How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – Courtesy of You Grow Girl

This is an excellent article on testing the germination rate of seeds. If you are like me, I am always saving seeds I buy, seeds I collect from my garden, seeds I save from other folk’s plants… Sometimes I feel the need to test the germination rate of seeds I buy from commercial seed houses! Occasionally I get no or little germination on a seed packet.

How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds

I love to buy, collect, save, and trade seed, but I have to admit that I do not go about it in a particularly organized fashion. While I am careful about where and how I store my seeds and I do have my own “it’s all in my head” system, it doesn’t exactly compare to some of the personal seed banks I have seen. I do not have Excel charts or lists of any kind that track what I have and when I got it. If I’m being honest, I often don’t realize I am out of a particular something or other unless I bother to check ahead of time. However, most years that moment doesn’t come until I am in the act of sowing. Whoops, guess I won’t be growing that this year.  For this reason, it’s not uncommon for me to find packets in my stash that are older than I can remember. Most store-bought seeds have a “packed for” date on them, but I receive a lot of seed in trade, and some of those traders are even less organized than me. The seed of some plants last no more than a year or so. If I find an unmarked, rogue packet of onions or leeks I can be nearly certain that they are junk. Tomatoes seem to last forever, so if I find a packet of unknown origin that I’d like to grow, it’s worth spending the time to test its germination rate.A germination test determines the viability of the seed — how many in a packet will reliably germinate. This is important because the window of opportunity to get some crops sown and growing can be short. I’ve lost the chance to grow a specific variety some years because I sowed and then waited on seed that wouldn’t grow.Germination rate can also provide a gauge of a seed’s vigor. I explain what this is below.

How to Test for Germination Rate
There are lots of ways to go about this. Some people use paper towels. I use coffee filters because I find it easier to see the germinated seeds and their roots should I opt to plant those that have germinated. Fragile roots and leaves tend to disappear in the pile of paper towels.

What You Need:
Coffee filters
Plastic baggies
10 Seeds (per test)
Permanent marker

Cut or tear the coffee filter along the bottom and one side seam. Lightly moisten with water so that it is moist, but not sopping wet. I sometimes use a spray bottle but you can also just dip it into a bowl of water and squeeze it out.

Open the filter up flat and lay out 10 seeds on one half. You do not have to do 10 seeds at a time, but it makes figuring out the germination rate a heck of a lot easier. Spread the seeds out so that they aren’t touching. I do this so that there is less chance that their roots will become entangled should I decide to plant them up.

Fold the half of the coffee filter that does not have seeds over onto the side that does.

Fold the bottom half up.

Place the moist and folded coffee filter inside a baggie and seal. Write the variety name and the date you started the test on the outside of the baggie. I write this onto sticker labels so I can reuse the baggies in further testing.

Place the sealed and labelled baggies in a warm place and check on them every few days to see whether germination has occurred. Some seeds may require more time. Some may also require light in order to germinate, or more heat.

Tip: The majority of the seeds I test do well in a kitchen or utility drawer that is used often. Otherwise I have a tendency to forget about them! I also put a sticky note on the front of the drawer as an added reminder to keep checking the seeds! Hot peppers tend to need more heat, so I keep them on top of a reliably warm (but not hot) appliance.

The rate is determined by the number of seeds out of 10 that have germinated. For example, 6 out of 10 seeds = 60% 3 out of 10 = 30% and so on.

You can go ahead and plant any seedling that have germinated into soil just as you would a seed. Don’t bother trying to remove the seedling from the paper — you risk damaging delicate roots. Instead, tear the paper around the plant. (Note: If your seedlings have browned roots like mine do in the above photo then I would not suggest planting them up. I left those too long and the roots were starting to rot.)

Loss of Vigor: Seeds that fall below 70% germination tend to suffer from a loss of vigor that will increase with each passing year. What this means is that even though many of them will still germinate, the seedlings that develop may not be healthy or develop into strong, vital plants. If the percentage isn’t too low you may decide to take a chance and see how the seedlings develop. It should be easy enough to determine which are suffering. However, if you’re planning to save seed from this plant for future crops then you may want to replace the seed now. Unhealthy plants beget unhealthy plants and since you’re going to the effort, it is worth it to start out with the best of the best.

