Seed not germinating?

Seeds lose their vigour over time and, they can deteriorate more quickly than they should if storage temperatures or moisture levels have been unsuitable. If a batch of seed has not germinated well I do a germination test on some of the seed to see if it’s worthwhile trying another crop.
All I need for this is a wide mouthed screw-top jar, with a lid, and some cotton wool.
testgerm.jpg I place the cotton wool in the bottom of the jar, and add enough water to wet it thoroughly – but not enough to allow it to float in the water. Seeds absorb a lot of water during germination, and inadequate moisture alone can cause germination failure.
Then I sprinkle some of the seed from the suspect batch over the cotton wool. If the seeds are large, such as corn or cucurbit seed, I use the end of a pencil to press the seed firmly onto the surface of the cotton wool, so that they have good access to moisture. This is unnecessary with small seed.
When I replace the jar lid I have a miniature glasshouse. Most seeds require dark for germination; and I place the jar in a dark cupboard that is not opened frequently. I check the jar every three days for signs of activity. Large seeds absorb a lot of water. To test if the cotton wool is still moist and the jar is too tall for a finger test, I roll a piece of paper into a tight tube and touch the end if the tube to the cotton wool. If the end of the paper tube does not absorb water, I add a few drops before resealing the jar.
Some vegetables such as most lettuces, cape gooseberry, seakale, shiso and tomatillo, and some herbs require light for good germination. For these seeds the jar can be kept in a well-lit room. Seed packets will indicate the best position for the test jar.
Most common varieties of vegetable seeds will show activity in a fortnight or so, but some, including capsicum, carrot, celery, eggplant and parsley can require a month for germination to occur.
If the majority of the seeds show signs of germination, the problem is more likely to be the growing mixture, lack of adequate moisture, or unsuitable soil or growing mix temperatures. If germination is poor or the seeds don’t germinate at all, and the seed was purchased recently, the supplier should be contacted to replace the seed.
To reduce problems with seeds, packets should be kept in a cool stable environment where they are protected from moisture and pests. We find that metal biscuit tins make suitable storage containers. The tins are kept in a cupboard in the centre of the house where temperature fluctuations are minimal. We have to store a lot of seed, but one tin or sealed plastic container would be sufficient for most households.

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