the seeds stick to the paper towel.  The spoon makes the water easy to dole out in small amounts.

Then i fold the paper towel over, moisten more so the entire towel is moist but not super wet.  Then fold over the wax paper too.

It all goes into a zip lock bag.  In this photo it's held up to the light.  The moisture holds the seeds in place.

Now they go onto the heating mat.  When I checked last year, it ran about 80 or 85 degrees F.  In the past, I used a heating pad - the kind you use for aching joints - set on low.  Mine ran about 85 degrees as well, so it worked.  I was concerned it might short out or something.  But it didn't.  I've used the top of the fridge, which is warm, as an alternative.  Some hot water heaters are warm but not hot on top, so that might work too.

Here are some I finished today.  This is after 4 days.  This method sprouts some seeds really fast.  Since I'm just testing, and it's too early to plant outside, they go into the compost bin.  Except the radish sprouts, which I ate.

These were more 50/50.  The tomato seeds and cilantro seeds haven't sprouted yet.  They may take longer, or may not be viable.  I removed the Tavera bean and butternut squash sprouts, ate the radish sprouts, and returned the rest to the mat.  I'm not sure - cilantro might require cooler conditions.  

I like doing this.  Most seeds last several years in reasonable storage conditions - not attic or hot garage, not damp hot kitchen.  Some people freeze them.  Some types last longer than others.  This way I know what's viable before I plant them.

A 2,000 year old Judean date seed was germinated in 2005 and is now old enough to bear pollen.  Unfortunately, it's a male tree.  If it can be cross bred with other date palms, then 50% Judean dates hybrids an be grown.  Then, back cross to the original male, and they're 75%.  One more back cross gets them to 87%.  By the time those are mature, none of us may be around to taste them.  But it's interesting to think about.

My oldest seeds to sprout were some dried hot peppers my partner carried in a package from China.  They were in the kitchen cabinet for 10 years.  I managed to grow plants from seeds removed from those peppers, but unfortunately didn't save seeds from the resultant peppers.  They were about the same as Thai peppers, so probably not much loss.  I've also used 7 year old tomato seeds and 5 year old bean and radish seeds.  I found a 10 year old packet of radish seeds, and am testing those now.

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Replies to This Discussion

Amer, no need for an apology.  Discussions often go in different directions.  I'm glad you found it eye catching, and interesting!  It's nice of you to comment as you did.

Yes, I agree this would be harmful to most sprouted seeds if the intent was to grow them and not just determine the viability.  I could see a situation for certain seeds, of sprouting them individually then transferring, paper towel too, into a growth medium.

That is what I do with plum and cherry seeds that I stratify in cold & moisture before planting.  And fig cuttings, which I sometimes pre-sprout in moist paper towel/plastic bag.  But those would be different discussions!

Thank you for your comments.  You are always welcome in every discussion!

Sentinent! I had been sowing regularly for four years in winters. For this reason I built home made incubators costing about $2 each. In first year it were the seeds only. In 2nd year I added small plants under threat by winters to incubaters. In third I started using excellent light and temperatre control of incubaters for the development of roots of de-grafted plants. Then came the idea if cactus, why not flower and vegetables seeds of my wife for the spring. Idea of having plants instead of seeds worked well. I sowed the seeds a month or so prior to the spring in Peat+sand mixture, I use for cactus seeds germination. This combination is famous for excellent development of roots. By the end of winter my wife had healthy plants with well developed roots to be tranfered. She seemed to be happy with their perfomance last year.

Amer, nice set up!

Amer, did you make the heating pads or are they commercial? Your plants look healthy and ready to take on outside conditions. Great photos. Thanks. 

Johan, they are just home made boxes of thermople sheet of 15x20cm size. One 18 watts energy saver is enough to maintain 25-30C temp and provide good light conditions. I have noticed that these are conditions any plant love to have. Even dying plants show  happiness agter being placed in the incubator.

Amer, I looked in Google for thermople sheets and found nothing with that name. I did find "MAJESTIC AIR COOLING (PAKISTAN)" that looks like styrofoam. Is this what you mean?

It sounds as though you created a useful system. Do you have a photo?

Amer, I think I see a photo, the red pad. Is that what you referred to as thermople? 

I am sorry Joan, it is styrofoam sheet. Confusion occured because it is sold here in the name of thermopole sheet, so I used the same. Red color got nothing to do with it, it is just a paper covering of red color.


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