Please note that some varieties suffer from a poor germination rate even when new and healthy, so it’s important to know your plant/variety.

Tip: I keep all of my seed testing equipment (including the used baggies) together with my seed saving equipment in one of the dollar store containers that I use for organizing seed. That way I have it on hand whenever I need it.

Source: How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – You Grow Girl


Behind the Scenes: Planting Peppers Seeds,, Petunias, Lobelia, Alyssum, Pansies and Million Bells


Here you are looking about 1000 or so peppers seeds.


Here I am planting pepper seeds and some flowers. I planted 50 different varieties of peppers, superhots, sweet bell, non sweet bells, hot and medium hot peppers. I was scared to death to touch the seeds from the superhots so I used tweezers to place them in the seedling pots. My luck, I would have touched them and then my eye, not thinking! Ouch! This was on January 15. They have almost all come up now. We have a ton of baby jalapenos. For all of my seeds I use a sterile seed starting mix and clean single pots. Damping off is an ugly thing!


This is how my pelletized petunia seed came. It is put into a gel cap, and looks sort of like Contact cold medicine. Depending on variety, there are 5 to 10 seeds. I love working with it in this form, much easier to not over sow. In it’s “wild” form, it is like brown dust. You might think you used 25 seed but in reality, you just dispensed 349 seeds!


Such tiny little seeds.


Petunia and Million Bells seeds don’t like to be covered. They need light to germinate. Peppers on the other hand need a thin scattering of seed starting mix over them. Always read your seed packet to see what the light requirements are for germination.


Million Bells is another one that I like to work with pelletized. They are coated with a clay like substance. the seed lays on top (press into the seed starting mix) and wet with water. This softens the clay coat and they are able to germinate. I use tweezers to distribute as evenly as I can so they can grow after germinating and not crowd each other. They take a long time to obtain a size that I like transplanting. I have found there is no point in rushing them.


What To Do When Dahlia Tubers Sprout Early?

Those of us who save our dahlias have probably encountered this problem. I know I have. Here is the answer to that question courtesy of Garden Making. I believe they are out of Canada so they use celsius temperature which is easily convertable.

What to do when stored dahlia tubers sprout early? By Garden Making

Question: Michael in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, asks:
Dahlia tubers that were stored in peat moss in the basement have started to send up shoots. They’re  in the coldest part of the basement, but it is 14 to 16°C in the room with about 35% humidity. Should the sprouts be trimmed off? Left alone?

Answer: Nick Vanderheide of Creekside Growers in Delhi, Ontario, says:
The issue at hand is really the storage conditions. Dahlias will sprout under warm, damp conditions, and anything above 10° C is considered warm. The humidity level of the room may very well be 35%, but do you know what the humidity is in the peat moss? You want to maintain a decent amount of moisture in the tubers (not the media it’s stored in) so at 35% room humidity, it is a good thing to put them in peat moss to prevent them from drying out.Heat is the big deciding factor in sprouting. Spring soil temperature is usually around 12 to 16°C when we plant and that causes the tubers to sprout, so if they are in a room at that temperature they will definitely start growing.

In the Netherlands, this sprouting is actually how new, true-to-type, dahlias are produced. The tubers are forced indoors to produce little shoots which are then cut off, rooted and grown as plugs to then plant in the field for the summer where they will produce a new tuber that can be harvested in the fall.The shoots on your tubers can be trimmed or not; they will not affect the viability of the tuber come spring time.

One thing to consider, though, is that the tuber is simply a storage organ for the energy it needs to grow come spring time, so if your tubers continue to try to grow, they are using up energy that they need in the spring to become a big, healthy plant.I would strongly suggest getting those dahlias into a colder area to slow down that sprouting. And then stop worrying—spring is only a few short months away!

Source: What to do when dahlia tubers sprout early?


Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

adelaide festival 7 6 17This is a long article but I thought it is worth sharing.

Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with VegetablesPlant a profusion of pollen- and nectar-rich flowers among your edible plants to naturally control pests, boost pollination and provide pretty pops of color. Here, learn some of the best flowers to plant with vegetables and get tips for arranging your space.By Rosalind Creasy | February/March 2015     As you plant flowers in the vegetable garden, play with colors and textures as the author does in her beautiful central California edible landscape.Photo by Rosalind Creasy In the 1970s, when I was a budding landscape designer newly exciting about strategizing the best flowers to plant with vegetables, I attended the garden opening of one of my clients. As I walked around anonymously, wine glass in hand, I overheard many guests exclaiming, “Do you see that? She put flowers in the vegetable garden!”In the United States, segregating vegetables from flowers still seems like such a hard-and-fast rule that when I lecture on edible landscaping, one of the first things I mention is that I’ve checked the Constitution, and planting flowers in a vegetable garden is not forbidden. Not only can you put flowers in with vegetables, you should.I admit that, in the ’70s, I first intermixed my flowers and vegetables because I was gardening in the front yard of my suburban home and hoped the neighbors wouldn’t notice or complain as long as the veggies were surrounded by flowers. Soon, however, I discovered I had fewer pest problems, I saw more and more birds, and my crops were thriving.It turns out that flowers are an essential ingredient in establishing a healthy garden because they attract beneficial insects and birds, which control pests and pollinate crops. Most gardeners understand this on some level. They may even know that pollen and nectar are food for insects, and that seed heads provide food for birds. What some may not realize is just how many of our wild meadows and native plants have disappeared under acres of lawn, inedible shrubs and industrial agriculture’s fields of monocultures, leaving fewer food sources for beneficial critters. With bees and other pollinators under a chemical siege these days and their populations in drastic decline, offering chemical-free food sources and safe havens is crucial. Plus, giving beneficial insects supplemental food sources of pollen and nectar throughout the season means they’ll stick around for when pests show up.-Advertisement- Envision an Integrated Edible LandscapeOne of the cornerstones of edible landscaping is that gardens should be beautiful as well as bountiful. Mixing flowers and vegetables so that both are an integral part of the garden’s design is another key. Let’s say you have a shady backyard, so you decide to put a vegetable garden in the sunny front yard. Many folks would install a rectangular bed or wooden boxes, and plant long rows of vegetables, maybe placing a few marigolds in the corners, or planting a separate flower border. In either case, the gardener will have added plants offering a bit of much-needed pollen and nectar.Integrating an abundance of flowers among the vegetables, however, would impart visual grace while also helping beneficial insects accomplish more. Plentiful food sources will allow the insects to healthily reproduce. Plus, most of their larvae have limited mobility. For example, if a female lady beetle or green lacewing lays her eggs next to the aphids on your violas, the slow-moving, carnivorous larvae won’t be able to easily crawl all the way across the yard to also help manage the aphids chowing down on your broccoli.In addition to bringing in more “good guys” to munch pests, flowers will give you more control because they can act as a useful barrier — a physical barrier as opposed to the chemical barriers created in non-organic systems. The hornworms on your tomato plant, for instance, won’t readily migrate to a neighboring tomato plant if there’s a tall, “stinky” marigold blocking the way.Create Cool Combos of Flowers and VegetablesTo begin establishing your edible landscape, you should plant flowers with a variety of colors and textures, different sizes and shapes, and an overall appealing aesthetic. After you’ve shed the notion that flowers and vegetables must be separated, a surprising number of crop-and-flower combinations will naturally emerge, especially if you keep in mind the following six guidelines.1. Stagger sizes. Pay attention to the eventual height and width of each flower and food plant (check seed packets and nursery tags), and place them accordingly. Tall plants, for the most part, belong in back. They’ll still be visible, but they won’t block the smaller plants from view or from sunshine. A good rule is to put the taller plants on the north and east sides of your garden, and the shorter ones on the south and west sides.-Advertisement-2. Consider proportions. A 6-foot-tall sunflower planted next to an 18-inch-tall cabbage would look lopsided. Instead, place

Source: Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS


Largest Tomato I’ve Ever Laid Eyes On! Kellogg’s Breakfast

No kidding, would you look a the size of that tomato! Compared to the dog anyways.

