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Weekend Science Fun: Germination test

Last week we looked at planning a children’s garden. Now are you ready to do some gardening-related science activities? The germination test project this week is both useful and educational.

Ever have a pile of leftover seed packets tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? You know, the ones with the “Packed for 2001” stamped on them?

seeds packets

If you are not sure whether the seed is still viable or whether planting it would be a waste of time, there’s an easy test to find out. It’s called a germination test.

Pull out your old seed packets. Note: check the packages carefully to see if the seeds are treated with pesticides, such as fungicides or insecticides. Avoid handling pesticide-treated seeds.

For each packet you and/or your children want to test, gather the following:

  • Paper towels
  • Either paper plates and plastic wrap /or zip-loc style plastic bags
  • Water

Wash your hands prior to starting and try to keep everything as clean as possible.

1. Prepare a separate damp paper towel for each different seed packet.

2. Select 10 seeds from each packet you want to test. For example, you might have 10 marigold seeds and 10 corn seeds.

3. Lay the 10 marigold seeds on a damp paper towel and fold it over. Then either lay the towel on a paper plate and cover with plastic wrap, or slip the damp paper towel into a zip-loc bag. Repeat for the 10 corn seeds or whatever kinds of seeds are in the rest of the packets.

germination test

3. Come back in 24 hours and 48 hours and look for the tiny root (radicle) poking out of the seed, a sign that it is germinating.  Count how many seeds germinate and how many do not. Certain seeds, like carrots, take a long time to germinate (up to 2 weeks), so keep them moist and don't give up on them right away. If no seeds germinate after two weeks, then perhaps it is time to invest in a new batch of seeds.

You can calculate the percent germination by dividing the number that germinated by the number you set up. For example if 9 seeds germinated out of 10, then your percent germination = 90%. If only 5 germinated out of 10, then the percent germination is 50%.

If the seeds germinate, transfer the tiny sprouts to containers filled with moist soil and you’ll have transplants ready when it is time to start your garden.

Tie-in books for the youngest set (Affiliate cover links go to Amazon):

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

How a Seed Grows (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Helene J. Jordan (Author), Loretta Krupinski (Illustrator)

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons has definitely been one of our favorite nonfiction authors and this book does not disappoint.

And books for adults:
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth Kent Whealy

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