Kellogg Breakfast & Scout

This is a photo sent to me by one of my customers. Janet Y. It is a Kellogg’s Breakfast, one of our customer favorites. the second picture shows the scale with a ruler. Almost 5 inches! Wow! I see BLT’s in her future. Plus it is only the first part of August. Ours are just now starting to color up.

Kellogg Breakfast

The story goes like this: Ironically enough. this tomato is not named for the breakfast cereal developer of fame, Will Keith Kellogg, but for a humble gardener, Darrell Kellogg, a railroad supervisor in Redford, Michigan. He received his seed from a friend in West Virginia where it originated.

Sweet and meaty, he liked the tomato so much he saved the seed and began to breed the variety. A brilliant orange and nearly blemish free, they can grow to weigh a pound or more.

Kellogg’s breakfast tomato was voted one of the best tomatoes by Sunset magazine.


Pink Passion Dwarf Tomato and Why Tomato Shoulders Stay Green or Yellow


Pink Passion

This is the first picking of tomatoes from one of my Dwarf Tomato Project plants. It is called Pink Passion. A bit blurry, I apologize. Some are slightly heart shaped, pinkish red with yellow, greenish shoulders. They range in size from golf ball to softball. The plant seems to be suffering in this heat, high 90’s.

Tomatoes like heat. To a point. It can cause their flowers to dry up and fall off. It can also cause the green-yellow-orange shoulders. Lycopene, chlorophyll and carotene are all pigments present in tomatoes and work to give them their color.

Lycopene is the pigment that gives the fruit it’s color red. Chlorophyll gives the plants their green color, Carotene gives them their yellow or orange color.

The optimum temperature for lycopene production is between 65 degree and 75 degrees. After 75 degrees, lycopene production slows. The fruit’s exposure to direct sun dictates what happens to its shoulders. As sun strikes tops of tomatoes, temperatures in the fruit rise, inhibiting lycopene causing them to stay green.

Tomatoes may stay green due to chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color. Excessive heat prevents chlorophyll from breaking down. When subjected to hours of hot sun, chlorophyll hangs on.

Carotene, another pigment in tomatoes, produces yellow and orange. Less affected by heat carotene (yellow) shines through while lycopene (red) is inhibited, thus yellow shoulders.

The part of the tomato most protected from direct exposure to the sun will be the color it is supposed to be.

  • This is one of the reason I crowd my plants and grow them up. I try to space them about 2.5 feet apart and use massive tomato cages. Planted in containers, it is more difficult to give them extra leaf coverage. Try placing them where they will get shade in the afternoon when the sun is hottest.
  • It is also why I don’t prune. Leaf cover is so important in protecting the tomatoes. It also protects against sunburn, a white flaky patch.
  • There are also tomato varieties, usually heirloom, that naturally have green shoulders. I’ve seen them a lot in dark tomatoes such as Japanese Black Triefle and Cherokee Purple.

Try Something New: Big Cheef Dwarf Tomato

big-cheef.jpgYes, these came from a dwarf tomato plant. Part of the Dwarf Tomato Project. It was very tasty and produced an ample supply of tomatoes for such a small plant. Staked, in a large pot, it was maybe 4 feet. Perfect for someone who wants to grow slicing tomatoes without taking up much room, such as a deck or apartment balcony. A very pretty dark pinkish fruit.

Information about the Dwarf Tomato Project. I’d put the link to their website but apparently the server has gone down.

This remarkable project was started in 2005 by Patrina Nuske-Small of Australia and Craig LeHoullier of Raleigh, North Carolina, and by February 2011 it had over 250 volunteers growing out various tomato crosses and segregation lines, selecting for new dwarf varieties with the best taste and unique color characteristics. This project is still continuing, and it will yield many more tomato varieties with heirloom taste and perfect for space-challenged home gardeners.

This is the very first all volunteer world-wide tomato breeding project in documented gardening history. None involved are botanists or horticulturists – just avid gardeners with a keen interest in learning about tomato genetics or discovering interesting new tomatoes.

All Tomato Dwarf Project varieties are associated with the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI)

The OSSI Pledge – “ You have the freedom to use these OSSI seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents, or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.” The seed packets that you share or sell should include this information.


Starting Seeds in March

This has to be the longest winter I can remember. In 2008 we had lots of snow but it didn’t stick around for 3 months as it has this year. We can’t even put up our third greenhouse yet due to snow on the ground! Did I mention it is March 3rd?


Above are pictures of our tomato babies, as yet unborn. There are approximately 5000 seeds in the various gray cells. We bottom watered them with almost a gallon of hot water for each flat on March 1st and then the were moved to the shelves under the lights. In about 7 days they will germinate. It’s actually quite exciting checking them everyday, most times twice a day, to see if they’ve raised their tiny, green heads.


This is a close up of some of the cells. I spent several hours every day spreading the tiny seeds in rows of 50 to 35 seeds in each cell. This year I even used tweezers to keep them orderly. Doing it over a couple days saved my back big time!

Once they get their first set of true leaves, I will transplant them into 3.5″ pots and they will go out into the greenhouses.

One very important tip when starting seeds: Use a sterile seed starting/germination mix. It will help tremendously in not getting damping off. Nothing is worse than seeing them lush and healthy one day and watching them fall over the next. Very sad. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting tomatoes or petunias in a greenhouse or inside your family home. Since I started using a sterile mix I haven’t had damping off. You can get it at NW Seed and Pet and possibly other big box stores.


Mucho Nacho Jalapeños and Emerald Fire Jalapeños -A Germinators Dream! (at least this year)

Every once in a while you meet a plant that you really like. This year, mine is the Mucho Nacho Jalapeño and the Emerald Fire Jalapeño, Peppers are notoriously hard to germinate, especially the superhots (Carolina Reapers, Ghost and Trinidad Scorpions) and the hot (Tabasco, Habanero, Serrano, Hungarian Yellow Wax etc.) to mildly hot (Jalapeños, Numex Big Jim, Anaheims, Poblanos etc.) Some of the hot peppers can take up to 4 weeks or more to germinate and then if you get 50% you think you are doing pretty good.


mucho-nacho-jalapeno2Mucho Nacho is a new one for me this year. It is supposed to be hotter, fatter, longer, more prolific, well, you get the picture, than a regular Jalapeño. It was the first one to germinate and it was very happy, vibrant and healthy. Lush. I can’t say enough about it.


The Emerald Fire was a close second. Germination on both of these were close to 90 – 95% which is really good. Nice strong stems, beautiful true leaves, easy to handle when transplanting into 3.5” pots.

For those of you who germinate your own seeds in a greenhouse you can understand how happy I was to handle these guys. Some plants, especially flowers practically require magnifying glassed and tweezers!

jalapeno-green-pepperMucho Nacho Jalapeños – 68-70 Days

An impressive Jalapeño from Mexico, large, 4” fruits are fatter, thicker, heavier, hotter, and up to a full inch longer than regular Jalapeños. They start off green and mature to red. Vigorous and prolific, they set heavy loads about a week earlier than is typical of Jalapeños.

ad8bf754-f0b0-446d-992d-573a80710745_1000Emerald Fire Jalapeño – 90 Days

These hot peppers are good for salsa, pickling, grilling, and stuffing, Extra-large, thick-walled, crack-resistant peppers, plump and delicious. Emerald Fire is very prolific and there will be enough peppers to share with your friends and family!

Winner of a 2015 All-America Selection, Emerald Fire is compact enough for patio containers, but may need some support to hold up all the peppers! Easy to grow, standing up to heat, humidity, and refuses to crack. Long season but worth the wait!


Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

seeds-sprouting-inside-tomato-1Interesting article. I’ve seen seeds germinating inside of tomatoes but NEVER to this extent.

What’s the real cause of seeds sprouting inside tomato fruits? It’s not normal, at least not in years past. Is it a GMO thing, or something else entirely?

Source: Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine